Pastor Michael Frye:

A teacher was reading the story of the three little pigs to her first grade
class.

This teacher liked adding little things to the story to make it more
interesting for the children.

So, when she came to the part of the story where the first little pig was
trying to gather building materials for his home, the teacher said:

“The first little pig went up to a man who had a wheel barrow full of
straw and said ‘Pardon me sir, may I have some of your straw in order
to build my house?’ ”

Then the teacher asked the class “What do you think that man said?”

One little boy raised his hand, “I know! I know!

He said, ‘Holy smokes, a talking pig!”

It took the teacher a couple minutes before she could recover enough to continue with the story.

We may not be able to predict what our children are going to say, but it is usually something unexpected.

One thing is for certain; what we say to them and about them makes a big difference in who they become.

The same thing could be said for those who were following Jesus as he taught them about faith and living within the kingdom of God through the use of parables, as evidenced in our Gospel lesson.

Merritt Ednie speaks of faith as a seed sown within the life of all human creatures. “Faith is a seed full of potential for accomplishing great things for God.

But unless that faith seed is nurtured and cultivated, unless it is given the opportunity to realize its potential, that potential goes untapped.”

Ednie goes on to compare faith with the 88 keys on a piano keyboard.

Thousands of compositions have been played on the piano with a wide range of styles and instrumentations.

What is true about music’s ability to touch the human soul is also true about faith.

Each of us has a kernel of faith, and within that kernel (or seed of faith) is a large potential to do God’s will and live a meaningful and full life devoted to God’s plan of salvation.

But knowledge and desire will only do so much in growing that kernel into a full-blown life of faithfulness.

The Holy Spirit is the cultivator of faith, but each recipient must be willing to let that faith take root and grow within our hearts.

In a sermon on this passage, Martin Luther said that the power of his sermons would have no effect whatsoever unless the Word of God gets into the hearers’ hearts.

It is the Holy Spirit that makes that happen.

It is also important for us to realize that Jesus’ parables are not about us; they are about the grace of God as he opens himself up to us through the words and ministry of his Son.

Just like the parables, there is still mystery in how God works in us and in our world.

God’s saving act through Jesus is both revealed and veiled to us in this world.

God’s Kingdom is here, yet God’s kingdom is still to come.

God’s kingdom is in the world, in that Christ has revealed God’s presence to us in the miracles he performed, in the breaking of bread and sharing the cup at the Communion Table, in his words to his disciples to feed his sheep (which is why we are a servant church reaching out to those who are distressed, hungry, confused, persecuted or abused, as well as to those who are seeking answers to their quest to find meaning in their lives).

The Kingdom of God, as it exists in our world, can often be overlooked because it is hidden in the world, or because it shows up when one is least expecting it.

A second aspect of God’s Kingdom is that it is still to come, as we look to the day when Christ will come again in all his glory to bring us to the Father in Heaven.

One thing we do know for certain is that God’s umbrella of forgiveness and salvation is as broad as the branches of the great tree that grew from the tiny seed in Jesus’ parable.

Beyond that explanation, we have no idea what the Kingdom of God that is to come is like.

That is, until we experience Jesus’ words and deeds, his death, and his miraculous resurrection.

Jesus’ thoughts, words, and deeds reveal the Father in Heaven, his nature, his love, his forgiveness, and his covenantal promises to restore his creation as it is meant to be.

In II Corinthians 5:16-17, St. Paul wrote:

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer that way.

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

In Paul’s theology our faith in Jesus does not protect us against the reality of hardship, but it does reframe our lives with Christ at the center.

Paul went on to say that with Christ at the center, we no longer view one another from a human point of view. The old has passed away; everything is different now.

John Stendahl asks the question:

“If we also see, in the imagination of our hearts, ourselves, our foes, and this old world all thus transfigured by the death of Christ, will we not deal differently with each other?

“Because Jesus died for us, it becomes possible for us to live ‘no longer for ourselves but for him who died and was raised for us.

“Living for Christ in this way is living responsibly with one another in the community of Christ’s body.”

When we come to understand this truth, we discover the true source of our strength in the person of Jesus.

That may mean that we have to internally examine the way we have viewed our relationship with Christ, as well as the way we have viewed our relationships with others who share space with us on this earth.

Are we not all meant to be in relationship with one another in such a way that we are affirmed as sisters and brothers in the branches of the tree that we call the Kingdom of God?

After understanding these truths, the Holy Spirit leads us to believe and
follow in the way we are meant to follow as the “communion of saints.”

In the mid-nineteenth century, Henry Alford wrote a beautiful poem with words that appear in our ELW as Hymn 635.

We walk by faith and not by sight;
with gracious words draw near,
O Christ, who spoke as none e’er spoke:
“My peace within you here.”

Help then, O Lord, our unbelief;
and may our faith abound
to call on you when you are near
and seek where you are found.

For you, o resurrected Lord,
are found in means divine:
beneath the water and the word,
beneath the bread and wine.

And when our life of faith is done,
in realms of clearer light
may we behold you as you are,
with full and endless sight.
“We walk by faith and not by sight.”

It is our faith in our Lord that helps us to clearly see those things which
are vital and important to God’s Kingdom.

Amen.