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Saturday, July 25, 2020
Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 13:31–33, 44–52
He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 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.” 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.”
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (NRSV)
There are two ways I read this text. The first is imagining Jesus delivering all these examples of the kingdom of heaven in rapid fire succession. It’s a lot to take in. Slow down, Jesus! I can’t keep up! It reminds me of my college statistics professor. I struggled to understand the abstract concepts, and so I wrote down every example that might help me eventually understand.
The second way is to imagine Jesus as the wise and patient teacher who knew that the more abstract the concept, the more examples were needed. A kingdom of heaven that’s the opposite of what we are experiencing? Say more. I imagine Jesus scanning the crowd and looking into each face. Do they understand? Did I connect with them? Do they need a different example? It’s like a mustard seed, a treasure, yeast, a pearl. Do you need more? I’ll keep going. That’s the Jesus I prefer to imagine.
To his first listeners Jesus was describing a world they could not imagine. There was a twist to each parable, something so outlandish that it would have grabbed their attention. Some of these examples are outlandish to me. I cannot imagine the sort of kingdom Jesus describes any more than I understood the esoteric concepts of statistics.
Maybe I don’t need to understand all of the examples. Maybe I need to understand just one. Maybe all the examples are given because there are so many ways of learning and understanding. Maybe Jesus is the wisest and most patient of teachers who pays attention to his students and loves the diversity of their thinking.
Patient teacher, thank you for loving the way my mind works. Help me use you as my model as I work to bring about your kingdom here on earth. Amen.
Written by Andrea Denney, Executive Director of Operational Ministries
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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