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What Is the Kingdom of Heaven Like?

by The Rev Beth Knowlton on July 26, 2023

Jesus put before the crowds 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.”

—from Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

This week’s gospel has a wonderful array of images for the kingdom of heaven. Mustard seed. Yeast. Treasure in a field. The pearl of great price. A net full of fish. Do any of these resonate with you? Do they seem to have anything in common? 

For me, what is striking is that, perhaps save the pearl or the treasure, they are fairly ordinary objects. They are things that can make us look closer. We can discover and rediscover God’s presence in the smallest things and be moved by the small things that become larger under the gaze of love.

Years ago, my spiritual director made a comment about the sun. She said, “The sun is amazing because it simultaneously gives light to the earth and ripens a single grape.” To me, the kingdom of heaven is when I realize that I am bathed in that light and that God has the attention span to care about me with all that I need, and yet is still fully available to everyone else and everything else in our world.

That kind of inclusive love is beyond our comprehension. Too often we fall into the trap of imagining that love is finite and scarce. The kingdom of heaven is much like that old ditty from elementary school that you may also have sung, the magic penny: “Love is something if you give it away, give it away, give it away….you end up having more.” 

The great paradox of our Christian walk is that the best way for us to know ourselves to be loved is to love others. In stepping out of our own rigid and limited concerns, we are invited to a much more expansive view. We cannot ever be the sun, but we can surely follow the one who was God for us.

What was a kingdom moment you’ve had recently? Was there a moment when the ordinary all of a sudden felt extraordinary? What helped you see it? Who did you share it with? As we continue this season of ordinary time, I pray we all have moments when we are newly aware of God’s presence in the most ordinary of things. And may those small moments expand our sight so that we know ourselves to be bathed in the presence of God’s holy light.

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