Sunday 23 July 2017

Pentecost 7, Parable of the wheat and the tares or weeds, Matthew 13 v24-33

This year I am having to watch that my vegetables dont dry out. Im lucky I dont depend on the vagaries of the weather like the first century subsistence peasant farmer in our story. 

There are two types of parables: there are teaching parables and there are kingdom parables. Kingdom parables were designed for people with ears that do not hear. They serve to draw out the true seeker, while confusing the rest. They usually begin with the phrase "the kingdom of God / heaven is like....." They are similar to an Old Testament riddle, told in an environment of skepticism. The kingdom of God happens despite everything else that is going on.

The kingdom parables are "designed to overturn deeply held opinions and to call into question our values, our ethics. In the Old Testament in the Hebrew masal, they were an obscure saying or riddle. The crowds will hear the riddle, the hidden things and go home- they hear and do not understand. Those who want to follow God will want to know what it means. 

Speaking with the crowds, Jesus proclaims that the coming of the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a farmer who has completed his planting and now waits for the harvest.

Matthew as a true Jew doesn’t mention God by name but mentions his Kingdom, his attributes. 
The man has sowed good seed but while everyone was asleep someone else sowed 
Bearded Darnel a poisonous weed which, in the early stages of growth, looks like wheat.

The workers came and asked how this happened but you couldn’t pull up the weeds 
without pulling up the wheat. So they have to grow together until the harvest when they 
will be sorted and the wheat burned. 

The explanation that Jesus gives later in the passage is that the field is the world, the seed is us and we are sown by the Son of Man or the evil one. All will be harvested and the evil ones will be judged/burnt! . Life has an endpoint, maybe even a reckoning for all that is wrong and unjust.

The parable of the Weeds illustrates a time of blessing, and a time of cursing, which is real!.
This is how it is!

This parable has its setting in a field, which is the world.  From the Early Church Fathers, through Augustine, and up to the Reformers, the field was seen as the church. Jesus is saying the field is the inhabited earth, the world, the kingdom is somewhere in it. The holy ones are alongside the wicked, but only for a time.

So Gods kingdom is with us us and its effects are here and now although its presence is diluted by powers of darkness which confuse us. The kingdom of God is made of up of wheat and weeds, true believers and people who have evil intent. God will deal with them in the day of judgment.

So what is the Kingdom like? It is like a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds in Palestine, but like the story in Ezekiel 17:23, Israel will find shelter in it. Even the birds will nest in it. And so it is with us. Great events often have small beginnings. So we are encouraged to keep sowing however small the seed.

The riddle of the parable has roots in Old Testament theology in Ps. 104:12, Ezk.17:23, the day when Israel will find shelter is at hand.

Great events often have small beginnings. So we are encouraged to keep sowing however small the seed. In this skeptical age this is encouragement, to hope and be patient because however insignificant we may be, we can have great influence!

Then we have the parable of the yeast or leaven.
Jesus is telling the story of a woman who was making bread. He says, ‘Look over there. Do you see that woman behind the window? Do you see what she is doing? She is going to make a loaf of bread, maybe even several loaves of bread. She already got her pans and pots ready. Now she is mixing flour, water, yeast and a pinch of salt together. The yeast is a very important ingredient because it causes the dough to rise. Later when it is all leavened, the woman will bake the bread.’
We know that bread made simply from water and flour is dry and very hard. That is why we mix it with a raising agent like yeast or leaven. When you put the dough in a warm place, at the right temperature, the leaven changes the quality of the bread by making it porous and moist. Through the process of fermentation, the whole dough is filled with air and it becomes very soft.

What does the parable mean?
The yeast represents God’s work and the bread is the world. This means that the church is the leaven working inside the world, the bread, and its influence spreads throughout the world. Everyone is affected by this leaven. 

So we have three parables. The first teaches us that we live with good and evil and often the evil looks like good! The second teaches us to start with small things to do, sow a seed and let it grow, nourish it, cultivate it until it benefits everyone.

Lastly we are taught that what we do for God is like yeast in dough. It changes our society which is what we are called to do. 

Let us go and do like wise!



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