31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 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.”
33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with[b] three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
44 “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.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Treasures New and Old
51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 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.”
I love this morning’s parables from Matthew. The mustard seed and the yeast in dough. The Kingdom of God is being planted within us, it may be the smallest seeds, yet it grows into becoming a large tree, so much so that the birds rest in them. We may be a smallish church, but we can be a seed planted in this community for much community goodness.
One of the commentaries that I read had a great line, this parable is like: a “preacher preaching to a congregation of 25 people in a city of 2 million and eventually the entire city is converted…” (I would use the phrase, a city is mutual converted together…with the church…and the pastor…). This is happening, even now. Our story is being shared in and through the community beyond what we could imagine. How? By simply being good listeners and being open to God’s work in us and around us.
God’s Spirit is moving in and through us like yeast in dough. We’re being molded and moved around, it’s sometimes a bit awkward, but that yeast is working its way through the dough and Christ is rising up within us and around us. As I was pondering on this passage this week, I thought of folks who have planted small seeds into my life that have grown over the years.
One of those is a guy by the name of Dr. Tony Campolo. I’ve shared with you before that when I was 16, in my church’s basement, we had a film series called “You Can Make A Difference”. It was a series of sermons by Tony Campolo. He talked about real things in the world and how the good news, the gospel of Jesus, the person of Jesus, interacted with those on the margins and calls us, as God’s disciples, to follow Jesus’ example.
Years later, the seed of those talks grew within me and led me to inner-city Philadelphia for a summer to work alongside a group of other young adults in building relationships with kids in a neighborhood of South Philly. It was through Tony Campolo’s non-profit, the “Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education”. What a title! We simply called it EAPE.
The seed also grew within me to do youth ministry with a non-profit after that experience, then to have a call to seminary, to the church, and into the ministry, and it keeps on growing within me. A seed to seriously follow Jesus, to take to Jesus all of my doubts as well as my gifts, and let faith grow and form.
I was looking for something related to this church’s seeds and yeast this week and also came across an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer from 1994. Rev. Craig McClellan, the founding pastor of the merger of churches that became Fleming Road UCC, and still greatly loved and revered in this congregation, talked about the essence of Fleming Road UCC.
He mentions that our church came from a liberal UCC perspective that was inclusive, a church from it’s founding by German immigrants knew how to be open. Rev. McClellan has this great quote, which is so appropriate for the times that we live in now:
“Our folk are very open to change. We’re willing to explore new ways. We respect tradition, but we are not frozen in tradition. We’re open to creative experiences.” Which is why the merger worked and has worked.
A seed was planted by the UCC, by our immigrant forebearers, and by our church’s founding of openness, inclusion, willingness to change and adapt, and to listen. Which, that seed has grown and is enabling us to react to the times we live in…and to even cause more growth!
Even in this season, the Kingdom of God is moving forward, expanding, and being planted within us!
The parables in the second reading talk about pearls and treasure, comparing them to the Kingdom of God.
It’s an interesting reversal of values, a treasure hidden in a field, a plowman finds it, then hides treasure, sells all that he has, buys the field. While a merchant finds one pearl and goes to great lengths to get it.
And, yet, God honors both.
Then there’s the net, bringing in both good and bad fish. Again, good deeds and bad deeds, and God works through them all to bring out the good.
The new in this context, in these parables, of finding something, discovering something of God, or God’s Kingdom presence, is good, and also provides appropriation of the old. All is used! Parables can seem subversive, and they are always coming from the margins…because Jesus and his listeners and disciples, were not from the power structure of the day. These subversive, marginal parables can be threatening to some, but to others, it can point towards the love of God and the covenant of God’s faithfulness to us.
Friends, let’s remember the seed that God has planted in us, God’s very self, God’s Presence. It is growing, it is giving us ideas and new life, and it is moving us towards being the body of Christ to the world around us and to each other.