Bible Readings: Romans 8.26-39 and Matthew 13.31-33,44-52
Today we have some little, pithy parables.
It’s not surprising that so many of them persisted in people’s memories enough to be written down and recorded because of their nature.
Easy to remember, on the surface simple... but then you stop and think a bit more, and then they seem not as simple as they might be.
They pull you up in the middle of your thoughts, and then go, ‘no, wait, is that actually what he meant?’
They are stories to go back to time and again, and we may find different meanings each time. They may speak to us in different ways.
That’s partly the beauty – there’s not just one right answer – God speaks to us here and now through the words of scripture, into whatever is happening in our life at the moment.
Jesus is a great artist – painting images with everyday concepts, in our imaginations. A seed growing into a tree. Yeast making bread rise. Finding some treasure. Fishing.
I invite you to take a moment to imagine yourself into these parables. Where or who are you in these stories? And where is God?
Perhaps you are the person planting a seed, or mixing some yeast into bread – representing a project or an idea... maybe it is waiting to be planted, or just beginning to grow, or maybe it is in full bloom.
Or maybe you yourself are the seed or the dough, who God has planted or is baking?
Or is the Spirit of God the seed or yeast helping you, the mix, to grow – barely visible but potentially able to make huge differences.
Or are you one of the birds in the tree that has grown, planted by someone else? Who are the other birds? Who or what is your tree in whose branches you rest safely?
You may feel like one of these aspects strongly relates, or maybe several of these angles may apply to different things – there’s no right or wrong interpretation!
Moving on to finding treasure or a pearl - such a wonderful, joyful image.
Maybe you are the person who has found a great treasure – what is it? Spiritual? Social? Material?
Or are you the treasure, and God is the one who finds your heart and rejoices!
Finally there’s the analogy of the fisherman catching the fish – where our gospel writer helpfully records Jesus’ interpretation.
This recalls Jesus calling the disciples to now go and be fishers of people – that Jesus wants to bring everyone into the Kingdom.
The nets are cast wide and all are brought in – there’s no selection at that point.
Then comes the trickier part – the concept of judgement.
We can’t whitewash it or avoid it – it’s something that Jesus talks about, and it’s threaded all through the Bible, Old and New Testaments.
Alison reflected with us last week on how in God’s justice, the ‘weeds’ that grow alongside the ‘wheat’ may indeed be burned – but this is not to be viewed simply as punishment for punishments or cruelty’s sake.
The experience of being ‘gathered in’ may be the difference. One of my tutors at theological college (vicar school) explained it something like this:
When finally face-to-face with God’s infinite goodness and glory, the one who has been far from or resisted God may therefore find this painful (i.e. with the wailing and gnashing of teeth) though ultimately turn towards God in that moment of coming to understand the nature of ultimate Love and Goodness.
Whereas for someone who has been already seeking God, that experience is one of wonder and joy and peace.
If we think about the metaphors of either the ‘good’ grain or fish... what happens to them?
They don’t just sit there nicely on display for eternity... that would be no good!
Harvested wheat and caught fish are eaten! The ‘bad’ (or, differently useful) is burned as fuel ...
Either way, we end up with a process of change – our previous state of being you can think of as being turned into energy, our matter is subsumed into God’s economy of being.
I think the first reading, Romans, helps us here.
In all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called...
God calls and loves everyone, to come to his justice which means being conformed to him...
con-formed – remade to be integral part of the same being...
And this is all possible through Godself taking human form as the person of Jesus.
Through divine love, God became human, lived and died and was raised... so that humankind can become one again with God.
And in this economy of matter and justice and love, as St Paul reminds us, nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So maybe after all that it is quite simple in the end.
To us the treasure is God, and to God the treasure is us... those two things can’t be separated.