“What you have received as heritage, take now as task and thus you will make it your own.” -Goethe, quoted by Jaroslav Pelikan
What is the kingdom of heaven like? Maybe you're thinking clouds and harps. Maybe you're thinking peace and justice and pearly gates. Maybe you're thinking of nothing at all. When Jesus was asked this question, he started by talking about mustard seeds. In particular, he talked about mustard plants.
This is an unusual place to start a talk about heaven. In Maryland, we don't have mustard plants sprouting up in unwelcome places. In ancient Palestine, mustard plants sprouted up as unwelcome weeds in various different places. They weren't welcome, and they proliferated in maddening and pungent ways. To a shocked audience, Jesus described the hoped-for bliss of Elysian Fields as an unwelcome plant with a pungent odor that houses all the birds of the air.
I think Jesus was telling us that the kingdom of heaven is like a NIMBY project. NIMBY, that lovely acronym for "Not In My Back Yard," are necessary projects for the benefit of the community that people don't want in close proximity to their own property, such as public housing or electric wind mills. They disrupt what people want around them even whilst providing a community public good.
I think this is what the kingdom of heaven is like. It's something that is needed but disrupts our own sensibilities for the common good. What are some things you can think of that are ways the kingdom of heaven breaks into our lives and disrupts us, even makes us uncomfortable? How does our church live into those projects? How might we hear God calling us to live into them? Our heritage is full of unwelcome projects that benefit the community of God. As the Goethe quote above reminds us, we have to take this heritage as task to "make it our own."