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New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
A Psalm of thanksgiving.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come into God’s presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God. It is God who made us, and we are hers; we are her people and the sheep of her pasture.
Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him; bless his name.
For the Lord is good; Their steadfast love endures forever and Their faithfulness to all generations.
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 – New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
He put before them another parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 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.”
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and reburied; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and 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. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure
what is new and what is old.”
Called to Become
You are called to become
A perfect creation.
No one is called to become
Who you are called to be.
It does not matter
How short or tall
Or thick-set or slow
You may be.
It does not matter
Whether you sparkle with life
Or are as silent as a still pool.
Whether you sing your song aloud
Or weep alone in darkness.
It does not matter
Whether you feel loved and admired
Or unloved and alone
For you are called to become
A perfect creation.
No one's shadow
Should cloud your becoming.
No one's light
Should dispel your spark.
For the Lord delights in you, Jealously looks upon you And encourages with gentle joy Every movement of the Spirit Within you. Unique and loved you stand. Beautiful or stunted in your growth But never without hope and life. For you are called to become A perfect creation. This becoming may be Gentle or harsh. Subtle or violent. But it never ceases. Never pauses or hesitates. Only is— Creative force— Calling you Calling you to become A perfect creation.
-- Edwina Gateley
It is a privilege and a blessing to be standing before you this morning. Thank you all for being here, for creating and participating in this beloved community.
Parables… Why did Jesus teach using parables? We are told in the verses preceding what was read this morning…
Matthew 13:13 “The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’”
Parables allow and encourage us to wonder. They place into question our everyday view of life. They wake us up to what has been hidden right before us…
Five times this morning we heard, “The kingdom of heaven is like…”
“… like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 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.”
One traditional explanation of this parable is that our faith may start as something inconceivably small and grow into a welcoming place of shelter for ourselves and others. As I understand it, that was the experience of the early followers of Jesus. Perhaps that is your experience of faith, as well.
Next, we heard, “The kingdom of heaven is like… yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
Part of me wants to ask, “why would they do that? Three measures of flour is approximately 50 pounds. Now the entire quantity of flour is used up – yielding enough dough for over 100 loaves of bread. Isn’t that wasteful?” That is my practical thinking at work. God is not practical. What could one do with those 100 loaves? Host a party, feed a community… The kingdom of heaven as a place of radical abundance and hospitality.
“The kingdom of heaven is like …treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and reburied; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
I wonder who hid this treasure and if they will miss it?
I wonder how long they searched before finding this treasure?
I wonder if you have ever known this searching, and this joy in finding?
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like … a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
You might ask, What good will that do him” And I might answer, No good at all, unless the pearl stands for something more valuable than all his possessions.
I wonder what the pearl could be?
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like… a net that was thrown into the sea and 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. So it will be at the end of the age.”
Two thousand years ago, when the author of the Gospel of Matthew was writing for the fledgling Christian community, they were trying to mark off its boundaries from the larger world, thus the interest in sorting out the good from the bad.
Then the gospel author goes on to ask, “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.”
What is understood is that for this new community of believers, they appreciated the new revelation of Jesus AND the earlier teachings from Moses. Jesus became the lens through which they viewed their Judaic scriptures.
And he taught like none other before him. He pushed boundaries. He questioned authority. He employed parables to encourage his followers to see the familiar in a new way. Then and now, parables speak to the present moment. Parables are open-ended and alive with possibility.
Parables question the status quo, the order imposed by tradition, power, or class. That is why Jesus’ parables often got him into trouble and why Christians ever since have tried to make parables more benign so they will not disrupt our comfortable worldviews.
Let’s take a second look at a few of these parables from this morning. The mustard seed was tiny, nearly invisible to the naked eye. The mustard plant was a weed that invaded the wheat or other crops. It was not planted intentionally by the farmer. It was not desirable to the farmer. What did Jesus mean, the Kingdom of Heaven was like a mustard seed? Perhaps the Kingdom of Heaven is to include those otherwise unseen; the unexpected, unintended, uninvited among us in the world.
And the parable of the yeast? Once mixed with the flour it cannot be undone. It “spoils” the flour but in doing so creates a new thing. I wonder, I hope, that it is you and I, all of creation that is represented by the yeast in the flour – unable to be separated from the love of God.
Lastly, the parable of the treasure hidden in a field has always bothered me. It angered me. It confused me. It seemed to be justifying or condoning deceptive behavior. What are we to learn from this parable? Perhaps, that again, God’s ways are not the same as our ways. Our measure of what is valuable is skewed. It is a parable, not a blueprint for how to treat our neighbors. When I let go of my need for a sense of fairness and logic, I can see that the persons’ great joy in finding the treasure; in finding God, could not, and should not be contained. Perhaps the treasure found, buried, purchased is like a flame, or like love; those things that are not diminished when shared… but actually increase when shared.
That sounds like the kingdom of heaven all right. That sounds like heaven on earth.
To end where we began this morning, I hear Psalm 100 as a promise of heaven on earth, a celebration of all that is and all that can be.
(Read Psalm again)
Come into God’s presence with gladness, with a joyful spirit and song, as we are all called to become a perfect creation. Give thanks and praise for all that is, now and forever more.
Rev. TJ Mack