Genesis 29:15-28/ Romans 8:26-39/ Matthew 13:31-33, 44-50
Great Things in Small Packages
Where Our Heart Is
In Matthew 6:21, Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” but I say, “Where your heart is, there your money, time, and energy will be also.” We spend our money, time, and energy on what we value or want; where our heart is. I chose to spend my money, time, and energy training in classical piano because that is where my heart is. Korean children receive money and blessing from parents and adult relatives on New Years Day. When my brother was in middle school, he used his New Years money to buy our first guitar. Some people invest in buying RVs or boats (or both) to enjoy the nature, because that is where their hearts are.
Parables of the Kingdom
Today, we read five parables about the kingdom of heaven. The first two, mustard seed and yeast, are about how small things grow into big things. Mustard seeds are tiny, but grow into a big tree in which birds make nests. Yeast goes into the dough and makes it rise, working from the inside.
The next two, treasure and pearl, are about how one invests in what one deems worthy. The treasure and pearl in the stories were so valuable that one sold all one’s possessions to buy them. In the last parable, a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind. When it is full, the good ones are kept and the bad ones are thrown out. This one is about the Judgment Day, like the parable on good seeds and weeds from last Sunday.
Empowerment for Small Congregations
I find the parables of mustard seed and yeast empowering for us as a small congregation. There must be a lot of things we cannot do because we are small, but we could become something great like the mustard seed and influential like the yeast influences the dough to rise. We are already doing something valuable through our thrift shop ministry, but there are other things that we could do even if we don’t know them yet. There are a lot of things we cannot see as humans, but when we rely on the Holy Spirit, we can be guided to see and fulfill God’s will for us.
Who Will Separate from the Love of Christ?
Our reading from the Romans teach us about having an intimate and strong relationship with God. When we become intimately connected to God, the Holy Spirit can help us in our weakness. When we don’t know how to pray or what to pray for, the Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God. When we are too troubled and distressed to pray, the Spirit understands us anyway. Paul describes this kind of intimate relationship with God as follows:
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
If we have this kind of relationship with God, God will show us what to do as a small congregation to act as mustard seed or yeast in our community, living out God’s will. God is so much greater than our human mind can imagine, and works in mysterious ways, as it is often said. Take our Old Testament bad boy Jacob, for example.
God’s Work Through Jacob
Jacob was a deceitful child and young man. He deceived his older brother and father to gain the rights as heir, as we learned last Sunday. In today’s story, he works for his uncle Laban for his second born daughter Rachel’s hand in marriage. But after working for Uncle Laban for seven years, he was tricked into marrying the elder daughter Leah. When Jacob found out that he had married Leah instead of Rachel, he protested to his uncle. Uncle told him that it was not lawful to marry off younger daughters when the elder daughters were not married. So, he worked for Uncle for seven more years to marry Rachel as well.
What was God’s plan through such an ugly story? It turns out, through the two wives and their handmaidens that were given to Jacob as concubines (the story which I will tell you at another time), he was able to produce twelve sons that would become the twelve tribes of Israel. In the ancient times, the people of Israel had the task to grow into a great nation and needed as many children as possible. We may not understand this kind of story as God’s plan, but the Israelites believed it as such. God established the nation of the Hebrew people through a trickster like Jacob, and I think we are better than him.
Great Things in Small Packages
We cannot know God’s will for sure. All we can do is keep learning about God through Jesus our teacher and constantly ask God to guide our thoughts and actions. We are a small congregation that has been becoming even smaller over time. It may cause us anxiety, and we keep thinking of different ways of being the Church in today’s world in which religions are gradually being rejected.
But God works in mysterious ways, and we should keep praying for God’s guidance. Let us be proud of our identity as a small congregation. We are like mustard seeds that eventually grow into a big tree. We may or may not grow into a bigger congregation, but that doesn’t mean we cannot be influential like yeast in the world.
Great things can come in small packages. Let us trust God and see what God will do through our small package. Like those who sold everything they had to buy the worthy treasure and pearl, let us give our all in wherever God leads us. Let us invest our heart, time, resources, and energy seeking God’s will for our community of faith. Let us fill our hearts with the zeal to expand God’s kingdom of compassionate love and justice. Let us be disciples of Jesus.