Why isn't the Kingdom like Bindweed?
(Mark 4: 26 - 34 and 2 Corinthians 5:6 - 10 (11 - 13) 14 - 17)
The title of this sermon is ‘Why isn’t the Kingdom of God like bindweed’ ...or for that matter ‘Why isn’t the Kingdom of God like a tidal wave’ ….why is it like a little seed and why is it like branches?
..but before we get to that question let’s take a moment to reflect on some beautiful writing by St Paul given to us to read alongside our Gospel passage:
‘So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new’. (2 Corinthians 5:6 - 10 (11 - 13) 14 - 17)
This is such a beautiful line from St Paul and I think we are given this passage from the second letter to the Corinthians as it has a strong theological link to our reading today from Mark and his reference to the Kingdom of God.
Let's stop for a moment and think about what the term 'The Kingdom of God’ means. We are supposed to be ‘Kingdom People’ after all. So we really need to be clear on its meaning.
If you recall last week we had a few challenging readings including one about the fall - Adam and Eve and leaving Eden which caused a rift between humanity and God ….and in the process damaged wider creaton. In spiritual physics - The Garden and Eden and the fall of Adam and Eve is a story seeking to describe how the willful disobedience of humanity created a rift between ourselves and God …...where Spirit and Divine became separated from matter and creation.
The original sin, played out in a million ways is the sundering, the falling apart between God and Humanity - which has led to all sorts of consequent sunderings and fallings apart that we see in our broken world today. Hatred, violence, war, indifference, greed….the list I'm afraid is very long.
It is the healing of this rift that is the overall story and message (metanarrative) of the bible. For Christians the bible describes the repeated work of God to heal this rift and bring people back to God. Ultimately this is achieved through Jesus’s ministry on earth.
Jesus says in the Gospels that through his presence on earth - his incarnation - the Kingdom of God has both come and has come near - and critically will come fully and finally in the future.
Let me try and explain.
In Jesus the Kingdom of God becomes a reality once again - creation and God are unified in Jesus - Origen the great North African 2nd century theologian says Jesus is the Kingdom that has come.
The Divine - the eternal order and divine law can be seen and known….Jesus radiates out from himself this kingdom….into believers...into the church...into his mystical body. This is what Paul is saying when he says we die to sin and by our life in Christ we become a new creation - that phrase new creation you see goes back to Eden.
In Christ the rift can be healed, as Paul says, the old can finally pass away and everything can become new again.
Just being near Jesus means being near the Kingdom of God - and what does the Kingdom of God mean and do? It heals, it transforms, it feeds, it defeats powers of evil...wonders occur...people behave differently and become better people. There is peace, there is mercy and there is an end to injustice.
When we are fully open to the Holy Spirit when we are close to Christ - we know in our own lives things can change, healing and the impossible becomes possible.
Let me give you an example.
St Francis didn't just like animals - animals were drawn to him in an act of deep union and trust….. these extraordinary occurrences are a result of Francis manifesting the kingdom around him….he becomes so close Christ, so full of the Holy Spirit that the new creation of trust and peace emanate from him and the animals recognised this, recognised the signs of the Kingdom of God, the new creation and sought to be with him. They were drawn to join the New Eden, the Kingdom of God.
The Gospels and the New Testament also make it clear that we have been given the teaching and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us make this Kingdom a reality now, to be like Francis and help this kingdom come.
But the time we are given to do this has an end point. Jesus will come back in judgement and glory to set all things right. Now this point at the end of earthly time is described in Daniel and of course in the book of Revelation.
The ultimate vision in this account is not the destruction of the earth but the healing of creation and unification once again between heaven and earth. In this final act, the Kingdom of God becomes fully known. The primordial rift that happened in Eden between God and humanity, between Spirit and matter is healed.
Now we come to the Gospel reading (Mark 4: 26 - 34) Sermon loand we are asked how will God, through Jesus do all of this? And of course why isn’t the Kingdom of God like bindweed…..or indeed like a tidal wave.
God as love is also a God of choice and free will. We are given free will to love God and follow Jesus or not. It’s never forced on us….what sort of relationship...what sort of love would we have for God if he was forced on us. If we didn’t have a choice?
I think this is why Jesus in his many seed parables never says the Kingdom of God is like bindweed…..I don’t know about you but my garden is full of bindweed…. I face a daily challenge ensuring it doesn’t take over the garden. It seems to grow 3 inches in the night….and just one fragment of the root is needed for a plant the size of a tree to smother everything in sight. Ok I’m exaggerating a bit ...but not that much! The kingdom of God isn’t like bindweed forcing itself upon us, overwhelming us….taking and smothering us away until we comply.
In the same way the Kingdom of God isn’t like a tidal wave…. Forcing itself upon us, washing away and removing everything in its path.
The kingdom of God instead is a much wanted seed in the earth, and it does not come all at once. It arrives in stages like the stalk, the head and the full grain.
It seems to me that these seed parables talk to us about the hiddenness and smallness of the quiet beginnings of the kingdom …. it starts with Jesus ….this one apparent individual, born in poverty and obscurity…. the mustard seed that will grow into the mightiest of trees. Billions of followers.
This becoming of the Kingdom does not happen by force of will. The sower just sows and then sleeps and rises night and day, and the earth produces itself, and the mustard plant puts forth its large branches. The kingdom grows organically. And inevitably, as day follows night, God’s hidden, mysterious work in the world and in us will be fruitful. (ref working preacher).
NT Wright therefore suggests Jesus in this parable is saying ‘Don’t worry. Remember who your God is and what he’s promised. Realise that this small beginning is the start of God’s intended Kingdom – the Kingdom that will eventually offer shade to the whole world’.
So Jesus is the Kingdom of God with us and as disciples the question is how are we really being, and showing and working tirelessly to share the Good News and become beacons and examples of this Good News…. signs of what the Kingdom looks and is all about?
John Weselely said “Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergyman or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.”
We have about 50 - 60 people here this morning…..enough I suspect to give those gates of hell a good shake and help set up the Kingdom of God upon the earth…..
The question is
Are we really ready to allow the reign of God in our own lives?
Can we welcome God and the gifts of God, and offer God the greatest gift that we can give - our love and our trust?
Are we ready and willing to allow God to transform us?
Do we actually want to change?
Are our branches broad and generous enough to give shade and provide shelter for those in need?
God gives us the choice, The Kingdom isn't like bindweed or a tidal wave.
What will you choose?