When you were in 5th grade and first read about Helen Keller, did you imagine what it was like to be her? Did you go into a silent room, close your eyes and move the fingers of your one hand in purposeful ways into the palm of the other, trying to conjure up a life with no sight and sound; human experience without a connection to the people whose hands touch you? And did you ever day dream about that moment in Helen’s childhood when moving fingers in her palm created a lightning bolt of meaning? There was the second before when her life was a dark closet and there was the moment right after that, when she opened a door and stood at the threshold of the real, glorious world, recognizing for the first time her connection to it. I can’t think of a human experience except birth that might compare to what she gained knowledge of in one instant. Not even stepping on the moon seems like it could compare.
When Jesus talks about the Kingdom of Heaven, which he does a lot, I think everyone who stops and listens must be like Helen Keller standing before that closet door.
He says in the Kingdom the last will be first and the first will be last. How? We live in a world of winners and losers and we can hardly imagine another.
When we have everything we want we smile a self-satisfied smile and pronounce ourselves “blessed”. But then, Jesus says we have it backwards: it’s the poor, the meek and the mourning who are really blessed. Then he pronounces the Kingdom of Heaven, the whole bright earth and comfort itself as theirs. Again--how? The looming threat of trading places with them is the most powerful motivator there is in the world that we know. While my heart trembles with longing to “see” His Kingdom I really can’t understand what Jesus is saying about a way without fear and the place he wants to take us.
So Jesus sighs, settles back into the middle of summer and tells us stories while holding a handful of seeds. All through July at church we’ve been reading his seed stories. I’ve spent hours and hours thinking about them and about a place I have never been while preparing to preach about it as if I had.
From what I can gather from the stories he’s told, it must be that the Kingdom of Heaven is as common as grass but we miss where to look for it because we can only imagine heaven as costly and far away. The Kingdom must be something that germinates in the sun, with water, with love and room. Also, it begins as something very small and fragile but grows until it towers above us giving, shade, life and food.
Jesus’ stories are like fingers moving in my outstretched palm. Blind and deaf, I try to understand what he means while only trusting three things with any confidence.
First; in Jesus’ words there is real life and the real me.
Second: my longing to finally wake up and understand what he means is my faith and I should trust it like a compass instead of swatting it away like a foolish pipe dream.
And finally, “the kingdom come and God’s will being done” isn’t about polished shoes, right doctrine and good behavior. The closest we can get to it is on a lazy, July afternoon, pondering Jesus’ stories--- his fingers moving in our outstretched hands and hearts while we laze in the grass, listen to the wind and try imagine our real home.