The Kingdom of God

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
The Kingdom of God
Saturday of the 34th Week after Pentecost
19 January, 2008
Ephesians 2:11-13 ; Luke 13:18-29

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

When we are paying attention to the words of our Lord this morning about the Kingdom of God, it is important for us to remember that things are not necessarily quite as black-and-white as we sometimes are trying to understand readings. Our Lord is definitely saying, however, that there are people who will not get into the Kingdom of God. He says this on the one hand ; and on the other hand He says : “They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God”. What does this mean ? What is He talking about ?

He is speaking directly to people who are still very much conscious of the Law, and concerned about doing the details of exactly what is right (in other words, obeying the letter of the Law). This obeying of the letter of the Law is what we human beings are always getting stuck on. We are treating God as if He were perpetually angry with us, as if He were waiting to pounce upon us, and as though there were some “sword of Damocles” hanging over our heads. We are always going about like frightened puppies, or like our frightened little cat who is frightened for who knows what reason, frightened of her own shadow often, it seems. We do go about in this frightened way, worrying about transgressing the smallest iota of God’s commandments. They are knocking on the door, and He says : “I do not know you, where you are from”. They say to Him : “We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets”. However, He will say : “I tell you I do not know you, where you are from”. There is a modern idiom : “Do you know where I’m coming from ?” Saying : “I do not know where you come from” is tantamount to saying : “I do not know who you are”. Why does He not know them ? This is because it is they who do not really know Who He is. Our Lord cannot recognise His own in them. That is what this passage is partly concerned with. This passage is also not concerned with supposed threats from the Lord.

I cannot claim by any means to give a complete survey of the meaning of our Lord’s parable. We, who have eyes, often cannot see, and we who have ears, often cannot hear ; or sometimes, perhaps, we even will not see or hear. This attitude is all couched in fear, because we human beings do tend to live in fear. This is our burden, I suppose it could be said. Because of fears, we, ourselves, sometimes cannot recognise the Lord for Who He is, even when He is right in front of us. Yet, in the context of all this (it is very serious), the Lord recognises those who respond to Him in love, and who are not preoccupied with making the iotas of the Law a higher priority. The observing of the iotas of the Law, and the little, minuscule details about the Law, are supposed to be things that come naturally to people who love the Lord. These observances are the product of love. They do not come ahead of the love. When such concerns about details come in front of the observance of the law of love, they block the proper relationship with the Lord. It is about all this, I believe, that the Lord is trying to help us to understand. People coming from all points of the compass will still come and sit down in the Kingdom of God. The ones who come are those who have responded to Him in love. We might even say that this is a sort of prediction of the spreading of the Gospel to the whole world, to the Gentiles and to everyone else.

Now, I am going back to the very beginning of the Gospel. It is important for us to remember that when we are living our lives in the proper context (that is, if our lives are filled with the love of the Lord), the expression of the Kingdom that He gives at the beginning of this Gospel can take place. In the context of this loving relationship with the Lord which is the focus of everything, the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which is a very, very, tiny seed. However, this tiny seed grows into a very big tree, just as our Saviour says. I saw one once in Palestine. It is truly amazing. It is quite a big plant that comes from this little, tiny seed. Sometimes, big seeds only produce bushes. This little, tiny seed can grow into something huge. Our Saviour has said that a little bit of yeast in a large amount of flour can produce a great quantity of bread. Our Lord said something similar about salt in another place, regarding its necessary effect upon flavour.

The point is, that it does not take much – it really does not take much. Something that is insignificant (from the point of view of the world) can produce an amazing amount of fruit : good fruit, life. When our Lord is speaking about these things, He is referring to things that are not only growing, but even exploding into life. This mustard seed produces a very, very big plant, which bears very much fruit. The plant produces not merely a few mustard seeds, but a multitude of them. What happens with just a tiny bit of yeast in some flour ? It produces very many loaves of bread. Our Lord is speaking about life — life in Him — and the abundance of life that comes as a result of living in a loving relationship with Him. The Kingdom is expressed in terms of love and life, and of exponential multiplication, by I don’t know how many superscript figures to what power. The Lord is bringing about fruit and productivity from our lives. This is what He is talking about.

He is looking to you and to me, He is patiently waiting for us to respond to Him in love, and to live in love. The fulfilling of the Law will naturally come second, because if we want to be pleasing to Him, we will naturally observe the Law, which is really an expression of how we were created to live in the first place. He wants us to live in love with Him, so that He can give life, not only to us, but to people and creatures around us. He wants our lives to be bearing fruit like the mustard seed and multiplying like the yeast. From all the points of the compass, the Lord will bring to Himself those who encounter His love. He will bring them to His table. They will sit down with Him in the Kingdom of God, and they will all rejoice in eternity, glorifying the all-holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.