The Realm of Heaven

On July 31, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

The Realm of Heaven Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins July 30, 2017 Let there be peace among us and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s words be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says seek first the Realm […]

The Realm of Heaven
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
July 30, 2017

Let there be peace among us and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s words be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says seek first the Realm of God. While all of the gospels talk about the Realm of God, or the kin-dom of God, God’s anti-empire or counter kingdom, Matthew uses Realm of God and Realm of Heaven interchangeably.

In literary imagination, where does God live? In heaven. Indeed, also in the sermon on the mount, Jesus prays, “Abba who are in heaven.” But in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, that doesn’t mean God far off in a sky realm…it mean, God who is throughout the universe. In other words, there’s not a spot where God is not. God in heaven means God everywhere fully present.

The gospel of Jesus is the good news of God’s kindom, that is to say, of God’s presence which is everywhere all the time and all lives are part of it. That being true, we are then called to care for one another, to be merciful to refugees, the sick, the hurting, the oppressed, the marginalized.

If God is everywhere, then we who call ourselves the people of God are to see God everywhere we look, and if we see God in refugees, we won’t abandon them…how could we abandon God?

If we see God in people of all religions and no religion, we won’t use religion as an excuse to abuse or vilify those who have different religious vocabularies than we do.

If we see God in the sick, we will not rest until every person has adequate medical care.

If we see God in same-gender loving people, in transgender and gender non-conforming people, then we will not remain silent when they are demonized and dehumanized.

God’s heaven is God’s home, and God lives in us, with us, among us, all of us, no matter who we are. We then serve God by being God’s hands of mercy in the world.

So, there’s not a spot where God is not. God’s realm, God’s heaven is at hand, in our hands. But when we really believe that, what should that look like in our lives? It turns out that Jesus has a lot to say about that.
In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus tells a series of parables, fictional stories to drive home a profound truth, describing the Realm of heaven.

Jesus says:
The Realm of Heaven is like a field with both wheat and weeds. The farmer of the field decided to let the wheat and weeds grow together and separate the weeds from the wheat at harvest time.

Jesus says:
The Realm of Heaven is like a tiny mustard seed that is planted and becomes a big plant that can actually become a home to birds.

Jesus says:
The Realm of Heaven is like a woman baking bread who just keeps adding yeast until her entire loaf rises.

Jesus says:
The Realm of Heaven is like a field with a hidden treasure in it.

Jesus says:
The Realm of Heaven is like a net that was cast into the sea that caught all kinds of fish. The fishers waited until they got to shore before discarding the bad fish and keeping the good.

Jesus just keeps reaching for metaphors, similes, and symbols to help describe what it should look like when we accept that our lives are part of God’s life.

When we live as if we are in God’s presence, we let wheat and weeds grow together…live and let live. We don’t need to keep people from voting, marrying, accessing education or healthcare…later, the farmer, God, can decide who is and who isn’t worthy of God’s best (and I believe God ultimately will decide that we’re all keepers), but our job is to let everything grow and thrive.

When we live as if we are in God’s presence, we may feel like our resources are small, like a mustard seed. We may have little faith, a little talent, a little money, a few friends, a small community…but the truth remains that within us is great potential. Small as we may feel, we can provide shelter, respite, hope, community to those who are in flight, those who are flying through life looking for a place to land. A mustard seed can grow to house the birds of the air.

When we live as if we are in God’s presence, we keep adding ingredients, programs, messages, music, food, outreach, education…we keep adding yeast until the whole loaf rises, giving everyone a chance to thrive and be part of abundant living.

When we live as if we are in God’s presence, our lives may seem like a big, empty field, but know that within that field is rich treasure, even if we haven’t uncovered it yet.

When we live as if we are in God’s presence, we cast a wide net, bringing in every kind of person to affirm their sacred value. Some will stay and some will not, but the net was cast for everyone.

The Realm of Heaven, the kin-dom of God, the presence of God is where everyone is given a chance. Everyone is to be fed…not only if they deserve it or believe certain things or live up to our standards…the only requirement for being fed is hunger. In the Realm of heaven, everyone deserves shelter, everyone has sacred value, every life is a field with hidden treasure in it.

Robert and I have a new dog; her name is Bella. Bella has already learned one of our favorite affirmations. With her actions, staring at kitchen counter tops, sniffing the refrigerator door, going to her food and water bowls, performing her tricks that are rewarded with treats…Bella is saying over and over, “There is good for me and I ought to have it!”

Bella already knows what I hope to always remember, and what I hope you will at least consider…in God’s presence, there is good for us and we ought to have it. And if that’s true for us, it’s true for everyone. And if its true for everyone, part of how we worship is by being the conduits through which God’s good can flow.

The Apostle Paul tells us this morning that even when we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit is praying in and for us. Our groanings become God’s own prayer wishing us peace, comfort, strength, and joy. In other words, there is good for us and we ought to have it, and even when we forget that, God is still knowing that for us and whispering that truth in our hearts.

The Realm of Heaven is like knowing without fail that there is good for us and we ought to have it; there is good for all people and all people ought to have it. And when we live as if we believe we are part of God’s heaven, then we will choose to be God’s helpers whereby the good is joyously shared so that every need can be met.

We can be the answer to God’s own prayers, and in partnership with God’s will, we can help more people experience the good they deserve to have. And this is the good news. Amen.

There is good for me and I ought to have it.
This is true for all people.
And so it is.

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