(sermon note: 02-12 sermon note)
He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 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?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 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.” ’
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.’
Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet:
‘I will open my mouth to speak in parables;
I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.’
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a king who was fed up with the constant jokes about the men in his kingdom being afraid of their wives. He wanted to find a man who wasn’t afraid of his wife and give him public honors and lavish him with gifts so other men may follow suit. After some brainstorming in the court, the king announced to his subjects, “If a man comes forward and publically says that he is not afraid of his wife, then that man will win the best horse from the king’s stables.” The king waited with bated breath for someone to come forward. Days passed but nobody came forward. The king was about to lose all hope when suddenly a man came into his court saying that he was not afraid of his wife. The king was over the moon thinking that there was indeed a real man in his kingdom. He called all his subjects to a big field and introduced them to the man who was definitely not afraid of his wife. Everyone applauded in awe as the king presented him with the best red horse in his stable. The man disappointingly looked at the horse. The king was confused. “What is it? You don’t like the horse?” he asked. The man sheepishly replied, “Actually, if you don’t mind your highness, my wife asked me to bring a white horse.”
That one strikes my funny bone pretty good! Silly man, thought he was unique and could convince the king he wasn’t afraid of his wife. But the truth was that he was just as mindful of his wife’s wraith as the next guy. Of course, it’s grossly sexist to suggest that all the men in that kingdom were justified in fearing their wives, that wives in general are a frightening group of people. They are no more frightening than husbands can be. In fact, throughout history husbands in general have been considered far more frightening than wives. Husbands have done far more damage, both mentally and physically, to their wives than vice versa. Perhaps that’s what makes the joke so funny, the notion that an entire kingdom was filled with frightened husbands. It certainly goes against reality!
Well, a kingdom full of frightened husbands isn’t a kingdom that Jesus taught about nor brought about. Nor a kingdom of frightened wives for that matter! No, Jesus worked at establishing a kingdom without fear altogether. Fear of any kind has no place in Jesus’ kingdom which is really quite unusual if we think about it. Our kingdoms throughout history have mostly been defined by the fear they’ve imposed on people. Kings have either ruled over their people through frightening measures or gone out and battled rival kingdoms through frightening tactics. Kings have, for the most part, instilled fear which makes Jesus’ kingship so radically different.
In today’s reading, Jesus gave us three understandings of his kingdom, none of which were frightening by nature. Even the initial understanding, the one about the good seed and bad seed and the weeds being uprooted and burned, isn’t necessarily meant to instill fear as it is to assure us of his power over the work of the devil. The devil is the one who instills fear. The devil is always working to tear down and destroy the good seed the God has planted in this world. The good plans, the good work, the good people…the devil is desperately trying to snuff them out and steal their resources just like weeds do. But you know what? The devil’s work is weak work. Weeds are weak plants. They’re persistent but ultimately not as strong as non-weeds. God’s kingdom allows for both good and bad seeds and God himself takes care of the weeds. We ought not be afraid of the weeds nor must we necessarily do anything about them. God is aware of them and He’ll take care of them in due time. Be assured!
In the other two understandings of God’s kingdom, Jesus uses similarly non-frightening descriptions, first likening it to a mustard seed and then to yeast. Who can be afraid of mustard seed or yeast?! So small and insignificant, yet can blossom and transform into mighty awareness. Jesus wanted to convey this through his parables, how the kingdom of God is an unfolding awareness. The kingdom is less a destination as it is a revelation. I love this about his teaching! The kingdom of God isn’t a place we’re going to, it’s the act of going. It’s an ongoing, ever-evolving revelation. The kingdom is here this morning and yet the kingdom is yet to come. In fact, the kingdom has been unfolding for us for several weeks already. We just didn’t know it! Think back to our initial reflection on Jesus’ sermon on the mount when we looked at his Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (5:3) A little further in his sermon, Jesus advises us, “but strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (6:33) Even further, “not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (7:21) We’ve already been striving for the kingdom for several weeks now! And you know what? It’s been here already! And it’ll continue to be here as long as you and I gather each week to prayerfully reflect on God’s word. Friends, we are bringing about the kingdom just as Jesus brought about and continues to bring about his kingdom! In Luke, ch. 17, we hear, “Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’ (vs. 20-21) We have invited Jesus into our midst and he is present with us today. The kingdom HAS come!
Next week we’re going to celebrate Jesus’ transfiguration, a time when Jesus took three of his disciples up a mountain and revealed his full glory to them. Truly shocked and amazed, one of them suggests building a tent to capture and contain the glory of Jesus for all to behold. But this would go against what we just learned! The kingdom isn’t a destination, it’s an ongoing revelation. It’s an unfolding awareness of the love of God. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “for the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (14:17) The kingdom of God is not fear but love. Let us rejoice in the love come to us this morning. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.