Worship at Home Sunday 26th July

Welcome to our Worship at Home for today.

Year A. Ordinary 17. Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Choose the good?

Sometimes something that is very small can have a big impact. You might remember the fairy story of the princess and the pea! A small pea placed under the mattress ket the princess awake all night and she was very bruised by morning! That is a funny story but it’s true in real life as well!

Last year, during my sabbatical I walked the Cumbria Way. Some of you may remember that on the first day the soles fell off both my boots causing us to have to abandon walking that day and call for a taxi home! That meant I had to start the second day wearing new boots that had not been fully broken in. New boots can cause blisters and after a short time I had to stop as it felt like a huge sore place was developing on my ankle. Actually when I took my boot off, it was quite a small blister easily covered with a plaster, but it felt much worse. Something quite small gave a disproportionate amount of discomfort.

The Corona virus is actually another example. The virus is microscopic, we can’t see it without special equipment, but its impact on our lives has been huge. Its not always so negative though. ~Today we read how Jesus talks about small things having a big impact  for good. He does this in a collection of short parables designed to describe to us what the kingdom of God is like. 

We know that Jesus came to declare the arrival of the kingdom of God, which he does at the start of his ministry (Matt 4:17). He tells us that the Kingdom of God where God reigns over all his creation, that although it has already begun it is presently only recognised by those who open their eyes to it by accepting him, but that in time it will be accepted by everyone (Matt 13:24-33; 1 Cor 15: 24-28). In these parables Jesus gives us more information about what the kingdom is like.

First, in the parable of the mustard seed he tells us that something as tiny as a mustard seed can grow to become something very big. A mustard seed is tiny but it grows to become a tree so big that birds can make their homes in it. So what does that tell us about the kingdom of God? Perhaps that it begins in a very small way with one person. It only takes one person to make a stand for what is right, just and good to begin a revolution. It only takes one example of unconditional love and grace for others to want to follow. When one person is loved and cared for they learn to love others. When one person is treated with respect they learn to treat others with respect. And they pass that knowledge and desire to know Jesus onto others, and so the kingdom grows.

Unfortunately the opposite is also true. When someone is abused or treated with violence they learn to respond in kind. Those denied justice learn to satisfy their anger through hitting out. But that way never leads to satisfaction in the end. 

I remember the 1970’s when we were afraid to go to some large cities, particularly London because of bombing campaigns led by the IRA. The government response at the time was to (rightly) condemn the violence, but also to refuse to talk to terrorists. What ended it in the end was not a refusal to talk, but a willingness to listen and to take action towards a just agreement – the Good Friday agreement. While violence is always to be condemned and abhorred, that alone will not bring change. No amount of condemnation or harsh responses will create true peace while injustice persists and anger remains. 

The choice we have to make is towards a society based on kingdom values of justice, peace and love for one another, following the example of grace set by Jesus Christ, or to allow a world to persist where human misery is daily compounded by injustice and inequality because human beings are not treated with the love and respect they all deserve as children of the one God. Jesus says a small step will have a big impact.

He describes it as being like a small measure of yeast that can work through a whole batch of dough and leaven a whole loaf. Once we begin to act with kingdom values, those values spread through the community as others see how good it is and want to follow suit. They see that a community instilled with the values of the kingdom, a society that values truth, justice, peace and love, that cares for all people with equal respect is a very valuable thing to have.

So valuable in fact that Jesus says, someone who’s eyes are opened to the kingdom is like a person who finds treasure hidden in a field and then desired it so much that they go and sells everything they own to buy the field. Or like a merchant who finds one pearl with a value so great that they sell all they have to buy it. In other words discovering the kingdom, the way of Jesus, is something that is so valuable that once you have found and understood what following Jesus is about, then you are prepared to give up anything and everything to be part of it. 

Over the years I have heard many  people give testimony about this – how, when they discovered Jesus for themselves, they gave up a whole way of life in order to embrace the new life that they had found in Christ. It is very common testimony from those offering for ministry but it applies to many others as well.

But again, as with the parable of the weeds, there is a warning at the end in this reference to an eventual time of judgement. The net is thrown wide and all the fish are caught together, but there will be an eventual separation of the good from the bad.

So we have to choose which way to go with our lives. What will our approach be? Will we trust Jesus and choose to live by the values of the kingdom or will we follow the ways of the world which act to oppose God’s will in creation? 

When we look at the state of the planet, the state of many of our communities, the levels of injustice and inequality all around us we can see what the world order we have created so far has led to. The only remedy is to embrace a new world order that embraces the values of the kingdom of God and takes them seriously. 

Its is easy to feel, especially at the present time that we can’t have much influence as an individual that our contribution to all that is a drop in the ocean, but Jesus tells us that we act like the yeast in the bread gradually working through the whole community, that one small contribution can have a big effect although it may take time. A mustard tree no doubt takes time to grow and so does the kingdom of God. We need to be patient. But we can trust him to keep his word and his promises Amen.

Andrew Biggs 24th July 2020

Published by andrewpbiggs

Methodist minister currently serving the Gloucestershire Circuit. Married to Julie. Enjoy reading and playing the guitar badly.

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