“Parables of the Kingdom”

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

30 July 2017

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Church

 

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

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 someone found and hid; 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 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.”

 

Prayer.

 

This thirteenth chapter of Matthew is truly

One of the wonders of the world!

 

Two weeks ago we heard the parable of the sower;

Three out of four sewn seeds will fail, but …

Seeds that are sewn on good soil produced beyond the wildest imagination.

So too, will those who

“hear the word

(of the kingdom)

and understands it.” (13:19, 23)

 

Yeah! I want to be that guy!

I want to hear the word of the kingdom and understand it.

Tell me more, Jesus …

 

Last week we heard Jesus teaching his parable

Of the weeds among the wheat.

He starts with

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to …” (13:24)

The Son of Man sows the good seed,

Then sends out his angels

To separate all causes of sin and evildoers

In in one fell swoop of final judgment.

 

That’s a fist bumping win for the home team.

Good wins over evil.

The righteous end up shining like the sun.

I want to be that guy;

The righteous one who ends up shining like the sun.

Boo-yah!

 

Jesus teaching in parables

From a boat

To a crowd on the shore

Is like your favorite band playing three hours

And you find yourself swelling with the crowd

Begging for a second encore.

The momentum of the first two parables

Is like an overwhelming surge

That breaks the line of defending enemies.

 

“Jesus,” voices from the crowd cry out,

“Tell us more about the kingdom of heaven!”

We want to know more …

 

In rapid fire succession,

Jesus fills in the details

With today’s five brief parables.

The kingdom of heaven is like …

 

The kingdom of heaven is like

A mustard seed.

Size doesn’t matter!

Let us not forget that the mustard plant

Is invasive as mint,

Fast growing,

And quickly becomes a tree.

From the very modest

Great things will come.

A mustard seed can move mountains,

Jesus teaches in Matthew 17:20.

What is nearly invisible

Can have an overwhelming impact.

Like in the first parable,

One small seed will produce a fantastic yield.

 

Every individual,

Every child of God

Has the potential to be the mustard seed

In the emerging heavenly kingdom.

 

The migrant farmer

will rise up and lead the fight for justice,

Fair wages and appropriate living conditions.

The homeless, single mother

Will rise up and become the leader in the community

That brings nutrition to babies,

Jobs and childcare to mothers,

And affordable housing for every family.

 

That addict who overdosed or was arrested and charged with DWI?

The one who’s family disowned him,

Who society had stigmatized,

And who was left for dead

In that inner-city drug house?

You know, the one

Found, revived, and got their life together?

The one who sobered the disease into remission

And is now making two meetings a day?

Yeah, that guy or gal

Will one day rise up

And become the researcher who finds the

Root cause, deep in the brain, of addiction …

And will find a way to reverse this neurological affliction

That transform every patient

Into a model of health and wellness.

 

Wow.

Even I have a shot!

Tell us more, Jesus!

Can you hear the crowd clamoring for more?

 

The kingdom of heaven is like …

Yeast that makes flour rise.

Without the kingdom of heaven

The kingdoms, empires, and thrones of this world

Are more like unleavened bread;

Dull, flat, and tasteless.

But when the kingdom of heaven comes ripping in

Three measures, or nearly 50 bushels of flour,

Will be transformed by teaspoon sized amounts of yeast.

That’s all it will take to change everything!

When Jesus steps in,

Through the portal that links heaven and earth,

This world is transformed and lifted up.

Jesus empowers all God’s children

To rise above life’s circumstances,

To become more than ever imagined, dreamt, or hoped to be.

 

The presence of Jesus in your life

Is more than just that well-meaning pep-talk from a childhood coach.

Jesus Christ is the power surging in your veins,

Blood of His blood, blood of our blood.

Jesus Christ gives life, health, and goodness.  

 

Wow!

Jesus, we can rise above all this.

Even I can be transformed into something worthwhile!

Tell us more about the kingdom of heaven …

 

The kingdom of heaven is like unbounded, exuberant joy!

Imagine, finding unclaimed treasure;

Chests of gold, diamonds, and jewels.

Keep it a secret until you can legally lay claim to it.

That joy, that inner desire to laugh, that grin you can’t wipe off your face,

Looking forward to the moment you can announce your find to the world?

Yeah,

That joy!

That joy is what the kingdom of heaven is like.

 

There is great joy in the justice that Jesus brings.

Others might call it “Karma”, but I don’t.

The justice of Jesus Christ levels the playing field,

Overturns the wrongs and rights the rights.

The justice of our Lord

Brings down those who hoard the abundance God has provided.

The justice of Jesus redistributes wealth

Such that every mouth is fed,

Every family has a home and every child is clothed.

And everyone who can work has a meaningful job.

 

There is exuberant joy in the peace that Jesus brings.

With peace there is prosperity.

With peace there is security.

Imagine a world without violence, terrorism, or war.

This is what Jesus is pulling through the portal from the kingdom of heaven.

This is the peace that Jesus is sowing across our flawed lands.

The peace that Jesus brings

Gives us joy!

 

Oh. My. God.

I couldn’t be more overjoyed!

Jesus, tell us more about the kingdom of heaven.

 

The kingdom of heaven is like …

A merchant, a common retailer,

Who searches for and finds a valuable treasure,

Like a pearl of great value.

That merchant then is willing to

Sell everything,

Do anything,

To claim it as their own.

 

Obsession should be more than just the name of a perfume.

Obsession is the attitude every person of faith should take

In seeking out and obtaining

Everything Jesus gave his life to offer.

 

Are we obsessed with loving God?

Then why isn’t our sanctuary full?

Are we obsessed with loving our neighbors?

Then why do we continue to make enemies.

Why do we

Nurture unresolved hatred and conflicts

And enjoy watching passively while neighbors suffer?

Are we obsessed with sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus?

Of proclaiming to the world

Good news of God’s grace,

Redemption and salvation for all?

 

Faith without obsession

Is like watering a weed.

 

SNAP!

Sweet Jesus.

The age of passive Christianity needs to be behind us.

We better become obsessed with filling up this sanctuary,

These empty pews / seats.

 

Anything else we need to know about the kingdom of heaven, Jesus?

 

Why yes, there is.

The kingdom of heaven is like …

A net that catches everything.

The time for judgment is coming, and soon will be.

But for now,

The net catches fish of every kind.

 

The kingdom is diverse and inclusive.

You and I don’t have to pick and choose.

Just cast the net and bring them all in!

 

Stop looking for rich prospects

Who we hope will pay our bills.

Stop looking for people who look just like us

Who we hope will share the same values and beliefs.

Stop looking for millennials, x-ers, busters, and boomers.

 

Cast the net and bring them all in.

 

Sweet Jesus,

You’ve given us more than we expected today.

There’s more here about the kingdom of heaven

And our roll in it

Than we ever could have imagined.

 

God created you,

Gave you life,

And now

God calls you and me to spread and grow the kingdom of heaven.

You and I,

We play an important part

In leavening this world;

Transforming it and allowing the kingdom of heaven to rise.

This brings us joy!

This makes us obsessed!

Burn with obsession

Until all are brought in;

Until all love and serve the Lord.

Amen.