The second pair of parables Matthew 13:44-46 focused more on how people should respond to the gift of the Kingdom. Both the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great value were hidden and required action of man. We often get stuck at this point and focus on the actions required to find the kingdom, or even worse, on the cost of attaining it as if it were a ticket or a piece of property we could buy. It would be easy to point out that unlike ‘the rich young man’ who couldn’t or wouldn’t give up his wealth to enter the kingdom of God, these men both went and sold all that they had. This has, in many cases, been used as a proof text for the renunciation of wealth as a ‘ticket’ into the Kingdom of Heaven. The important part is not the seeking of what is hidden, but the response to the gift once found. In response to a gift so unexpected and immense their response was total, they gave all. Receiving this gift, our response must be in proportion. Though we can never give back to God in equal measure; enough praise; enough service; enough love; we can commit ourselves wholeheartedly in faith and obedience to his will.
We can not DIY the Kingdom of Heaven, but by that I do not mean to say that we should stop striving for justice in our world, or that there is nothing for us to do at all. In the Parable of the Net (Matthew 13:47-52) those of us who believe and have faith in God; creator, redeemer, and guide, are assured that when the net is drawn in it will be a time of rejoicing for us. It is our role to take this sure knowledge of the kingdom present and the kingdom yet to be fulfilled to those who are still in danger of being thrown out.
Jacob was destined to rule over his brother. He had stolen his birthright and now run away to the land of where Abraham and Sarah had lived. In Genesis 29 he met Rachel at the well and ‘fell in love with her’. When his uncle Laban asked what he wanted in exchange for his work Jacob thought he could do it himself and asked for the hand of Rachel in marriage. We know the rest of the story. Jacob worked hard for seven years and it passed like no time because the reward he expected was so great! She was there in his life every day, but not yet his. He did end up with Rachel as a wife, but not until after he was married to her older sister Leah and agreed to another seven years service. It is not the result that he would have wanted, but with the two sisters and their maids he had what God intended; the means to found the 12 tribes.
Like Jacob we have a great desire, ours for the Kingdom of Heaven. We know that it is here already in part, but not yet fully ours. We know that it is worth the whole world, our whole selves. We know that we can not make it come any faster, but we are happy to work ‘in the fields’ while we wait.
Posted in Reflections
Tagged Bible, Christianity, DIY, drawing in the net, faith, God, God’s action, improvement, Jacob, Jesus, Laban, mustard seed, parables, pearl found, project for church, reflection, treasure, yeast
Our society these days seems obsessed with the religion of self-reliance. The individual is most important, and is only a success when he or she has the power to take care of themselves. There is a DIY Network which has shows with titles such as; Indoors Out; Desperate Landscapes; Dream House Log Cabin; I Hate My Kitchen; Man Caves; Marriage Under Construction; and Sweat Equity. Along with this, if you want to know how to do something you can log on to youtube.com and find a video with directions. This phenomenon is not new of course, just gone global, I remember growing up with Popular Mechanics; Time Life books on home maintenance; and Wok with Yan. To be able to say that you renovated your home, your car, your life on your own, without the experts, is the ultimate point of pride. If we follow this reasoning, then if we are interested in the Kingdom of God (Heaven) coming then it is time we figured out how to do it ourselves, right?
Is the Kingdom of Heaven a DIY project for the church and its members?
Let’s look at some parables about the kingdom of heaven. Jesus tries to enlighten first the crowd and then the disciples on the nature of the kingdom. The Gospels are not in any way meant to be a travelogue for future visitors with descriptions of accommodations and sights and attractions to take in. Some of his parables were told for the crowd while others were told only to the disciples. He told parables focused on the Kingdom of Heaven with respect to God’s action.
A mustard seed, the smallest visible seed, is a symbol often used in the Old Testament to represent the minute. In Matthew’s telling of this parable (Matthew 13:31-35); we see reference to ‘a mustard seed’, one single grain which a man sows in the field. The idea of sowing one single seed is ludicrous of course; no farmer would do such a thing. We can assume then that Matthew is using the seed as an allegory for God’s action in the world, which is often unseen to us. So then, God’s action in the world, seemingly minuscule, will grow, as did the mustard seed, into a tree of great height in which all the birds of the air will find a dwelling. While mustard plants are sometimes as tall as 10 feet with spreading branches and do attract birds, it is a stretch for the Gospel writer to refer to it as a tree and as such this may be taken as an allegory for the expansion of Christ’s kingdom over all the earth even into the Gentile world.
The parable of the leaven Luke 13:20 is similar. Starting with something hidden, yeast in the flour, this grows to many times its size. This is not an action we can see, nor is it one we could ‘do ourselves’. I found it interesting to discover that three measures of flour was actually around 50 lbs and would make enough bread for a hundred, enough for a banquet, for the wedding feast.
Both the mustard seed and the yeast are here present with us today and likewise the kingdom is here in some invisible way already, and will come to fruition through the hand of God in our lives and in the world.
Posted in Reflections
Tagged Bible, Christianity, DIY, drawing in the net, faith, God, God's action, improvement, Jesus, mustard seed, parables, pearl found, project for church, reflection, treasure, yeast
In an advertisement I saw this week, I was taken with this statement on a plaque, “Good morning. This is God…I will be handling all your problems today. I will not require your help.” Have you ever been doing something you are good at and had a person, who had never done it before, try to help you? Heard the expression, “too many cooks in the kitchen?” Of course you have. It can be very frustrating to be in this situation. Frustrating for the person who wants to help because you are trying to get them to stop, and frustrating for you because it slows you down, or even worse causes an accident.
I love the comic book series The Adventures of Groo the Wanderer. Groo is an incompetent soldier-for-hire. He wanders from town to town willing to work for the mere cost of some cheese dip. The way to win a battle is to have Groo on the other side. If you have Groo in your town; ships are likely to sink in your harbour, natural disasters are likely to strike, and in general you are better off being anywhere else! This loveable, if dangerous, character, the creation of Sergio Aragones, is keen and eager to help and loves nothing better than a chance to jump into “A Fray!”
How often do we, like Groo, turn out to be our own worst enemy? Eager to be helpful we say yes to too many commitments and, not being able to keep up, end up letting people down? Feeling down we make ourselves feel better by having an extra-large serving of something chocolate, or salted, and then feel even worse about ourselves when next we step on the scale? Try the do-it-yourself route for home repairs and end up making the problem worse and more expensive for the professional to fix? Knowing the right thing to do is not the same as doing it…witness my exercise equipment languishing in varying states of disuse.
God doesn’t really leave us out of the mix of course, that is to say when we insist in trying to be in control he doesn’t stop us. It is a common question people have. Doesn’t God have enough power to keep us from doing things we shouldn’t? The answer is, of course he does, but we were given the “gift” of choice and he is waiting for us to choose and his kingdom over all the other lures dangling before our eyes.
Are you ready to let God handle your problems tomorrow? I know that I certainly am not doing a good job myself. Let’s pray that God will give us the strength to admit our weakness tomorrow and rely solely on his handling of our problems. We will be much better off if, as Marilla Cuthbert was always telling Matthew in Anne of Green Gables, we can just keep from putting-in-our-oar.
Posted in Reflections
Tagged accidents, cheese dip, choices, Christianity, DIY, experience, faith, fray, God, Groo the Wanderer, help, improvement, kindness, love, own worst enemy, prayer, Sergio Aragones