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10-24-21 — A Theology of Childlike Faith: Receive — Matthew 13:33, Isaiah 64:1-9 — The Rev. Joshua D. Gill

A Theology of Childlike Faith: Receive

Rev. Joshua D. Gill

Matthew 13:33

Isaiah 64:1-9

 

Two weeks ago, we began our sermon series based off the idea that we need to take Jesus seriously when he said if we are to receive the Kingdom of God we need to come to it as a child. The first week we focused on the idea of rest. The idea that we are called to rest in God. To rest from our desire to make ourselves the very center of our reality, and instead make God the center of our reality. This week we move from focusing on the idea of rest to receiving. We rest in a God shaped reality and we receive from God.

This weekend I had the joy of connecting with one of my former students. I officiated at his wedding. He probably didn’t foresee his wedding making into the sermon, but I guess that is the danger of spending time with a pastor. One of the things that is always a wild card at wedding is if the couple has a flower girl.  I usually warn couples that this tradition often goes off the rails. In my experience it is probably only 50% of kids make it down the aisle; most usually see the crowd and bolt, either for the nearest door or nearest lap of someone they know. This girl is the same age as Charlie so we bonded over kindergarten and Paw Patrol. But at the age of 5 she was well trained — you take three steps then reach into the basket throw some flowers, you take three steps and you throw some flowers, you take three steps and throw the flowers in the direction of your brother, the ring bearer, to the point he now has flower petals in his hair and on his suit. This step she repeated pretty frequently and I am guessing was not part of the training. But you could tell how seriously she took her job. Then we moved onto the party. We had the cocktails, the toasts, and the meal, and probably every fifteen minutes or so this little girl would ask her mom “when are we going to dance?” Finally, the couple has their first dance, and the little girl asks her mom “when are we going to dance?”  Her mom is finally able to say yes, and she grabs her brother and her mother’s hand and pulls them onto the dance floor. She has the biggest smile on her face as she dances in a little circle to the music, with absolute joy and abandonment.

Most of us struggle to approach life like this to receive the joy and the surprise God that would give us. Most of us struggle to throw ourselves into what is before for us and receive from it. Most of us are thinking about other worries, other problems, and can’t slow down enough to receive. Still, some of us have learned what happens when we step out of line, when we dance too much, when we receive too much.

Over the years this is often the way in which scripture has been used and viewed. Roger Ferlo in the book Sensing God described it this way, “Since the Reformation, particularly in the West, Christians of all traditions have often tended to think about scripture as a kind of information manual. We tend to read scripture for the facts and for the rules. But to read scripture for rules and information only is to risk missing the sense of it all…”[1] The church at times has been one of the biggest offenders of this, looking for ways to justify what we believed in that moment, who we didn’t like, or who we wanted to oppress. In the book A Year of Biblical Womanhood by the late Rachel Held Evans, in which Rachel tries to live out some of the more difficult passages of scripture, she writes, “If you are looking for verses with which to support slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to abolish slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to oppress women, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to liberate or honor women, you will find them. If you are looking for reasons to wage war, you will find them. If you are looking for reasons to promote peace, you will find them. If you are looking for an outdated, irrelevant ancient text, you will find it. If you are looking for truth, you will find it. This is why there are times when the most instructive question to bring to the text is not ‘what does it say?’, but ‘what am I looking for?’ I suspect Jesus knew this when he said, ‘ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.’ If you want to do violence in this world, you will always find the weapons. If you want to heal, you will always find the balm.” [2]

Jesus says the Kingdom of God is like yeast that a woman takes and mixes it with sixty pounds of flour, until it is worked all through the dough. Stop for a moment, sixty pounds of flour, this woman is making what would be equivalent to 60 loaves of bread. This is more bread than a family can consume, more bread than one person can bake or mix. This is an overabundance, this is yeast of God being mixed all through our world and it shows up in surprising places.  The Greek here points to the idea that the yeast is not just mixed in, it is hidden, hidden in the dough. The question is will we receive it? Will we allow it to show up in unexpected places, among unexpected people, and in unexpected ways. We will receive a faith that instead of looking for rules, looks for love. Will we allow that idea to permeate our being, will we allow it to run free in our lives like a five-year-old on a dance floor?

Mandy Smith writes:

“Our beautiful Church our Ecclesia is both timeless and childlike, always hoping, dancing into new places, longing for life. She is pure and spotless and lovely, knowing she has been made whole. She is quietly fearless, humbly courageous. She will not force herself on anyone, but her joy is winsome. Her dance is inviting and her laughter has gravity. We cannot look away. She is a healer, a creator, a comforter, singing new things into being, drawing many into her song. She knows pain but it has not made her bitter, poverty has not made her miserly. She feeds multitudes—nourishing the broken, sending them out rejoicing. She will not be measured or caged but takes on many surprising forms, all true to her nature. She is gifted and multilingual. Her gracious speech shapes new stories, describing places we long to visit, ways we long to be. She is never reduced by giving herself away, never emptied from pouring herself out. She is many things brought together, every color woven into a rich fabric, each part with its purpose. She is a tree, bearing many kinds of fruit. She is a symphony, played on instruments of many timbres. She is All and she is One, a whole household in one Body. This bride’s heart has never turned from her Beloved. But she is exhausted from being ravished by our egos, appetites, and anxieties. She longs to run free, hair wild, skirts flying, to fulfill her calling.”[3]

 

[1] Roger Ferlo, Sensing God: Reading Scripture with All Our Senses

 

[2] https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/3207795.Rachel_Held_Evans

[3] Smith, Mandy. Unfettered (pp. 83-84). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 

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