1 Kings 3: 5-12, Romans 8: 16-end, Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52
We have all been there, the school concert, the eager parents, the nervous children, the harassed music teacher. One in particular sticks in my mind. Our little musical genius was not playing in this particular piece, so I can safely recount this story. The conductor raised her baton, mouthed very obviously to the children, “Don’t forget the B♭” and off they went. All was going smoothly until that B♭, when every single one of them forgot it. It is the same with poor old Matthew. He is laying out parable after parable in its barest essentials until, with a rush of blood to the head, he seizes on the parable of the net full of fish and gives us a full-throated apocalyptic interpretation, complete with gnashing of teeth. He had been doing so well! So, forget that bit, and let’s look at a mustard seed, some yeast, buried treasure, a pearl of great value and a net full of fish.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like all of these things, Jesus says. That’s five different parables, five different scenarios of what God’s rule on earth could look like. Talk about diversity!
We have all planted seeds while learning about this first parable, and though they have always sprouted, they have never grown into a tree. That’s because we sowed mustard and cress seeds, not mustard, which is a completely different plant. It can grow into a twisted, scrubby, leaf-filled shrub, a perfect hiding place for sparrows and other skulking birds. This is the polar opposite to the parable of the sower, where outcome was everything – 30 fold, 60 fold, 100 fold. Here, we follow one seed to maturity, and nobody eats it or sells it. That, says Jesus, is what the kingdom of heaven is like. It is gift, and not necessarily for humanity but for the wider creation. It’s not all about us, Jesus is saying. God loves and cares for the whole of creation – make space for them. That, brothers and sisters, is priority number one for the interregnum.
The yeast, visible at first, becomes invisible as it is incorporated into the flour. That is it. There is no mention of dough, of rising, of baking, of eating the bread: simply the action of making something invisible which will act in the future. Interregnum priority number 2: nurture potential, secrete it safely within future possibilities.
Buried treasure – take 4 hours out of your life to watch the whole of The Detectorists on BBC iPlayer – that will explain this parable, and make you laugh. The kingdom of heaven is worth more than everything we give up to achieve it. Interregnum priority number 3: be prepared to give up everything for a better outcome – you are not replacing me, you are getting someone better. Please note: this is the only parable that attaches joy to the discovery.
The pearl of great price – the same meaning as the buried treasure? Not at all. This is a single object for which everything is worth sacrificing. That’s what God’s rule is like. Interregnum priority number 4: what is the one big thing you really want to achieve during this period, before some new charlatan in a dog collar turns up and starts pushing you around?
And the net filled with good and bad fish? How is that like the Kingdom of Heaven? The kingdom of heaven knows the difference between good and bad, between good, better and best. Interregnum priority number 5: don’t just go for what is OK, that rubs along, that just about works. Set out to achieve the best – in worship, in prayer, in music, in study, in care, in communication, in love – every Sunday and every day of the week.
And that’s it. Let’s all say Amen
Rev Peter Hart