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Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come."
He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
Anyone like to try and spell the word Pseudepigrapha? Essentially, it is a work that is attributed to another author… roughly the word translates as “false title.” There are many such works in both the secular and religious world.. and even in the Christian world. Some of the these books are included in what we call the Apocrypha… The Book of Common Prayer says that Church should read these books “for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine”… such books include “The Book of Judith”.. “Of Bel and the Dragon”.. and “The Song of the Three Children.” However, others didn’t make the cut even to be included in the Apocrypha. Some of the more famous are “The Gospel of Thomas” and even “The Gospel of Judas,” which begins "the secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot". These books are interesting to read, but that is about it. One of these that did not make the cut, but that I found to be a great read is “The Ascension of Isaiah.”
Supposedly, it was written by the Isaiah and contains a good bit of prophecy, including an account of his ascension into and through the seven levels of heaven… The Ascension of Isaiah, is written from Isaiah’s point of view and he tells us how he ascended through the various levels. As he rises, the angels become more and more glorious in appearance and finally he is allowed access to God. He writes, “I saw a certain One standing, whose glory surpassed that of all, and His glory was great and wonderful.” He goes on to see the Son, Jesus, and the angel of the Holy Spirit… and all the angels worship the Lord.
As Isaiah watches and listens he hears God the Father tell the Son to descend through the various levels of heaven.. and finally to be on earth. So the Son begins his journey to humanity. At the seventh and sixth levels he retains his glory and all worship Him, but when he reaches the fifth level of heaven, he takes on the appearance of those angels, and they do not recognize him.. and the same occurs at each of the subsequent level, he humbles his glory, and is finally born of Mary.. he lived his life, taking the Name Jesus.. he performed miracles and taught of the things of God, yet the prince of this world became jealous and had the world turn against Him.. so they brought Him before the kings who had Him crucified.. he died and descend into hell. For three days he remained, then rose again. He sent His disciples into the world.. and then he ascended into heaven, and as he went he retained His human form, but He also took on his former glory that He had always had.. so the angels in each level of heaven recognized him as he went and cried out, “How did our Lord escape us whilst descending, and we perceived not?"… They could not figure out how he had gotten past them, but as you recall.. he humbled himself and took on their form.. just as he humbled himself and took on ours… As Paul writes to the Hebrews, recalling the Psalmist, “we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels...”
It is an amazing story, and true or not, it is an early Christian’s attempt at explaining the unexplainable, that is, the Incarnation of God, “For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.” It is an almost unimaginable thought, but through this process of Incarnation and Ascension, there is flesh and blood, just like yours!, flesh and blood in heaven in the person of Jesus and He sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty… if that doesn’t pickle your brain, nothing will.
Today in our Gospel reading, Jesus tells us about the Kingdom of God.. it is like a man who goes and scatters seed.. and it is like the mustard seed. He is speaking to us about the invisible things of God and the greatness of God and His Kingdom. There are an amazing number of sermons to be preached on these verses, but as I was thinking on it.. I just couldn’t get passed this idea of the Kingdom of God and its implications.
You see, in this world, we gain our identity from all sorts of things. We are Americans.. Montanans.. [community name, i.e. Buttians].. We base our identity on what school we went to.. as Masons or Rotarians.. even our denominations and our churches. We fly the American flag.. we wear our t-shirts with our favorite team logo emblazoned on the front of it… We cheer for the team.. We go to countless meetings in support of our groups… But you see, we are also citizens of the Kingdom of God… we are heirs and co-heirs with Christ… All the glory of that seventh heaven that is Jesus’ is also ours… yet very rarely do we claim it.. very rarely do we identify ourselves with it… We too were made a little lower than the angels, but do we reflect the glory of God?
Here’s a thought.. you know how you can recognize some folks even by looking at their backs.. or by the sound of their voice.. or even by their walk.. well, wouldn’t it be something if folks could also recognize you as a citizen of the Kingdom of God? Wouldn’t it be something if you radiated that glory of God that is yours through Christ? There is that funny little saying, “Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning the devil says, ‘Oh Crap, She's up!’" Wouldn’t it be something to be that kind of woman.. that kind of man that not only the devil was afraid, but that the world rejoiced in because you so closely identify with the Kingdom of God, that they can read it on you just like they can read the name of your favorite football team on the front of your shirt?
The trouble is.. just as Jesus took on the appearance of the various levels of heaven as he humbled himself to take on our likeness.. so we too can descend into the world around us and take on its likeness and no longer be recognizable as a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
Now.. I’m not asking you to walk around as a billboard for Jesus.. with your WWJD bracelet, fish logo on the bumper of your car.. plus a “Honk if you love Jesus” bumper sticker.. and passing out business cards with “John 3:16” boldly emblazoned on them. That no more makes you a citizen of the Kingdom of God than running around wearing a clerical collar.
I’m not asking you to do any of those things, but I am asking you to proudly claim your citizenship in the Kingdom of God.. Clothe yourself with righteousness.. radiate faith, hope and love. As Paul declares, “we are the people of God.”.. and we are citizens of His Kingdom, so we should live that out. Is it within you? Is that something you can grasp for yourself? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Your life is not a natural life… your life is a supernatural life. You are nourished, not with bread and meat, but with the Body and the Blood of the very Son of God… Speaking on that Holy Communion, St. John Chrysostom writes, “Let us then return from that table like lions breathing fire, having become terrible to the devil; thinking on our Head, and on the love which He hath shown for us.”…
We are citizens of the Kingdom of God.. therefore, let us be like lions breathing fire.. let us be terrible to the devil.. let us not only receive, but radiate the love that has been shown to us.
Whether the Ascension of Isaiah was true or not.. the message of that wonderful story is true. Christ humbled himself and became like us.. he was crucified, died and was buried.. yet on the third day rose again.. and finally he ascended into heaven clothed in His own glory... That glory is also yours… It is why the apostle Paul urges you “to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom.. and glory.”… Nelson Mandela said, “We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.” Boldly live out your citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Let His glory be known.
Let us pray… I encourage you to make this prayer your own… I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you; my words: to have you for their theme; my actions: to reflect my love for you; my sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory. I want to do what you ask of me: in the way you ask, for as long as you ask, because you ask it. I pray, Lord, that you enlighten my mind, inflame my will, purify my heart, and sanctify my soul. O Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, pray also to Jesus for me. Amen.