One of the most amazing experiences of my life was to sit in the Garden of Gethsemane with trees that were over 2,000 years old. It was mind boggling to think that some to these trees were the very same trees that Jesus sat by to pray and the disciples sat near to sleep. I then think of how the trees were started, as small seeds. I think of how it was unknown that Jesus would take some holy moments there when they were planted. And then I think about how the kingdom of heaven is like a tree.
In Mark 4:26-34 Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven starts small, with seeds that have to struggle to grow. It cannot be fashioned all at once, but can be watered and given warm sunshine and good nourishment to grow and flourish. There is no question that the kingdom of heaven will flourish some day. That heavens branches will stretch out so that there is enough room for each and every person, each and every bird to make a home.
It seems in heaven there will be no distinction, as to what kind of bird we are, what colors our plumes are, what our genders and sexualities will be. This is not a question of who is getting into the kingdom, but the assurance that though the number of entry will be great, there will be enough room.
And, as it notes in Ezekial 17:22-24, God’s very self will do the planting of the seed. Picking a tender and lively twig, one that is sure to bear fruit. There is little clarity as to whether or not we can help the growth of this twig: but I sort of assume that the more we bring about the kingdom of heaven, the healthy we will all be.
(Also The Kingdom of Heaven parables are inherently political, which is a post I did for Pastoral is Political earlier this year: https://revgalblogpals.org/2021/02/24/the-kingdom-of-heaven-is-like/)
It is, I admit a confusing concept that we have no control over this plant, and little if any influence, but it is still important for us to interact and support the growth of the Kingdom of heaven. But it is also a relief that the Kingdom of Heaven is not in our hands. It’s nature and its flourishing is not up to us. The choosing of who will live with and make a nest in the Kingdom of Heaven is again nowhere close to what it is we have to be worrying about. This one idea of independence, control and God’s grace could be used as an in depth conversation of what it is Christianity exactly is.
Instead Ezekial names the Kingdom of Heaven, the tree planted by God, as a living testament to who God is and what it is God does. Our job, as always is to be a witness to its grace, and to tell the good news of its openness to all of those whom we meet. And to strive to be faithful witnesses: eschewing caveats and exceptions, avoiding the oh so human temptation to act as judge, but to instead spread the good news far and wide that the tree of heaven will be a home unlike any we’ve ever known, welcoming of all creation, and without limits in terms of room. For a culture that is virtually built upon the need for and ownership of our own piece of land–I am a white individual living in the United States–the the very essence of what makes the Kingdom of Heaven is counter-cultural.
However, as Ezekial concludes we can rest assured in the power of God who says “I the Lord have spoken; I will accomplish it.” Thanks be to God.
What seeds are the scriptures planting in your heart? Have you chosen one of these or another scripture to bring out the good news. Feel free to share what it tugging at your heart today.
Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny Presbyterian church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY since 2010 and blogs heartfelt and sometimes angsty prayers & Narrative Lectionary Liturgy at http://www.katyandtheword.com She is also the co-founder of the fledgling TrailPraisers inclusive Worship. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.
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