My mind began to wander in worship. The sermon was excellent! Jim is consist in giving memorable, inspiriational sermons. And I found my mind wandering while reflecting on the gospel ltexts from Matthew. I wasn’t thinking as a preacher. I was listening from the perspective of a congregant sitting in a pew surrounded by some really neat people. I was listening to this scripture from the number of times I had heard these words before; the times I have been exposed to these sacred words for the past fifty years!
Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
31 He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’
The Parable of the Yeast
33 He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with* three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’
44 ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Treasures New and Old
51 ‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ 52And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’
I first heard these sacred words as a pre-teen when living in Aurora, Colorado. My home church was the First Presbyterian Church of Aurora, Colorado. CVR DeYoung and Bob Meanor were the pastors. A few memories from 40-50 years ago:
I remember hastling my dad, the fifth grade Sunday School Teacher.
I remember running with friends exploring various rooms in this church building.
I remember youth fellowship.
I remember singing in the choir.
I remember taking piano and voice lessons from church staff.
I remember confirmation.
I remember helping as a worship leader in reading scripture.
and I remember the funeral of my dad.
More than anything else, I remember worship. I remember singing sacred hymns and listening to sacred scriptural texts now lodged deeplyh in my bank of memories. I remember these parables from Matthew — I recall one day going home and returning to these verses in wondering “why the heck God would want these stories in the Bible?”
Yesterday, while sitting with my wife in worship in Saginaw, Michigan in the year of our Lord 2014, I found myself reflecting on worship from almost a half century ago. The scripture is timeless. We were singing the same hymns I sang as a teenager. Aha! The Apostles Creed! How many of us Presbyterians have this creed memorized? For all these years God has been working with me. A foundation was laid that lead to the decision to become a minister. And now, fifty years later, I am to sitting in a pew worshipping God with my wife.
I am now on disability. My dealing with health issues have become my top priority. After many years of preaching, I am back to listening to God’s Word from the perspective of the men and women and children sitting in the pews. I am watching the children come forward for a children’s message just as I used to come forward to listen to these messages — and just as I used to give these Children’s messages. I wonder where these children will be in fifty years?
I am back in the pew. I love being with my wife surrounded by wonderful friends discerning, together, what God has planned for me/us.
Back to the scripture from Matthew: The message I took away from this service: God works with the smallest of things in this world–the smallest of memories–in doing some pretty great things. God is still with me giving me a small glimpse of the Kingdom here on earth that is beyond anything else I can imagine. This greatness that comes from God after all these years in pradticing ministry is as awesome today as it was when a teenager making a decision to become a disciple of our Lord.
The world has changed. The various ways I think about the sacred tools we have been given to know God have not changed all that much. God’s Word is timeless. And I still thank God for the Presbyterian Church. I thank God for those who continue to faithfully preaching God’s Word.
From back in the pew, praise be to God then and now and forever.