It is a tiny mustard seed that grows into a mighty tree.
It is yeast that a woman puts into bread to make it rise.
It is treasure, hidden in a field.
It is a merchant in search of fine pearls.
It is a net cast out into the sea, indiscriminately gathering up its bounty.
It is like the master of the house who brings out of his treasure what is old and what is new.
What seems pretty clear is that heaven - wherever that is in the cosmos, exactly - is so amazing, it is beyond human imagination.
Or, perhaps, it is so close we can't see it.
Luke's Gospel (17:20-21) reports that
"Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the realm of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the realm of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the realm of God is in your midst.”I remember reading a story, recently, about Fred Rogers, one of my favorite people who not only entertained my - an millions of - children, but taught them about what it was to be a moral citizen of the universe.
When Rogers was given a Lifetime Achievement Emmy award in 1998, he asked the celebrity audience to take ten seconds of silence to think about people who had loved them into being and helped them become who they are.
Within seconds, weeping and sobs could be heard throughout the audience.
Then, Rogers said, "May God be with you," and sat down.
Someday, when I grow up, I'm going to be that wise.
I remember reading that one of his colleagues, who reported the story, said that it was significant that Rogers didn't say, "God bless you."
Rogers knew that the people were already blessed by God. He wanted the people in the audience to be aware that God was already with them.
In the Olam ha-ba of God which we call 'The Realm of Heaven', it will be like one great family reunion where we will be able to meet all those people who loved us into being and helped us become who we are.
So, here's my question: Why wait?
If the Realm of God is in our midst, why not celebrate it now, instead of waiting for the Olam ha-ba, the afterlife?
Considering those who have loved us into being can be a tiny mustard seed which grows into a great, mighty tree of gratitude.
Saying 'thank you' to those who helped us become who we are can be like yeast that makes the bread of life rise to its fullness, so that you may share your bounty with others.
Acknowledging God's presence in our midst can be like finding treasure, hidden in a field.
Seeking God's love in the large, open fields of our lives can be like finding a pearl of great price.
Thinking about all those who have loved us into being can be like casting out a net and drawing them into the web of our lives.
When we do all these things, we will be like merchants who behold the treasures - old and new - which, by the Grace of God, we have accumulated in our lives.
Why not take 10 seconds of silence - right now - to close your eyes and consider the blessings bestowed upon you by others - those who loved you into being and helped you to be the person you are today?
I suspect, when you open your eyes, the Realm of God will seem much closer than it ever has before.