For several weeks now,
we’ve heard Jesus speak
about the kingdom of heaven —
it’s coming among us,
what it’s like
and how we are part of it.

The kingdom of heaven:
where God and God’s ways permeate all in all.

Curiously, this is the one phrase we do not hear
proclaimed in our midst today.

Perhaps it is because zeal for the kingdom of heaven is gone.
Silenced, like beheaded John the Baptizer,
who once stood
on the banks of the Jordan River.
in the middle of the wilderness.
proclaiming the kingdom to be near.

Perhaps we do not hear of the kingdom this day
because hope for it seems short lived.
In just a few short days,
the church’s liturgical calendar places Jesus on the mountaintop.
Transfigured.
With Jerusalem,
and the cross,
and death
in full view.

Perhaps we do not hear of the kingdom of heaven this day,
because we cannot fathom how it could come to fruition
in our day and age
where the Almighty Dollar,
and bitcoins,
and just about any economic model
other than the one offered by the prophet Isaiah reigns supreme:
“Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.”

If we are to think of the kingdom of heaven at all,
we think of it mostly being God’s business.
Food and drink and shelter
—the wellbeing of humankind—
God’s issue to deal with.
After all, the prayer says,
Lord, you “give us this day our daily bread.”
Or we might think about the kingdom of heaven
as God providing drink and food and shelter.
as we think we see it.
The kingdom of heaven for the well off.
Not everyone.
Just those select few
blessed by God in some way.
Perhaps for doing something,
or being someone
special,
extraordinary.

If we are to think about the kingdom of heaven at all,
perhaps we think of it as the abundance of the world,
coupled with the opportunity and freedom
every person has to do with that abundance whatever they please,
limiting concern to our own needs
and no one else’s;
echoing the disciples’ advice to Jesus:
“Send the crowds away
so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”

Friends, it is a critical moment for the kingdom of heaven.
John the Baptizer who first announced its coming near, is beheaded.
Jesus, who establishes it, begins to look toward the cross.
And we seek to discern how to live in the kingdom of heaven
at a time when
church
city,
world
find it easy to place our well-being
—drink and food and shelter,
our fragile planet—
all on God to figure out (eventually),
all the while taking whatever we want for ourselves,
with little or no regard for others.

Enter Jesus.
“They need not go away;”
he says,
“you give them something to eat.”

There is a lot packed into Jesus’ statement.
Directive to the disciples for feeing the crowd.
And much more.
You see,
in the kingdom of heaven
people aren’t sent off on their own, left to fend for themselves.
Nor is anyone lauded for storing up treasure, raking in the cash.
The kingdom of heaven is not even
solely the work of the divine.

No, the kingdom of heaven
places people in relationship.
Responsible relationship.
Caring relationship.
To one another.
Just as God made us.
Made us to be in community.
Life-sustaining community with God and with one another.

Jesus does not simply proclaim the truth in word,
but proclaims it in action:
hlooks up to heaven.
And then looks right back down to earth and says:
you.

You, my disciples, give them something to eat.

Admittedly, Jesus sounds like he’s giving an unreasonable command.
Impossible to fulfill.
But in actuality his is a life-giving gift and promise already fulfilled.

You, the disciples who left the family business.
The smart ones.
The simple minded ones.
The once well off.
The still well off.
Stumbling Peter.
Even the tax collector.
And the betrayer.
Twelve of you.
All of us.
Jesus life-giving gift, Jesus’ promise
is that
each of us
with our basket
establish the kingdom of heaven.

Establish it in something as simple as breaking bread.
Drink and food and shelter.
Wellbeing for all human kind.
Establish the kingdom of heaven by
giving to the crowds.

Much is made about the size of that crowd.
5,000, beside women and children.

Preachers waste a lot of words explaining away all the food.
And all the left overs.
The miracle of sharing.
When the point of the number is simply to say
the kingdom of heaven is not for some select few,
some special few;
the kingdom of heaven is not even only for God,
as the moralists among us would lead us to believe.

The kingdom of heaven is for many.
For all.

And it all begins with a word of invitation.
Take and eat.

For this way—you, give them something to eat—
this way, God and God’s way with us
is blessed and broken for you.

Blessed and broken, and absolutely certain.

No matter what or who rises up against it.

For there are many King Herods in the world.
King Herods who try to stop the coming of the kingdom.

They may not behead John the Baptizer.
Or try to deceive magi into reporting Jesus’s manger bed
so that he could pay in homage.
only to slaughter children instead,

But will in every way possible,
try to squash this kingdom of heaven.

Here’s the thing about the kingdom of heaven.
It cannot be squashed.
It cannot be held in a cold, dark tomb,
even with the strongest of barriers,
and the mightiest of guards.

The kingdom of heaven overcomes any resistance.
Any diversion.
Overcomes even death.

For the kingdom of heaven is God’s way coming among us.
And it begins with each and every single one of us.

The last scene of Saint Matthew’s Gospel
is perhaps the most memorable.
Jesus ascends into heaven.
and says:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.
Baptizing them
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Maybe this is what Isaiah meant by talking about coming to the water.

Baptize and
Wherever there is hunger.
Go and break bread.

Wherever there is thirst.
Go and bring drink.

Wherever there is need.
Go and bring shelter,
and clothing,
and advocacy,
and proclamation to end war,
and concern for the environment,
and accompaniment for the stranger.
Go, like John the Baptizer,
to the river valleys.
And out to the forests.
And on the tundra.
And on the war fields.
And at the places of power.
The seats of justice.

Wherever you go,
give them something to eat.
Something to chew on—
the kingdom of heaven.

And God, through you
promises,
listens,
and responds to our prayer.

For the kingdom of heaven is in fact,
by God through you,
coming
on earth as in heaven.