Searching for the Kingdom
<Word search 1>
§ <Mustard seed 2> The Parable of the mustard seed teaches us that in the kingdom of heaven great things grow from the smallest beginnings.
§ <Yeast 3> The parable of the yeast teaches that the kingdom of heaven changes everything.
§ <Treasure 4> The parable of the treasure teaches that the kingdom of heaven is worth any sacrifice.
§ <Pearl 5> The parable of the pearl teaches that the kingdom of heaven is more valuable than anything else in the world.
§ <Net 6> The parable of the net teaches that the kingdom of heaven is available to everyone, but only those who live the kingdom in this life will live in it in the next.
Although there are depths of these parables that we could plumb today, I am more concerned with recognizing the kingdom of heaven when we see it. I am more concerned with being open to the kingdom of heaven when it draws near. I am more concerned today about being part of it than understanding it.
So here we go…I am going to point out some places I see the kingdom, then I will ask you to tell me where you see the kingdom of God.
<Giving 7> The kingdom of God is like 8 youth and 3 adults taking their time and their love to a nearby city. They offered all that they had but had to return home after only 4 days of work. A week after they got home this thank you card arrived at the church.
It read, “Your labor of love on our behalf will long be remembered as you make a lasting imprint on our heart. Even though our paths crossed for only a fleeting moment in time your kindness demonstrate(ed) Christ’s love.”
Giving of ourselves rather than taking care of number one. That is the kingdom of God.
<Helping 8> The kingdom of God is like one friend seeing another unable to finish the deck he had started before his surgery. He puts out the word and a whole crew shows up to finish the work. More importantly, the man and his family know that they are not alone.
Showing love through our hands and skills. That is the kingdom of God.
<Risking 9> The kingdom of God is like the man who sees someone he doesn’t know walk into the church, and while some sit and whisper “who is that?” he gets up to greet them, sit with them, and welcome them with an open heart. Now the stranger has become a friend.
Taking the risk to welcome the stranger. That is the kingdom of God.
<Generosity 10> The kingdom of God is like the young lady who heard of someone who distributed backpacks to homeless people, and dreamed of being able to do the same. When she invited her church to help with 12 backpacks they were uber-generous and she ended up with 72 backpacks to share with homeless persons.
Overflowing generosity. That is the kingdom of God.
<New vision 11> A church realized that many families and children were not attending worship and Sunday school like they used to on Sunday. Rather than point fingers at them they opened their doors and hearts on Wednesday night. People of all kinds came to learn about Jesus and praise God in that new time. There is no telling how many lives have been changed by that church being willing to think about church in a different way.
Reframing problems to create opportunities for grace to overflow. That is the kingdom of God.
<Ministry 12> A frustrated and discouraged pastor sits in a room with 6 friends who point out all the places where good things are happening, lives are being changed, and people are coming closer to Jesus. When they pastor leaves, he is encouraged, hopeful, and grateful.
The people ministering to the people. That is the kingdom of God.
<Be church 13> With just a little bit of encouragement, 20 people leave the church with a mission to do something to change the world for one person before they return to church the following week. They share food, run errands, visit nursing homes and homebound people, do chores, perform simple acts of kindness, and love those who need to be loved. By the time they return to church the world has indeed changed for those whose lives have been touched.
People go to be the church or do church rather than just sit in church. That is the kingdom of God.
< Reach out 14> Single mothers are living on the street. 50,000 child refugees are living in prisons that are politely called detention facilities. There are hurricane and earthquake victims. There are sufferers on both sides of civil wars. Children die of preventable diseases like malaria. These are people we do not know and may never meet. A barrage of prayers are raised, and those prayers are put into action by providing basic comfort and health items, household goods, food, mosquito nets, Christmas gifts, and most importantly HOPE for these most vulnerable and precious of God’s children.
The suffering of people we don’t even know brings our hearts pain and motivate us to reach out them, instead of judging them or ignoring them. That is the kingdom of God.
< Joy 15> A widow who is weak and weary sits broken in her husband’s funeral. She hears the promises of scripture. She feels the love surrounding her. She hears the voices behind her begin to sing. She finds it within herself to stand and sing the song of faith and hope with all her heart.
Joy overcomes grief and sorrow. That is the kingdom of God.
<Worship 16 > A child whose parents are busy at work spends a lot of time at home alone. It isn’t that the parents don’t care, but they are struggling to put food on the table. He often feels lonely and forgotten. He eagerly reaches out for the bread of communion, not understanding all its nuances, but somehow knowing that this means that he is loved and accepted by the church and by God.
Worship comes alive and speaks to a hurting heart. That is the kingdom of God.
< Prayer 17> A mother hurts for her child and does a brave thing. She stands up in church and asks for prayer. The people rally around them spiritually.
<Hope 18 > Hope overcomes despair. That is the kingdom of God.
< Grace 19> Grace overcomes judgment. That is the kingdom of God.
< Love 20> Love overcomes fear. That is the kingdom of God.
< Peace 21> Peace overcomes anxiety. That is the kingdom of God.
<Prayers 22 > Prayers overcome all odds. That is the kingdom of God.
<Acceptance 23 > Acceptance overcomes differences. That is the kingdom of God.
<Openness 24 > An open heart and hand overcome hatred. That is the kingdom of God.
<Kingdom of God 21 > Wherever God is present, wherever faith is born, wherever lives are changed, and wherever changed lives -- change lives… that my friends is the kingdom of God.
I want you to think… where do you see the kingdom of God? Where do you participate in the kingdom of God? Where in your life have you experienced the kingdom of God?
When you come up for communion today, in a few words or a couple of sentences, share with me where you see the kingdom of God and then feast at the kingdom banquet. Yes, it will take a little longer, but I have left time to do that. I suggest that you don’t spend that extra time standing in line. If others are waiting in line, stay prayerfully in your pew and open your heart to the power of the kingdom around you and in you. Then when the line is shorter, you can come up. There is no rush; there is plenty of room at God’s table for everyone.
Let us pray…
The Lord be with you