by the Rev’d Dr. Helen Svoboda-Barber
Our Gospel stories today are some of the parables Jesus tells about the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed, planted in the dirt, that becomes a scrubby, gangly big bush –a home for the birds. That is the Kingdom of God.
As I read and re-read our bible passages for this week, it hit me that our Old Testament reading and this Gospel story are similar to one another, and both metaphors for the Kingdom of God. Let me refresh your memory:
In our Old Testament reading, God sends Samuel to find and anoint the person who will be the next king of God’s people. Saul is the current king. In the beginning, people thought Saul was going to be a good choice–but he turned out to be a terrible leader. He did not help God’s people follow God’s way. At the time of this story, Saul is still in power, but God is working with Samuel to prepare for a new and better ruler.
So God sends Samuel out to visit a certain family, the family of Jesse the Bethlehemite. God tells Samuel that one of Jesse’s sons will become the next king. Samuel arrives and tells Jesse that one of his sons will be chosen by God. Samuel and Jesse both assume it’s the oldest son, the tall firstborn with all sorts of natural leadership qualities. The son comes in front of them and God says it’s not him. In fact, God says, “Do not look on his appearance…because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
None of the seven sons that Jesse brought forward were who God wanted. Jesse and Samuel had to go back to the son who was so unlikely, he didn’t even get presented as a possibility. When all other sons were rejected, Jessie finally called for the youngest, the little kid who was out watching their sheep. When this young one arrived, God said, “This is the one.” Little David is anointed to become the next king. Samuel then leaves and David goes back to watching the sheep. David doesn’t become a king for some time, and has other adventures as a child which were also written down.
This Old Testament story teaches that thousands and thousands of years ago, when God was picking Kings to lead God’s people, God picked unlikely folk. Perhaps even, “the least of these.”
And our Gospel parables teach that God’s Kingdom is not like a mighty Cedar of Lebanon tree, but rather a scrubby, scrappy bush that is easily overlooked.
These stories are a comforting reminder that God prefers not the biggest most impressive thing, and God doesn’t choose the most prominent, the most privileged to be his leaders. God chooses the ordinary. God chooses the overlooked. God chooses to work in and through people and things that are not that special.
And that’s Good News.
Because I’m not all that special. And you’re not all that special, too. St. Luke’s is not all that special.
And because we’re not all that special, we’ve got room available for God to work in and through us.
Because we’re not all that special, our ego hasn’t grown into the space where God likes to work.
Because we’re not all that special, we have a place within our own hearts and lives, and within the congregation of St. Luke’s, for God’s Kingdom to grow.
Join me in embracing our “not special-ness.” We are not like the firstborn of Jesse. We are not like the mighty Cedar of Lebanon. We’re not special, like the dirty shepherd boy. We’re not special, like the scrubby mustard bush.
We’re not special, which allows God and God’s love to be what is special about us. And that, my friends, is how the Kingdom of God can spread and grow. By each of us individually, and for us as a congregation to make sure the thing that makes us special is not ourselves but God’s love working through us.
Blessings on your ordinary, nothing special life.