Sermon, Pentecost 6A, Sunday July 30, St Petri
31 He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.’
33 He told them still another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about thirty kilograms of flour until it worked all through the dough.’
44 ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
47 ‘Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 ‘Have you understood all these things?’ Jesus asked.
‘Yes,’ they replied.
52 He said to them, ‘Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.’
Parables, parables, why parables?! Well, there is a hardness to the things of God that lies within us all. We have this remarkable ability to constantly want to control our lives and our world. We have this internal problem of wanting to be god ourselves and for ourselves.
Jesus just has to speak in parables. If he didn’t we would make everything he said into either a theory we could understand, a code we could break and therefore control, or a bunch of things we have to do in order to have a good life according to us. We would make his gospel movement of freedom and joy into a religion of rules by which we ourselves achieve divine status. Islam is an excellent example of this.
But these little parables keep our controlling, self-serving heart at bay! They actually grasp us. They get under our skin; make us think, challenge our beliefs and sometimes make us squirm a bit.
So, in this whole body of parables, we get these short, sharp five parables with no explanation. We have to think them through for ourselves. Here’s what I have been hearing….
Life in Jesus is like a mustard seed — size really doesn’t matter.
The “smallest of all seeds,” the mustard seed grows into a useful tree (Matthew 13:32). What is seemingly invisible can have an overwhelming impact. Even the tiniest faith in his words will produce good fruit in you and others.
For people who measure themselves against others in order to find themselves a winner, this is a dent to the ego. For people who know they are on the bare bones of their bottom when it comes to prayer and trust and bible understanding – this is sweet, sweet relief! Which are you?
Yeast – we are transformed by Jesus’ words to rise above life’s circumstances and the old stuff within.
Yeast is a key ingredient for making bread because without it, bread cannot be fluffy and light. In other words, Jesus words enable we who would otherwise have a flat and dull life, to live a transformative and uplifting life. The gospel enables me to rise above life’s circumstances and be light, of good sustenance – to fully live.
This is bad news for people trying to make their own life light and fluffy – without the yeast of repentance and forgiveness in it. It is very good news for people who know that they just cannot be light or fluffy enough on their own resources. Which are you?
Hidden Treasure – There is joy unspeakable in this kingdom life.
Living in Jesus’ word by the Spirit’s power is pure gift. He is discovered treasure that you find. It brings joy; joy that you want more of and are prepared to sacrifice plenty for it.
“…in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field” (13:44).
The man that Jesus describes is so filled with joy that he risks it all to obtain more. In exchange for the possibility of finding more treasure, and so, joy, he sells it all!
So, this life in community with Jesus is not simply joy; it is a joy that is worth all that you have and to which you apply yourself in all of life.
So, what are you prepared to sell off today to get the joy of the gospel?
Being in Christ is like being a merchant who seeks and finds a very valuable thing. But the merchant has to seek it, search for it, pursue it and apply himself to the searching. And when the reward for the searching comes, it is good!
“…on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:46).
The way you live your life is to value it; enough to constantly seek his life and give everything for it.
For people looking for pearls in all kinds of places this makes you realise that there is one pearl that out trumps them all. Have you found that one?
We are a net. The net
“caught fish of every kind, when it was full they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad” (Matthew 13:47-48).
So, Jesus community is diverse and inclusive. It contains all kinds of people with all kinds of being, backgrounds and sins! But note to self: It is the angels who eventually come to “separate the evil from the righteous” (13:49).
It is not us who judge people. That is God’s domain. In this community, in as much as it is up to each of us, we live together, exist peaceably, and leave the judgment to God.
So what about the new people around here? How are you treating them? What about the people different to me? Am I leaving their difference in God’s hands and doing my best to live in this crazy full net called church?!
So, how did you go in the Kingdom 5? Any challenges, callings, comfort, worries, joy, thankfulness?
Jesus wraps up this Kingdom 5 and all these parables by speaking about what you do with them – You scribble them! You have to scribble them down on others. You are a scribe of these mysteries to others….
Scribes were people who copied the Word of God and gave it to those who taught the Word of God to others. Jesus says,
“Therefore every scribe trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matthew 13:52).
Yes, Scribes in the Gospels come in for some stick. They are lumped in with the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law who have totally missed the grace of God on show in the person of Jesus.
But Jesus goes actually still holds a high view of their job. He says the role of the scribes was extremely important. They had authority over the law and the teaching of it among people. Scribes were trained well for this work. They had a huge influence on what people heard from God in the Scriptures.
Whichever way you look at it, Jesus is saying that a Christian is a Scribe. We are scribes of his words to others.
He calls us to translate this gospel we love, copy these promises we hear, write them down with the smile and frown lines on our faces as we speak his words out, live them daily for the sake of others.
Here’s what I am hearing;
I actually have to seek his kingdom, his wisdom, his voice, his words, his gifts. What I most need is new ears – like Solomon prayed for when the moment came to being his life’s work – a ‘listening heart”. Yes, Spirit of God, give me a listening heart.
- Jesus has real joy attached. The searching, the questions, the fears and doubts along the way are outdone by what he gives when we seek him – Joy, joy, joy. Joy to rise above mere circumstances.
- Joy in a hospital room where death is knocking on the door but faith makes it all temporary.
- Joy in the mind and heart of a young person really confused about their body and they place and their future that is met with those words – there is no condemnation in any of this confusion for you young man, young woman. You are in Jesus’ community. Seek and you will find. Knock on his door and he will welcome you into his house for the best food you have ever tasted – the food of total acceptance.
- Joy that sets our hearts on his things above so we can live through anything in this place below him but within reach of his rule.
- Joy that says your circumstances do not determine your place in this kingdom of grace and faith. Jesus’ word does.
And this Christian faith is never lived alone. It is communal always. Sure the ‘net’ community might be dodgy at times. We may struggle to leave justice to God and so wrestle with living in peace at times, but nevertheless, we are all in the net together.
So get scribbling. Write his name on their hearts. Claim his name on yours. Being his blank canvas each day – a place where he writes his old but new words and you speak his old and new words to people being a kingdom person – a gospel person – a person of huge influence to the old and the new, for the old and the young.