Thursday, November 3, 2016
The Eschatological Hope of the Kingdom and the Chicago Cubs
Luke 13:18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
Luke 13:20 And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
The imagery of these two parables spoke to the context of the day. The kingdom of God had already come and yet, it appeared to be very small. Faith was required to understand what might happen with the mustard seed. That small seed could be planted and become a great tree. Just so, faith in the kingdom would eventually lead one to see the great growth of God’s kingdom here on earth and in the age to come.
The disciples had already heard about the yeast of the Pharisees and its destructive powers because it would permeate the entire batch of dough. Now, however, Jesus wanted them to see that faith in light of the kingdom of God. The small amount of faith, just like yeast would eventually spread throughout all the bread. The small amount of influence that the kingdom currently held would eventually increase and spread throughout the entire world.
For the disciples to envision the victory of the kingdom was extremely difficult for the seeds of the kingdom were just being sown. Jesus wanted them to have faith because he knew that someday their hopes and dreams would become reality.
My husband is one of those die-hard Cubs fans. He grew up in northwestern Indiana, right on the outskirts of Chicago and fell in love with Wrigley Field and the Cubs. The family’s first television was often tuned to those Cubs games and as a little boy he memorized players names and their statistics. He loved the Cubs and had faith to believe that someday they would win the World Series. My husband is now sixty years old and he has waited his whole life for this moment and watching the last few games of this series was rather agonizing. There was a moment last evening when he said, “turn it off, it’s over.” He thought that his beloved Cubs had “choked again.” He really couldn’t take having it off and did turn it back on to watch his team — the one in which he has had faith — finally win the World Series.
I suppose the Chicago Cubs could serve as Jesus’ modern-day parable about the kingdom. Cubs fans haven’t seen a World Series win in 108 years. For those who are members of my tribe — that’s the year the Church of the Nazarene was birthed! What’s amazing to me is that even with years and years of losses, most fans haven’t given up. They had faith to believe that some day their team would win again. They bought the shirts and joined together singing, “Go, Cubs, Go!” Wrigley field continued to be sold out for years. Last night people were dancing in the streets!
For those who think Christianity is dead, one only has to look at Cubs fans. People wrote them off for years and thought they were crazy. Plenty of people think that hope and faith in God’s kingdom is a futile endeavor. Why would people go to church on a regular basis, buy team shirts and sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy” while waiting around for Jesus to return? (This is our eschatological hope) If people can hope for more than 100 years that a baseball team will win — why can’t we have faith the size of a mustard seed and believe that our Messiah will return to rule in the kingdom?
The Chicago Cubs are a hopeful reminder that the kingdom of God is already breaking into our current reality. The impossible becomes the possible. The mustard seed becomes a tree big enough for birds to rest in its branches. The tiny grains of yeast eventually leaven all of the bread.
Just like the long-suffering Cubs fans who are today rejoicing, so God’s children hang onto their faith. There will be seasons of loss and frustration but we cling to that eschatological hope — the hope that Jesus is already ruling the kingdom and we can partner with him in the kingdom. Someday he will return, but in the meantime, we work diligently in the kingdom, never giving up hope that eventually every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.
Lord, may the faith that I have continue to grow beyond anything that I could have imagined. Help me to live as a faithful witness to your kingdom today, and every day. Amen.