7-2-17 Being Brave to Start Small Mt. 13
Mt. 13:31-35, 44-46 Great Things in Tiny Packages 7/2/17 Lake Murray Presbyterian Dr. Ben Sloan
This is part of the series on Matthew in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation
America in the 1700s was small compared to today. In 1790 the population of the United States was 3.9 million- whereas now it is 326 million. SC’s population today is 4.9 million a million more than the whole United States at the time of the Revolution. The United States would be ranked 133rd of the 210 nations today if that population were ranked by today’s standards- just behind Panama. The stock market of 1776 compared to today was 10,000 times smaller in dollars. The Gross Domestic Product of America was on par with most of Europe at about $200/person while today’s dollars are $35,000/capita.
The longest journey begins by taking the first step.
Certainly Jesus was answering critics who were saying he would make little difference with his teachings and he could not be the Messiah. Certainly Jesus had thousands of followers in Judea and Galilee at that time. It wasn’t long after this that he fed 5,000 men and more women and children; and then fed 4,000+ again in the wilderness. But Jesus was not impressed with numbers. One day he had thousands welcome Him on Palm Sunday. Seven days later all His disciples had left Him- Judas betrayed Him, and Peter denied Him. Jesus was not concerned with numbers, but He was concerned with every human soul. I believe He still is. No one slips under His radar. The scripture says that He knows each of us by name. If Google and Apple can know you by name- and know all your devices and show a picture of your house when you google your address- cannot God who made the universe? Amazon keeps track of everything I buy and sends me appropriate ads. It is a bit creepy to me, yet I believe God is far more powerful than the most powerful computer.
The Mustard Seed is the smallest of the seeds they used in agriculture in Israel, and from that small seed a big bush would grow. But it is not, as some might want a mighty evergreen or Cyprus towering over everything else. The kingdom of heaven on earth is more like a mustard bush than a majestic tree. Yet the point is that from small beginnings of twelve things began to increase exponentially. Today almost third of the world professes to follow and believe in Christ- 2.2 billion people, and it is the only religion with adherents in every single country in the world. But do not be overawed. There was a time when it seemed the faith was reduced to nothing. Abraham kept the faith- and if he did not we would wonder where we would be today. Elijah said he was the only prophet of the Lord left, and they were trying to kill him- he stayed faithful. During the exile, the number of people were described as a remnant. Even during the early church- the church itself was described as a remnant left of the great nation of Israel. Calvin spoke of this too during the Reformation that God always has a remnant of His people- however small.
How does this parable apply to us? Do not be overawed by numbers or popularity. But also do not despise God at work with small things. He took five loaves and two fishes and fed 5,000. He took 12 and changed the world. He can take just a little spark and get a huge fire going. You may think your belief in God is small- but God can take that small spark of faith and set your soul on fire. God can take that little spark- maybe just coming to church today- and change your whole life for the better.
The parable of the yeast is similar with a little twist of its own. Yeast was seen in the Bible as a corrupter- It uses fermentation to make flour into bread. It is a bit like saying (David Garland/Thomas G. Long) that the kingdom of heaven is like a rust or a virus. Last May the Wanna Cry Virus- a tiny virus infected 230,000 computers in 150 countries. This past week the Nonpeyta virus caused the Ukraine to almost shut down and caused real problems all over the world. 32% of all computers are infected with some virus. If you have ever had a virus on your computer it is a pretty frustrating thing that takes things over at an exponential and hidden rate. The kingdom of heaven is like a hidden force- breaking down the world so that it can be remade. The kingdom of heaven takes the bad destructive things that we value- and shows them for what they are and helps us to value the good and godly.
Yet the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure or a pearl. One man stumbles across a treasure hidden in a field. This was not too uncommon in Israel because they had no banks and lots of marauding armies over the years. So people would take their silver, gold, and jewels and bury them in a field. But if they forgot where they put them- then it was left up to someone else to find them. There are people who are just trying to get through life. They are not really seeking God- they are just trying to weather through nose- to the daily boring grindstone or the diapers or to the cellphone… and then something amazing happens and it changes their perspective. Maybe God wakes them up with a sunset or lightning on Lake Murray or a new baby being born, or the doctor says the cancer is gone, or you survive the heart attack, or the man of your dreams asks you to marry them, or something happens to open your eyes. Others are seeking God with all their heart- they are looking for the pearl of great price- the bit of hope that can come from God . They are looking for faith- or just enough evidence for them to rest their faith on. Somehow they find it and then everything changes. What is valuable changes. In both instances- it is not about the field the treasure is in , or whatever it took to buy the pearl. We cannot buy our salvation- that is not the point. What is the point is when you really see the value of God, you see how important God is- and everything else- car, house, size or age of your boat, worries are secondary. The Great Things may be a small pearl or a tiny treasure box- that are worth everything we have or a whole field. If I could snap my fingers and you all of a sudden turned 95 and you knew you had one more week to live, what would you value differently? I wouldn’t wish that- but I would wish that we could value what will last.
Part of our problem is having our eyes opened to seeing the value of the Kingdom of Heaven. We need to be able to see a tiny mustard seed in Jesus’ Hands can produce a tree. We need to see that a little yeast can produce enough bread for a hundred. We need to see a tiny treasure box is worth a whole field We need to see a pearl the size of a fingernail is worth everything. We need to see that the world is not enough to pay for the love of God. The sacrifice of God is more valuable than our greatest sin and is more important than anything we have. You might expect a preacher to say this. But do not discount it. Our great problem is our apathy toward God and our love of the fickle world. God is not the icing on the cake- He is the whole cake. As we think about communion today we need to remember. We are called to remember His sacrifice and in turn sacrifice our other loves. To say the sacrifice of Christ is not worth more than our entertainment, or a season ticket, or even the best we have is to devalue God and to over value our wants.
Big things can come in tiny packages. When you think about it- it is sometimes the smallest tiny piece that makes all the other pieces of the puzzle make sense. I just got back from the beach where we play scrabble all day long for about four days- in between a lot of things and hours and adventures. I am no scrabble expert, but I found that you can rarely win without the letter X, Z, or Q- small rare letters that if you put them in just the right place it fits it all together. Small valuable things can make a big difference. There is something called, “Small data” out there- that calls that one piece of the puzzle what we are looking for. It is the answer to the question- it is the thing that makes all the other data make sense. For example a researcher wanted to find the worst place to park in New York City- He analyzed tickets and came up with one particular spot that was poorly marked but closely watched. He analyzed literally tens of millions of tickets to come up with that one parking spot. If you could analyze all of life- take all the data, put it together to find the one that makes life worth living, the One who can give hope- the one tiny person who can make it all work for you- it would be Jesus Christ. Have you found Him? He is the pearl of great price, He is the treasure in the field, He is the little bit of yeast that makes the bread, He is the tiny mustard seed that blossoms into a tree. Have you found Him? Is He valuable to you?