Mystery, Joy and Hope Romans 8. 26-39 Matthew 13. 1-33, 44-52
Jesus said: “Have you understood all this?”
We know that physical activity is good for us. Well, I accept this but it is not my main focus. Physical Instructors tell me to ‘tighten my abs’, or ‘engage on my gluts’. ‘Engage your gluts, now move your leg straight up towards the sky, now rotate the leg outwards in a circular motion’. It takes me ages to translate what the Physical instructor is telling me. The reality is that this is not my main focus.
The same is true for our Gospel today. Jesus tells the crowds and the disciple’s parables but, have they adjusted their thinking to understand? We all have our own priorities and perceptions of what we think is important. Jesus comes into our prepared ways of thinking and says ‘think differently’, but do we understand. Of course the disciples say yes. Just like I tell the physical instructor I’m doing what he is asking (I hope so anyway). But just like the disciples we know they never really got it, the Holy Spirit continued to guide them and us into all truth.
I want to focus in the Gospel today on two different sets of parables. The first set is for the crowd. The second set is for the disciples.
The first set encourages people to see that God’s reign may seem small but it transforms everything. The mustard seed is small but becomes the greatest shrub, a tree. The yeast is a very small fraction of the flour mix yet it transforms the whole. These first parables are taken from everyday life they’re common knowledge. But what is amazing is that Jesus compares the reign of God with something small that becomes huge. This overthrows the expectation that kingdom is large the whole time. This is the surprise in these parables.
As President Donald Trump is finding out with Healthcare and being President “it’s more complicated than he thought”, so it is with life and the Kingdom of Heaven.
The next collection of parables are for the disciples, to remind them and us of the joy we have found in the kingdom of Heaven. The parables reflect an unpredictability and excitement. Someone stumbles on a beautiful treasure hidden in a field, they sell everything for the treasure they are so excited. Notice they give all for the treasure not to sell it, but to have the beautiful treasure. The merchant seeking pearls sells everything to have this pearl of great value. Again there is no talk of selling it off. The joy is having this beautiful pearl that is more important than anything else. One finds by accident, the other after searching.
What Jesus is emphasising is what Christians often forget. We get used to the overwhelming joy and beauty that we have in the Gospel. Here in this worship we do not forget the beauty and the way God reaches out to us, as the Eucharist continues to present the death and resurrection of Jesus as the treasure to be rediscovered in our midst. We have a hope and a joy that is beyond anything else.
Have we understood all this?
No! It’s OK, it is a great mystery that is beyond us to fully comprehend. Jurgen Moltmann a current German theologian says “Christians have no better answers to the questions about life, the earth and justice than secular people or people belonging to different religions; but Christians have to live in accordance with the divine hope and the claim of Christ.”
In the second reading we have St Paul apply this Gospel teaching. St Paul recognises the early Christians were suffering, and highlights that this waiting, sighing and groaning for the reign of Heaven is matched by the whole of creation and by the interceding Holy Spirit.
Even the sufferings of the present, form the context for hope. God has searched our hearts and knows us lovingly, we are in Christ.
St Paul uses a five stage development as we look at the purpose of God. From God’s knowledge, comes God’s desire that we will be an icon of Christ. With that purpose God makes us free to be glorified. St Paul is saying this is in process now, this is our hope. The resurrection is not an exception or an irruption into the normal course of human affairs. Instead it is humanity reaching its final goal.
How do we apply these readings this morning to inspire and motivate our daily lives? Firstly we see in the second reading that St Paul highlights the hope we have in God. Nothing can condemn us for God is so much on our side. In the Gospel we are shown that the Kingdom of Heaven may seem small but it will grow and grow. Whatever way we have discovered the Kingdom of Heaven, by a dedicated search or by stumbling onto it, we have this joy and hope.
Jesus said “Have you understood all this?” Still we continue to live in Christ, growing in faith and experience, living out our Faith and Baptism, in joy and hope.
I’ll finish with a prayer from Walter Bruggermann: God hidden from us in your myriad verbs,
we confess you where we do not see you:
in many ways of newness.
We do not see you, but we dare to name you
by our best names—
we name you father and mother,
we make you lord and saviour,
we praise you giver and lover.
In our daring naming of you and in our very glimpsing, we know you are beyond us
refusing all our manufactured labels.
You are known in hiddenness,
powerful in suffering,
whole in woundedness
And we are yours … all of us … gladly. Amen.