This week’s Thursday’s Thought for Sunday’s Service is based upon Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52:
“He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.””
(Matthew 13:31–33, NIV)
““The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “Yes,” they replied. He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”” (Matthew 13:44–52, NIV)
How am I guided by what I hear these days? I hope I’m led by the good lessons I’ve been taught through the years. Even so, I can feel ill equipped by comparison to the problems I face. Can God help?
I recall a few lessons of faith vividly imprinted in my memory, never far from my mind. They influence my decisions and do help in "steering the ship," but there are also many other lessons which have long disappeared underneath the surface, long forgotten. So, considering that “every little bit helps,” remembering, regaining what has gone unnoticed for a while may take a little practice. For example, long-forgotten lessons might be spurred by a small event or a single word from someone I overhear or, if I’m being directly spoken to, something gets innocuously mentioned apart from a point being made. In any case, recalling lessons both freshly learned as well as from the distant past, the spectrum of my life can witness to the eternal nature and vibrancy of God's kingdom.
But it’s not just my life. It’s all of us together who give witness and express the nature of God’s kingdom. Is it any wonder then that Jesus describes God’s kingdom through many different parables? Even though within this passage, they are grouped together in a small number of verses ... they all share a certain similarity. They suggest that if the gospel message seems small and insignificant considering today’s problems, God’s word still has a great effect, especially as we consider the broad spectrum of life.
Sewn throughout our world, scattered like seeds, the example and teaching of Jesus may seemingly disappear under the surface of things for a while, only to grow and develop with increasing potency.
And if God's word not only grows but also gains in value -- like a hidden treasure or valuable pearl, it follows that identifying and expressing this nature is important as the way God’s guidance is expressed.
So, considering the temporal world we live in, how does one sort out the disjointed, mixed metaphor, jumbled nature of our miscommunication, where we easily exacerbate problems and make our struggles bigger than life itself?
In casting our nets of faith to fish for a few recollections, what one may pull up will probably contain a catch that contains both good and bad. In this, Jesus suggests a great power which will sort things out, at the end of the age.
But can this really help in the here and now? Yes. For example, among my varied memories, time spent in Sunday School comes to mind. Many of those childhood days remain shrouded in my thinking, but if I coax it a little, let down my nets and do a little fishing, sometimes an image or two becomes a bit clearer. I gain when I remember how teachers back then tried to teach me the stories of Jesus and instill a confidence having to do with the blessings faith -- like how the first disciples, fishermen by trade, were asked by Jesus to lower their nets after a long night of catching nothing. A miracle ensued. Their catch was full to overflowing.
Remarkably, stories like these still have power to influence my choices in helpful, sustaining ways.
Rev. Richard Wagner