Robert Duvall plays the part of a Pentecostal holiness preacher in the movie, The Apostle. It is a movie worth watching for a number of reasons. I only mention it because of the unique way in which he refers to his children. He calls them “my beauties.” The words of the Book of Jeremiah essentially refer to God’s children, the house of Judah, in the same way. They are God’s beauty. Jeremiah uses an object lesson to teach God’s message. He bought some underwear. After wearing it for a while, he buried it. Sometime later God told him to dig it up and it was rotted. The message is about the relationship between God and his people. When the people listen to God and obey him, they cling to God like underwear. You cannot get any closer than that. When we are close to God, we reflect God in the way we live. We become God’s people, renown, praise, his beauty. People see the beauty of God in those who cling to God’s word and obey it. On the other hand, those who reject the word of God and walk in the stubbornness of their hearts are like rotted, good for nothing, underwear. Their pride, God says, causes them to rot.
The psalmist speaks of something almost unimaginable: forgetting your parents. Sure, some people grow up and never know their parents. Some may wish they had never known them. But to forget them? My mother died in February. I cannot imagine ever forgetting her. My father-in-law struggled with dementia the last few years of his life. He could forget what he had eaten for breakfast or that he had eaten breakfast but, even in his condition, there was no chance that he could forget his parents. According to the psalmist, Israel not only forgot the God who gave them birth, but also chose other parents. By worshipping other gods, the idols of the nations, it’s as if they ignored their parents and chose to honor the picture of someone else’s parents and not the best of parents at that. The psalmist says that this filled the Lord with loathing.
The Gospel reading speaks of the explosive nature of the Kingdom of heaven. What is it like? It is like a very small seed that, if sowed in the field, becomes a large bush, large enough for the birds of the sky to come and dwell in its branches. It is like yeast. You only need a small amount mixed in with the wheat flour to leaven the whole batch. I learned this lesson the hard way early in life. My siblings and I used to eat cereal for breakfast. We had tall plastic containers that we used as bowls and we filled them with cereal, dumped on the sugar, and then poured on the milk. One morning I did this, took a bite, ran to the sink to spit out the bitter tasting stuff, only to realize that I had put salt on my cereal and not sugar. Having not yet learned the Gospel lesson, I figured that I could neutralize the salt by pouring five times as much sugar on top of it all. I added sugar and added sugar but finally gave up, realizing that there was no possible way for me to get the taste of that salt out of that cereal. The Kingdom of heaven may at times seem small, insignificant, even hidden. But a little bit of it changes the world.
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