July 26, 2020
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
I know that we have each found our own unique ways to respond to the current pandemic that we find ourselves. Many people have taken up crafts that had long been put outside. Others have been seeking their inner musical abilities. Personally, I have been more consistent in playing and practicing the ukulele. It is fun and even a bit relaxing, other than when learning to make those awkward transitions between certain chords. Don’t look for me to lead music in worship anytime soon!
There is one thing that I have thought about doing during this time of quarantine and social distancing but have yet to follow through. My family loves sourdough bread and it seems that one of the trends of this quarantine has been to begin a sourdough starter. However, reading just the instructions can seem a little daunting. It requires patience as it requires daily attention for at least the first week. What if I want a slice of sourdough now?
In this morning’s gospel lesson, Jesus teaches in several parables, one right after the other. One such way to look at these parables is in a manner that Jesus is trying to instill a sense of patience among his followers. Just like there is patience required in making a sourdough starter, the kingdom of heaven does not come immediately and usually requires patience as we listen for God’s guidance in our life.
In the parable of the mustard seed, the seed grows into a large tree to provide shelter for the birds of the air to take rest and be renewed. This tree does not grow overnight though, and it requires patience. In the parable of the yeast, the woman mixes it in with flour and must wait for the bread to leaven. Thus, a need for patience as one waits for the bread to rise.
In the parable of the hidden treasure, the person sells all his possessions to buy the field that contains the great treasure. This does not happen over night and it requires patience once again. It is not much different from the parable of the pearl where the merchant spends who knows how long looking for this one pearl of great value and when he does, sells all he has to buy it. In both of these parables, they persevere with patience as they know that once they find what is treasured and valued, it will last. It is like the kingdom of heaven.
I wonder, why does Jesus rattle all of these parables off? Shouldn’t one simple teaching be enough? Jesus knows us though. And I mean, he truly knows how to speak to our hearts and what makes them sing. I believe that it is hope that one of the many parables he teaches about the kingdom of heaven will catch within our hearts so that we may continue to share that same good news.
The parables may seem difficult to comprehend, but so is the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven disrupts. It afflicts the comfortable, rattles cages, and turns over tables. The kingdom of heaven is not about business as usual but is still about a new economy of God’s justice that doesn’t make sense to the way of the world.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he reminds us that nothing will get in the way of God’s love for us and all of humanity. Do we sense that love all the time? No. Sometimes, it appears empty and we are left waiting. We can learn patience from the parables and a sense of comfort, that as we wait patiently, the kingdom of heaven is drawing near.
That same patience can be utilized today as we long for life to get back to normal. Or at least a new normal, where all seems right in the world. There are some teachings of value that we will bring into the future, in our lives, in our community, and in the church. There are also some new teachings that we will learn along the way that will guide us into a new normal. Our gospel lesson concludes this morning with Jesus saying, “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.”
God is continuing to work and reveal a new creation in our very being. A creation where all things are made new and the kingdom of heaven reigns on this earth.