The Reign of God, Dominion of Heaven, basileia tou theou, Kingdom of God––all refer to a coveted, hoped-for realm in which the small become monumentous, what is truly precious is valued above all, where bounty is expected, and wisdom rules. In keeping with the Wheat and Weeds of last week’s Gospel, the theme of good and evil comes to us again so that we can ponder it in Solomon’s, in Paul’s, and in Jesus’ words.
1 Kings 3:5-12
Solomon has come to the throne at a young age, in a rather messy succession. Apparently overwhelmed by the prospect of his now dawning reign, he seeks out the holy place at Gibeon, where he spends the night hoping for a dream. God appears and invites dialogue. Solomon immediately grounds himself in the covenant with his father, David. Then, rather than seeking his own way or gain, he asks for the wisdom to lead God’s people. While his plea is not overtly full of praise, it is open to the future of the kingdom God has created, and this pleases the LORD. Solomon has a dream and wishes to lead the people well, into God’s future
For the courage to ask for wisdom and the wisdom to withstand the onslaughts of daily life, we heed Paul’s assurance that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul is not supplying a holy means of saying “everything will work out” or “it’s not that bad.” We need to remember that Paul’s assertion is rooted in the cross, the ultimate suffering, that somehow finds redemption in God’s gracious power to bring something out of nothingness. We move into the future with our eyes wide open to the suffering and pain, but strengthened by the power of God witnessed in the cross and resurrection.
David Bartlett says that in this passage “Paul emphasizes both what God has already done for us in Jesus Christ, what Christ does for us now, and what we can hope for in light of Christ’s love.” (See Bartlett’s Romans [Nashville: WJK Press, 1995], 79.) We don’t just conquer, we don’t just survive, we indeed are secure in Christ. No one, nothing, not even our own selves can separate us from God’s love and God’s future.
While we cannot see the Dominion of Heaven, we glimpse its healing power even in its strangeness. That God’s word assures of the strength of what is small to make miraculous changes in our world ought to give us courage to face each new day and take risks, casting our nets wide again and again.
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
The parable of the net parallels some of the message of the parable of the wheat and weeds. Yet, directed at the disciples, it is oriented to mission. These disciples, led by the four fishermen, are to cast their nets wide and deep for all kinds of fish. Their mission is inclusive, as is Matthew overall, of the outcast and marginal, gentile and Jew. Note that the angels will do the sorting. This is a solid message in an age where the church often is more concerned with judgment than spreading good news, than casting the net as wide as possible.
–– The Rev. Timothy V. Olson, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Ankeny, Iowa
Yes, the angels will do the sorting in the end, but in this life we are called to hear the truth that we have been given the gifts and vocation to discern our courses and that we are not alone. God’s power reigns in our midst like yeast, a pearl, and a tiny seed.
Homily Service 38, no. 8 (24 July 5005): 35-45