Sunday, July 26, 2020

One-Line Parables of Jesus


Today, our gospel message comes to us from the 13th chapter of Matthew, beginning with the 31st verse, “Parables of the reign of heaven.”

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.

“Yes,” they replied.

He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old” (Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52).

Father, You sent your Word to bring us truth and your Spirit to make us holy. Through them, we come to know the mystery of your life. Help us worship you, one God in three persons, And reveal yourself in the depths of our being, by proclaiming and living our faith in you. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

“One-Line Parables of Jesus”

Today we read some “One-Line Parables” that Jesus used to describe the Kingdom of God to illustrate how God’s power and authority are visible and expressed in our world.

Unlike the longer “Story Parables” like the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son, “One-Line Parables” begin with a phrase like “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” and concludes with a common everyday activity or thing. For example: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

Using language, objects, plants, and what we humans experience in our everyday lives, Jesus told “One-Line Parables” to describe for us the wonder and the excitement and the blessing available to us in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Each of these “One-Line Parables” paints a picture of the Kingdom of God and offers us another glimpse into the reign of God because each picture could not provide for us the height or depth of God’s Kingdom. Therefore each One-Line Parable gives us another opportunity to think about and wonder and enjoy the riches of God’s Kingdom.

Now, you may have noticed that after Jesus had finished His teaching about the kingdom of God, He concluded His instruction by asking: “Have you understood all these things?” to which the disciples responded, “Yes!”

Now I have to admit that I usually smile when I hear the disciple’s reaction to this question because I wonder if the disciples really understood what Jesus was trying to teach them.

In fact, occasionally, I wonder if the disciples even had a clue as to what Jesus was talking about when He used “One-Line Parables.” Even though the disciples said they understood, I sometimes sense that they were too embarrassed to admit that they did not understand.

And so their reaction to the question that Jesus asked is similar, I think, to all the occasions when we laughed at a joke that we did not get and the times when we nodded our head in agreement to an explanation that we did not understand. For you see, Jesus used these teachings to challenge His disciples and us to see beyond how we normally perceive things and understand the world.

For example, today, we read that Jesus told His disciples that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed or a handful of yeast. Now I think that you would agree with me that these items are not much to look at first, but when we put the seed in the ground or mix the yeast with the dough, the results can be astounding.

One mustard seed, planted in the ground, can produce a tree big enough for birds to nest in, and a handful of yeast, when mixed with flour, can produce a loaf of bread that we can use to feed our family.

And so even though the rich blessings God intends for us in this world and the next may appear to be of no more value than a seed or a handful of yeast, we should not deceive ourselves.

For just as a seed can ultimately produce a large tree, and yeast, when added to flour, can create bread, God’s blessings can enrich our lives and allow us to be a blessing to others.

And yet, due to our sinful condition, we do not always see the possibilities available to us in God’s Kingdom. And even though these tales of yeast and seed, treasure and pearls are all exciting, we may wonder what they have to do with us.

But the “Good News” is that these “One-Line Parables” were meant to open our hearts and our souls to the vastness of God’s mercy and love and help us to understand that even the smallest seed of the Word of God, or the tiniest bit of the yeast of God’s righteousness, can transform us.

And so our response today should be a prayer to God to instill in us the faith the size of a mustard seed, knowing that God can bring growth and treasure beyond what we know or understand so that our lives can be a picture to others of the love and mercy of our Father in Heaven.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the seed of your Word that you have planted in our hearts and the yeast of righteousness that you have mixed into our lives. Help us, we pray, to value that which you have given us and to make following Christ the essential thing in our lives so we can do your will and share your love and Word that you have proclaimed through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Scripture is taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Sermon contributed by Paul Zwarich.
Even though the rich blessings God intends for us may appear to be of no more value than a seed or a handful of yeast, we should not deceive ourselves.

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