(Adults, you may have noticed that I keep converting "kingdom of heaven" to "kingdom of God." The phrase that is used in the Bible can be translated as the "reign of God" which connotes a situation rather than a place. "Kingdom of God" is a compromise and helps the children to contemplate what Jesus means when he says the "Kingdom of God is at hand." (Matthew 3:2))
This Sunday, we listen to Jesus as he sits on a mountain teaching the people. They sit on the grass around him, like sheep gathering around their shepherd. They listen to every word he says.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God."
Jesus uses the word "blessed" a lot. "Blessings" are gifts from God. If someone has received gifts from God, then that person is "blessed." It means that God is with him or her. I wonder, do we know anyone who receives gifts from God? Do we know anyone who is blessed?
Jesus says that the "poor in spirit" are blessed. The poor in spirit have received gifts from God. I wonder who the poor in spirit are...? We need to think about what Jesus might mean.
Whoever the poor in spirit are, they have the kingdom of God. That is a great gift. They belong to the kingdom of God. What do we know about the kingdom of God?
We know that Jesus says,
“The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it 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.”
Look at that teeny tiny mustard seed. Does it know it is going to become a tree? It is too small to do anything, isn't it? And yet it becomes filled with a great strength that grows it and changes it into a tree. Does it get this strength on its own? Or does someone fill it with the energy to grow and change?
Could the mustard seed decide to become something else? Could the mustard seed say, "No, thank-you, God, I am going to become a maple tree, or maybe a cucumber plant, or maybe a rosebush." Of course not. It does not have plans of its own. It only has God's plan. This is called being "poor in spirit."
When the mustard seed is poor in spirit, whose Spirit fills it instead?
Oh, little mustard seed, no wonder you become a tree! Yours is the kingdom of God! You are blessed.
But in the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus is not talking to mustard seeds, is he? People are gathered to listen to him. Jesus is speaking to them. Can people be poor in spirit, too?
Did you know, that there was a time when we were even smaller than the mustard seed? When we began life inside of our mother, we were so tiny we could not even be seen! Our mother might not have even known we were there...but who did know?
We grew for nine months, and then we were born--a little baby, but so much bigger than a mustard seed. And look at how much we have grown now! We do not look like a baby anymore, and we can do so much more than a baby can. We can do things for ourselves, like get ourselves dressed, and we can help people, too, like clearing dirty dishes from the table. What else can you do?
When we are so small like the mustard seed, when we are poor in spirit, whose Spirit fills us? What a gift!
We are still growing and changing, aren't we? I wonder what more we will do...
God has a plan for the mustard seed. It belongs to the Kingdom of God. I wonder, does God have a plan for us, too? Do we belong to the Kingdom of God?