Year A Proper 12 Matthew 13 2011
What Is Heaven Like?
Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52
There's a charming story that Thomas Wheeler, CEO of the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, tells on himself: He and his wife were driving along an interstate highway when he noticed that their car was low on gas. Wheeler got off the highway at the next exit and soon found a rundown gas station with just one gas pump. He asked the lone attendant to fill the tank and check the oil; then went for a little walk around the station to stretch his legs.
As he was returning to the car, he noticed that the attendant and his wife were engaged in an animated conversation. The conversation stopped as he paid the attendant. But as he was getting back into the car, he saw the attendant wave and heard him say, "It was great talking to you."
As they drove out of the station, Wheeler asked his wife if she knew the man. She readily admitted she did. They had gone to high school together and had dated steadily for about a year.
"Boy, were you lucky that I came along," bragged Wheeler.
"If you had married him, you'd be the wife of a gas station attendant instead of the wife of a chief executive officer."
"My dear," replied his wife, "if I had married him, he'd be the chief executive officer and you'd be the gas station attendant."
Yes, we often think we have the proper perspective on an issue when in fact we are way off. Jesus understood this propensity for us humans to get it wrong. Especially when it comes to things spiritual. So he told a few parables. He said the kingdom of heaven is like:
- A Small Seed
- A Hidden Treasure
- And a Pearl of Great Price
Super-Size Your Faith
“Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…in a most delightful way”
How many of you have no idea who Mary Poppins is?
There’s the generational divide right in front of us...although Broadway has just introduced a new “Mary Poppins” musical to catch those of you who only know the more postmodern Nannie McPhee version of the story.
Nanny Mary Poppins sang this song in the 1964 movie to get her employers’ closed-mouth children to open up and swallow down their daily dose of nasty-tasting stuff. Could any nanny get away with that today? Given the skyrocketing rate of childhood obesity, I suspect that any child-care worker caught shoveling spoonfuls of sugar down their charge’s throats would be instantly sacked.
Still, we “sugarcoat” everything. “It smells like money” is how we sugarcoat the sickening stench of a slaughterhouse or the cloud of sulphur dioxide that spews out of paper-mill smoke stacks. Ironically, in the case of pulp mills, we are sugar-coating the release of sugars (and sulphur) in the wood.
“Sugar-coating” is our attempt to disguise that which is truly awful with an artificial top-coat of sticky sweetness. We do this with everything from chocolate-dipped grasshoppers to 5 mpg SUV’s that run on Big Diesel. We love to take our sourest lemons and turn them into lemonade.
But this attempt to “sugar-coat” the negative is not a part of biblical faith. A faith that is founded on the crucifixion of its founder as a blasphemous criminal cannot be good at cutesy coverups.
Jesus never sugarcoated. He spoke openly to his admittedly uncomprehending, sugar-jonesing disciples about his impending arrest, conviction, and execution. Jesus baldly declared that “the poor will always be with you” and advised the rich, young man that the cost of discipleship was to “sell everything” if he wished to follow Jesus. Discipleship was never advertised as anything but a big-ticket item by Jesus, a commitment that, as its reward, demanded that followers “take up their cross,” embrace the real probability of suffering and death.
Paul had first-hand, hard-core, hard-time experiences of the “hardship” that discipleship could bring to one’s life...