Jesus said "The kingdom of heaven 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.”
You may have heard our theologian-in-residence Joshua or myself say that when Jesus talks about "the kingdom of heaven," this means the Trinity, or the life of the Triune God that we are invited to participate in.
So think of these words from Jesus in this way.
You are invited to have this kind of relationship with the Trinity: to make your home in him. This is what John's Gospel means by "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places." The dwelling is nothing less than himself, and we are invited to dwell, or abide, in Him.
Even though this is our framework for thinking about "the kingdom of heaven", when I hear the above quote from Jesus I also think about the possibility available to us for the Church to function like this huge tree, offering shade, rest, and a place to make a nest. What a beautiful image! And isn't that just what people need right now?
One of the ways people strengthen and sustain resilience in times of crisis is with what author Parker Palmer describes as "circles of trust."
He describes these "circles of trust" in his book "The Soul is Shy" as "the creation of bounded, safe and trustworthy communal spaces where the soul is welcomed and invited to show up, to speak its truth and to make its claim on the living of our lives."
This is the kind of community we're invited to be as an IHS family of faith, a place for "vital connections with God, self, and others" as the Rev. Wally Fletcher described it in our Clergy Wellness Day this past week.
There is so much stress in our world and lives right now. How can we as a congregation be a place for making these vital connections, not just with other people, but with God during a time when connection is so hard to find? We're more technologically connected than ever, and yet so many people describe feeling more disconnected than ever before.
If we at IHS are willing to adapt and change to meet the moment we find ourselves in, we can be a community that offers support for resiliency. We can be a tree that birds come and make nests in its branches. Imagine what that might look like, reaching out to the world with branches of justice and reconciliation, compassion, mercy, and love. What birds will nest in our branches? Our ministry can create a nest for those weary from racism and hate, a place of healing and bereavement for those experiencing hardship and loss, or connection for those who've been in extreme isolation.
More fully, we can be a community that helps people rest more deeply in the life of the Triune God. Let that be the challenge we rise to meet together.