Pentecost 8 / Proper 12
Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11, 45b; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
The Kingdom of Heaven is like: a Mustard Seed; Yeast; Hidden Treasure and
The Pearl of Great Value; The Dragnet; The Role of Matthew
In this morning’s gospel we hear several parables in the Gospel according to Matthew.
“Parables are stories describing situations in everyday life which, as Jesus used them, convey a spiritual meaning. In general the teaching of each parable relates to a single point, and apart from this the details may, or may not, have a particular meaning. Jesus used this method of teaching because: (a) it gave vivid, memorable expression to his teachings; (b) it led those who heard to reflect on his words and bear responsibility for their decision to accept or oppose his claim; (c) it probably reduced specific grounds for contention by hostile listeners.”
So let’s spend some time thinking about the meaning of these short parables. You may want to follow along in the gospel reading.
Do you have a maple tree in your yard? If so then you probably have many maple keys on the ground, in your eave troughs, and everywhere else that they fall. Next spring you may have dozens or even hundreds of little seedlings sprouting from these seeds. From this little seed a huge maple tree will grow. Such is the kingdom of heaven. Plant a small seed of love and kindness and it is amazing how it will grow from there, in fact we may never know what grows, much like a teacher may never know how their words of encouragement have affected the lives of their students.
Who has made yeast bread from scratch? Have you watched how the yeast grows in a cup of warm water and sugar, foaming and swelling? It is amazing how two teaspoons of yeast
(2 ¼) is sufficient to cause three cups of flour to rise to form a full-sized loaf of bread. The Kingdom of Heaven is like this. Once you let the Holy Spirit into your heart it will pervade your whole life, your work life, your home life, your school life, your gym life, your vacation time, your alone time, your spiritual life. It is kind of like the concept of “pay it forward”. Do you remember that movie or understand what it means? It is when you care for someone by mowing their lawn or holding a door open and the only thing you expect from them is that someday they will also do something nice for someone else with no expectation of repayment. Who knows how far a single action will ripple forward. Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.
The one who finds a treasure and does all they can to have it is like one who hears the good news of Jesus Christ and responds with single-minded determination to seek all that it has to offer.
Do you collect anything? Perhaps stamps searching for that special commemorative stamp or a Johnny Appleseed stamp or a 3cent liberty stamp. Or an elusive Indian head penny. The merchant in today’s gospel was searching for the perfect pearl and on finding it, sold everything else in order to buy it. “Some people dedicate themselves to God’s kingdom because, being able to judge the value of other claims being made on them, they value it [the Kingdom of God] more.”
Another way of looking at these parables is that each are something bad or out of the ordinary. A farmer is not going to intentionally plant a mustard seed. It is a weed. In biblical times yeast was not like it is today. It was left over from the last batch of bread and could poison the bread. Add too little and it will be ineffective. Add too much and it may poison you or make you sick. The treasure hunter is really a thief. The original owner of the field should have first claim to the treasure. Why would a pearl merchant sell all his pearls to own one albeit magnificent pearl? Perhaps Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of Heaven does not follow the accepted way of doing things, the status quo. The Kingdom of Heaven does things a different way. The Kingdom of Heaven is not about following social or cultural rules or doing what’s best for me and my family or materialism or consumerism or the bottom-line or power or glory. The Kingdom of Heaven is about service to the other, about caring for the marginalized, the poor, the sick and the stranger, the refugee, the immigrant. It is about feeding the hungry, about showing a family how to grow and prepare their own fruit and vegetables. It is about building the self-esteem of a child and showing them that reading can be fun.
When a fisherman throws a net into the sea he catches many fish and other sea creatures. Some will be tasty and good to eat, some will be unpleasant to eat or even poisonous. The fisherman recognizes what is good and throws the rest away. In the same way God allows good and evil to co-exist in this world. It is not our responsibility to determine what is evil or who needs to be excluded or who is not welcome in the Kingdom of Heaven. God is accountable for the judgment of what is good and who is bad. God’s angels will be responsible for excluding those who are not the children of God.
Saturday I attended the ordination to the priesthood of Lily Marx. During her “Examination” by the Bishop I was reminded that as a priest in God’s church I am to love and serve the people among whom I work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. I am to proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to fashion my life in accordance with its precepts. I am to preach, to declare God’s forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce God’s blessing and to share in the administration of Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist. (BCP, 531) No where am I asked to judge who is good enough, to judge who can be included and who should be excluded, who is good and who is bad. I am to serve whoever comes before me regardless of social or economic status, gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, abilities, health, age or any of the various ways we use to define us and them. I am called to serve all people and so are you as can be seen in the Baptismal Covenant on page 305. All baptized people are to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as our self and to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.
Turning to the last few verses of today’s gospel Matthew says that those who are trained in the teachings of the church and are disciples of Jesus Christ should use insights from the past, for Matthew the Old Testament and for us in the 21st century the Old and the New Testament and build on those past insights with new insights and understandings of God. God is love. God loves you and me and all people. God loves the birds of the air and the animals in the fields and the fish in the sea, God loves all of his creation. Because God loves us, we are to love God, all people, ourselves and all of God’s creation. This is not the way of the world, but it is the way of the Kingdom of Heaven. We the people of St. James’ may be a small congregation and a small part of the church, but from small things the Kingdom of Heaven can grow into what it is meant to be where the hungry are fed and the hurting are comforted and every child can know that they are valued and loved. From the seeds of love sown in Albion and kneaded into the life of the community may we find the Kingdom of Heaven ever rising and expanding and spreading beyond our borders. In the Good News of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven may we find that the cares and temptations of this world and their claims on our lives fade away in comparison to the claims of the Kingdom of Heaven. May the love of God satisfy the thirst of our souls and feed the hunger of our hearts so that we can unconditionally love God, our neighbor, ourselves and all of God’s creation in return. Amen.
 Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy, Editors, The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, NRSV, Oxford University Press, New York, 1991, 1994, 19NT.
 Ibid, 21NT.