Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
I love this reading. I love the parables of Jesus, and trying to figure out what they mean for us today. I’m greatly helped in that task by Robert Farrar Capon’s book, The Parables of the Kingdom. Let’s start with the weeds. First of all, Capon would remind us that the Kingdom is the very seed that is sown. And as we know from reading scripture, that seed is good. It doesn’t have to grow to be the kingdom, it doesn’t have to produce fruit, it is, of itself the actual kingdom of God. But there is a problem. Weeds. We know all about weeds in Western Oregon! And, the farmers and gardeners among us might wonder just what kind of a grower Jesus might have been. “Let the weeds grow?” Not removing weeds in a timely fashion is a guarantee of many, many more weeds.
But let that go for a minute. What are we to do with evil? How are we to respond? Leave it be. Capon points out that the same word used for letting the weeds go is the same as our word forgive. What are we to do with evil? Let it go (song cue) and forgive it. Looked at in another way, each of us is the field of the kingdom, and God has planted beautiful seeds in each of us . . . and unfortunately there are a few weeds as well. In every single one of us, Mother Theresa included.
And here’s another funny thing about these parables. Might the next story of the mustard seed be an example of a weed that is sown? According to Pastor Courtney the answer is yes. Mustard seeds are insidious. Municipalities in the Middle East will not allow it to be grown in many places. If Jesus appeared in McMinnville this week, he might start this story: “The kingdom of God is like a blackberry seed.” Now you get the picture? The kingdom is impossible to stop, it will find a way, it is everywhere. I once heard that every Himalayan Blackberry in this country came from one seed that got away from Luther Burbank. Now there’s a picture of God’s presence and persistence!
But the best of all of these stories, the perfect picture of God’s presence is the bread baker. I don’t say that simply because I like to make bread. But there is so much to like. First of all, God is pictured as an old woman. And this is not a petite, homemaker fashioning a loaf or two. No, this is a baker! And she is creating around 120 pounds of bread dough. This is a big creation we’re talking about here.
And it doesn’t take much yeast to get it going. And, the yeast has to be present from the very start of anything that might become bread. I don’t know if you’ve ever made bread and forgot to add the yeast. Don’t try it. The yeast has to be added with the water if this thing is going to work. God’s spirit is at work in this world, bubbling up to the surface and trying to lighten things up a bit. And our own doubts and messed up lives may even help the process. Let me quote Capon: . . .by the imagery of bread making, they may even help the kingdom. Unless the dough is kneaded thoroughly—unless it resists and fights the baker enough to develop gluten and form effective barriers to the yeast’s working—then the gasses produced by the yeast will not be entrapped in cells that can lighten the lump into a loaf. Maybe even our foot-dragging and our backsliding—maybe even the gummy, intractable mass of our sins—is all in a day’s leavening to the Word who is the Yeast who lightens our lumpishness. Parables of the Kingdom, p 122
Quotes for the Week
[Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of
meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.” M.F.K. Fisher
“Vengeance is having a videotape planted in your soul that cannot be turned off. It plays the painful scene over and over again inside your mind . . . And each time it plays you feel the clap of pain again . . . forgiving turns off the videotape of pained memory. Forgiving sets you free.” Lewis B. Smedes
“Crabgrass can grow on bowling balls in airless rooms, and there is no known way to kill it that does not involve nuclear weapons.” Dave Barry
“When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.” Author Unknown
Lesson: Matthew 13:24-34 (NRSV)
24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
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 three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
34 Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing.
Questions for the Week
What is one weed in your life that you’d just love to yank out?
How do you respond to evil in the world?
Where are you struggling with faith and belief right now?