The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, leaven, treasure in a field, a merchant searching for fine pearls and a dragnet. I don’t know about you, but my understanding of what a Kingdom is involves knights on horses, princesses in towers, armies massed upon field of battle and sometimes, even King Arthur and Camelot. Often in the west we have problems understanding these Kingdom metaphors. The kingdom spoken against in the Gospel of Matthew was Rome. Rome had spread itself out, as all previous kingdoms had, like an anti-God infection upon the Earth.
We, in the west, have moved past this form of governance, and have achieved the modern dream of Democracy and freedom for all. And by golly, those nations that disagree with these freedoms are obviously backward and we should help them in any and all ways possible to become better countries. That is, to become more like us.
The Kingdom of God is not under the auspice of the Kingdom of Rome or the Democracy of the United States. It is in the mustard seed that amazingly grows into a tree. It is in the leaven hidden in the flour. It is a treasure in a field where a laborer toils. It is in the merchant searching for fine pearls. And it is in the dragnet.
As much as we would like, we will never be able to identify any kingdom of this world with the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of Heaven is not found within the expansion of temporal authority, expanding its territory with armies, treaties or massive land purchases.
The Kingdom of God is not even within the church. We do great work around the world such as the effort to rid the world of malaria or homelessness. These are a part of the Kingdom vision, but our work toward these ends does not bring the kingdom.
What then are we to do? Just sit back and await the Kingdom of God? Alas, no. Quietism is not an option. These parables and others within the gospels show what life in the Kingdom of Heaven is like. They illustrate how a righteous person acts, so that when the final judgment comes we are saved, or we are cast into the furnace. We have been given the grace of Christ and thus are saved. But with this gift of Grace comes great responsibility to be righteous within the world. That is, we, here and now, living in the temporal kingdom must also live into the Kingdom of God.
Thus our church bodies work to end homelessness in Minnesota by working with the state legislature, we work to end malaria related deaths in Africa with simple, effective, and cheap mosquito nets. We have the chance on a regular basis to donate our funds to these causes and others. And this truly is a response to the grace of Christ. However the government works on these causes too. So to think that these activities bring the Kingdom is folly.
We as followers of Christ are always called to do more. We can never do enough though to bring the Kingdom but we are called to do something. So we must be a living witness to others. Let our lives show how the Grace of Christ affects us. I am not advocating for taking these parables literally. Do not start up a mustard plantation, do not go about the land searching for treasure, et cetera to live the Kingdom life. Instead live into the Kingdom. Imagine that the work you do is a response to the Grace given you in Christ Jesus. This lifestyle then becomes an example to others as to what it is to live a Kingdom life. You must search your hearts and discern amongst yourselves how God is calling you to live into the Kingdom.
Where then is the Kingdom? The kingdom is like Leaven in bread. It is everywhere, and as it is mixed in, hidden within the dough we cannot point to a place here or there where the Kingdom of God is or is not. It is hidden, but is everywhere and in plain sight. The treasure of the Kingdom is discerned from life with others and relationship with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. We spy this treasure in our lives and will do anything to keep it. We are willing to give up everything we have so as to pursue it.
Lest we think that just the proper actions get us into heaven, the final parable in this section states that the Kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet. Everything in the sea is gathered up within this net. And the clean, that is righteous, are saved and the unclean are tossed aside. These fish are clean because God said so back in book of Leviticus. And the unclean are thus for the same reason. The clean fish live the life God intended of them. For countless generations they have been living this life. Like the people God has chosen for the sake of the world.
God intended for us to live life in a righteous manner. We are to live life in relationship with God and others. We have many examples of how to live this life. People here today are such examples. There are people here who have given up everything to follow Jesus. There are those who have yet to give up everything. They are still holding onto idols of Empire and the world.
It is important to note that we can learn something of the kingdom life from each and everyone here. We learn of the Kingdom when we are in conversation with one another like the disciples were with Jesus. And we learn what the Kingdom is like when we are in conversation with God. When we engage each other and God in conversation we learn and perform what life in the Kingdom looks like.
Every time then that you speak with one another, there is the Kingdom of Heaven. When you are in prayer, there is the Kingdom of Heaven. When you are at work, there is the Kingdom of Heaven. When you share a meal, there is the Kingdom of Heaven. When you come together in fellowship with others, there is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Every time someone is killed, there is the kingdom of men. Every time you refuse to speak out against injustice, there is the kingdom of men. Every time you place a worldly want above relationship with God, there is the kingdom of man. Every time you rely upon only yourself, there is the Kingdom of man.
The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, leaven, treasure in a field, a merchant seeking fine pearls and a dragnet. There are no human kings or queens in the Kingdom of God. There is just a small seed that grows, quite unexpectedly, into a great tree instead of a shrub. There is a woman who hides leaven within enough flour to feed 100-150 people. There is a worker in the field who gives up everything to purchase the treasure found within. There is a merchant who has found the finest pearl and gives everything up so as to gain that one pearl. And the Kingdom of God is like a net, drug across the sea, picking up everything to be sorted at the final judgment.
The Kingdom of Heaven is all this and more. And you are a part of it! Claim your citizenship and live into the Kingdom!
He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the unclean. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”