Toorak Uniting Church

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Matthew 13: 31 – 52
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
9:00am, 24 July 2005

Just now we talked about treasure and what was precious to us. We heard the story of grandpa who was so attached to his old cardigan that he went to great lengths to try and find one just like it. We reflected on the things we are attached to, things that are important to us that will make us go to great lengths to either keep them, get them back or acquire them.

In the parables Adli read to us there is also talk about things of great value. About treasure and a pearl, but also about a large bush for birds to live in and find comfort, and about bread, enough to feed a hundred people or more.
And of all these things Jesus says they are like the Kingdom of God. And he finishes his stories with a question to the disciples: Do you understand? Their answer is yes, and I wonder if we could also, without a second thought say yes to this question.

The first parable is easy enough. We like God to be growing a big bush for birds of every feather to nest in and be comfortable. It is easy to imagine how that image would apply to us and to our world. The Kingdom, although starting small, is growing to encompass the whole world, offering shade and shelter to whoever needs it. It would be good if that could be happening and feeling warm and sheltered in Church this morning we can probably imagine that it is. The Church the place where the Kingdom is growing, the bush where all God’s lovely creatures are welcome and being cared for. The growing a natural process that will eventually conquer the whole world.

And we would understand the parable of the leaven in the same way wouldn’t we? Quietly but inexorably the Kingdom of God is growing in the world. Even where we don’t see it, even if we don’t know it, it is slowly growing to a size where there is enough for everybody to have a big and wonderful party at the end of time.

Watch out, the Kingdom is coming! Even if you don’t see that much of it happening yet, somewhere there is a seed transforming itself into a bush, somewhere there is leaven permeating the whole dough of God’s creating. Wait and see, it will happen, it is happening.

The third parable gets a little bit more difficult and might start to unsettle us a bit. Inside trading is not what our society approves of is it? Finding a treasure in a field, and keeping quiet about it until you have purchased the field not completely ethical perhaps. But still, making a point: Whoever finds the Kingdom of God would be mad not to go and do everything in their power to obtain it.
Same with the pearl. Of course, if you found the most beautiful pearl ever, you would go and try to attain it whatever the cost wouldn’t you?

The unsettling part of those two parables however is the question if we, should we find the Kingdom somewhere, would go off and give everything we had to obtain it.

I think we all know where the Kingdom lies hidden and where the field is. We’ve moved on a little since Jesus talked to his disciples that day and know he said other things like: "The kingdom of God is among you" or "the Kingdom is there for whoever is happy to receive it." We know the Kingdom is in our hearts and in our actions. In the love we give and the peace we bring. In the difference we make on a day to day basis to day to day situations.

The Kingdom is like a fisherman who cast out his net and caught all sorts of fish. He threw out the little ones and kept the big ones. In other words: went for the ones that were really worth his while. That’s what the Kingdom is like: going for what is really worth while and throwing all the rest out.

And that is where it starts to become really uncomfortable. Because that means that we are called to action. A little mustard seed is enough to start a big bush, a little bit of leaven is enough to make a whole lot of dough rise. So why are we so tepid when it comes to the Kingdom of God? Don’t we think it is treasure, aren’t we convinced it is a pearl beyond price worth more than anything we could ever earn?

I think if we are perfectly honest we probably have to say we aren’t. That compared to the time and energy grandpa spent finding his old cardigan again we generally have a rather relaxed approach to the Kingdom. Sure, we do our bit, but passion?

Perhaps it is time to throw some of that old attitude out, like the scribe in the last parable throws out the old and go for the new: go for the enthusiasm of treasure found and desperately wanted. Of total commitment and longing so strong it won’t stop at anything to achieve its aim: The Kingdom of God happening on earth, here, now, in your life and mine.

There is a funny twist though to the stories if we return to the beginning at this point. Bushes take time to grow, and they are not that grand to look at. The mustard bush apparently an insidious weed that wasn’t looked very favorable upon in Jesus’ day. Leaven takes time to work and when it has worked nothing is left of it and it has completely dissolved itself in the surrounding dough.

Perhaps the direction we should be looking towards in our enthusiasm for the Kingdom is not the majestic tree so many of us long for but a more scruffy bush where birds of many feathers find a home.
Perhaps we are not looking for a Church once again held in high esteem at the centre of public life. Perhaps we are looking for people who will quietly and inexorably do their work and make a change without making too much fuss about it. Making the right choices, making a difference, in the world of today, in the lives of people today, in the life of the Church as the body of Christ in this world.

Jesus talked in parables. He brought the message very close to home. Perhaps that is where we should start, at home, here and now, with the life that is given to us to live. Make choices, establish our priorities, and decide where our heart lies: With the old or with the new.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2005

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