Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Unsung Gospel Protagonists

Sorry, no audio this week.  My batteries ran out.

But my sermon was based on Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52.

In this passage, Jesus uses a number of vivid metaphors to describe the Kingdom.  Now, the first question that needs to be answered is what is the Kingdom?

Contrary to what some people may think, I am not convinced that when Jesus refers to the Kingdom, he is talking about Heaven or some celestial reward we are privy to in another life if only we toe the party line in this life.

Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus states that the Kingdom "is within you" (Luke 17), "is near you now" (Luke 10), "has come upon you" (Matthew 12).

Does this sound like something far off?  Not really.  I maintain, and I think Jesus would have too, that the Kingdom is that state which could occur here on earth if a critical mass of people would just stop being such jerks to one another.

Which brings me to my second point: if the Kingdom is something which could occur here on earth, then you and I surely have a responsibility to make that happen.  We are not meant to wait around for God to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and right the wrongs...that's our job.  That's our responsibility.

I think this is the subtext of the series of metaphors Jesus presents us with in the reading for today.  While the metaphors tell us what the Kingdom is like (and this is where most preachers and commentators go), what often goes unremarked is that each these metaphors has a protagonist.

If you have forgotten your high school English, a protagonist is a person in a story who advances the plot.  It is usually the main character, the person with whom we are most likely to identify, with whom we are meant to identify.

For example, in the metaphor of the mustard seed, it does not just say, "The kingdom is like a mustard seed".  It says, "The kingdom is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field".

In the metaphor of the leaven, the kingdom is like leaven, but it still required a woman to mix it into the dough.

In the metaphor of the hidden treasure in the field, it took a man to stumble upon it over the course of his daily labours.

In the metaphor of the pearl, it took a merchant to go seeking it and to have the knowledge and skill to identify it.

In the metaphor of the fishing net, it still took a fisherman to cast the net out in the first place.

All this to say that we are not passive recipients of the kingdom.  Like the men and women in all the stories contained in this Gospel reading, we are active participants in the Kingdom.

Not only that, but we are and should be protagonists of the Gospel.

What I mean by that is that we are the people who right the wrongs, who seek truth and justice, who feed the hungry, clothe the naked.  That is not God's job.  This is our job.

Let's get out and do it.

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