Year A Pentecost 7
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
The Parable of the Yeast
33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with[a] three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Treasures New and Old
51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
© The New Revised Standard Version,
(Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1989In the name of God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Well the world has changed over the past two weeks while I’ve been away. One week the world is one way then suddenly it’s changed.
Perhaps it’s the shooting down of the Malaysian Airline, so unprovoked, so innocent, so many people just going from one place to another. Not even an accident.
Perhaps it’s the conflict in Israel where any criticism of Israel is met with some type of resentment and where the world seems curious, if not silent, about why those in the Gaza strip, the most highly populated mass imprisoned on earth, feel such deep injustice.
Perhaps it’s the movement of fundamental Islam through Iraq and Syria that has swelled in the past few months and has no regard for life.
And perhaps these things remind us of all the other grief we have almost forgotten that no longer make it to our newspapers.
Of course these things also sit alongside those things we know from our own lives that are difficult, or the difficult things from the lives of those around us, or even at times when we meet others, as the Food Pantry volunteers do each week, when we hear stores and events from their lives that can be difficult and overwhelming.
There have been other times in history when unspeakable events took place, but this is part of our own time in history and it’s ok to feel overwhelmed, sadness, and wonder what is happening.
The words “Good” and “Evil” are not popular these days. If I said amongst many of my friends, “I’m going to reflect a little on evil” they would think it was just religious jargon. But it is too true, that within our world, in all places and in all people, there is the wrestle between “Good” and “Evil” – and humans are so capable of both.
In one place a group of people can be working hard, to save the life of someone, from injury or disease, without caring about race, language or religion. People can be working to feed others. They help those who are poor, marginalised, or suffering injustice. While in another place, people can we killing, persecuting, abusing and stealing from others without regard to their cries, their pain, the suffering. It’s hard to imagine that the same human beings are capable of such opposites, such extremes; and there is no other way to describe it, but by naming it… Good and Evil.
And it’s not about religion; all religions have been involved in abuse and hatred and its sobering to ponder that while we get a lot of negative news about Muslims, within our own society, the Christian Church is not able to hold its own record in terms of care and support and nurture as a shining example of the way of Christ and many terrible things happen in the absence of religion. It’s not about race, or class, or location or opportunity. There is just within and around…. Good and Evil.
It’s a theme throughout the Bible too. In Genesis there is the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. In Proverbs there is a great little saying [15:3.] “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” Jesus talked about the sun rising on the good and evil alike and rain on the righteous and unrighteous alike, and in one comment, for example, Jesus says [Matthew 12: 35] “The good person brings good things out of a good treasure and the evil person brings evil things our of an evil treasure”.
Today’s little parables, little stories that tell us something about God, today’s little parables are about the way of God, the Kingdom of heaven. They are not stories about a place called heaven, they are stories to tell us something about God; the way of God.
There’s the parable of the mustard seed, the yeast, the treasure hidden in the field, the merchant in search of fine pearls, and the net thrown into the sea, which gathers in both the good and bad fish alike.
You can work too hard at parables and try to pull them all apart, but a good way to read a parable is just to see what it says to you, about God, the ways of God, and perhaps, but not always, about you and our world.
So firstly we might simply remind ourselves that the Kingdom of Heaven is the way of God, the presence of God, and it is good. The Kingdom of Heaven is about love, about grace, about wholeness; the characters of God. Remember it was Jesus who said… [Matthew 11: 11-13.]
9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Today’s parables also remind us that like the mustard seed, the yeast, the pearl which began as a grain of sand… the kingdom of heaven grows from small things, from a simple and humble beginning, but becomes something like a tree, or a loaf of bread, or a string of pearls, or a treasure,… something of goodness… something that is precious.
Then to finish today’s passage there is a fascinating saying of Jesus, remembering that what Jesus is speaking here is to the Jewish leaders….
And [Jesus] said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
There Jesus seems to be saying that those, who are the people of the Kingdom of heaven, have a task to do, to look into the good things we have and are, the treasures, and hold out not just things of the past, the old, but new things of the future.
And so it may be us… it is us… people like us, who amongst all the things that trouble the world, the good and the evil that is within and without, are to look into the treasures, the good things we have and are, and bring out glimpses of the kingdom of heaven, from the old, and the new.
Have you ever thought that the seed or love or kindness you plant with someone, as small as a mustard seed, is the way of God amongst others within our world?
Have you ever thought that the warmth and nurture you give to another can be like yeast growing, like the kingdom of heaven growing within their lives and within our world.
Have you ever thought that like a net cast, the kingdom of heaven is cast over both the good and evil and the glimpses of the way of God that we sow and grow and cast are simply that, about the way of God, the kingdom of heaven, and not about who is deserving and who is not.
Even though we may be overwhelmed by the wrestle of Good and Evil in our world, let us be a people, let us choose to be a people, pray to be a people, who plant, sow, seek, find, cast, glimpses of the kingdom of heaven amongst other people’s lives, because we are all a part of this world too; God’s world, for which there is great love and longing on God’s part.
Be encouraged, as people in the presence of the Kingdom of heaven.