This is a guest post from my colleague Revd. Jim Mynors, who is preaching for us this Sunday 26th July.
Some ‘parables’ are what we call stories and may come with an explanation. We’ve had two of those in the last couple of weeks. But rounding off Matthew’s collection we have no less than five: all very brief and none with an explanation except that they’re all about ‘the kingdom of heaven’. And Jesus’ often puzzled listeners claimed to understand them!
The five cover a range of human activity: horticulture, cooking, real estate management, dealing in fine jewellery and fishing business. They seem unrelated to one another. But they have one thing in common. They’re all about good news and we could do with more of that just now.
First there’s the capacity of a tiny seed to grow into a huge tree. I used to live near the Cambridge botanic garden where you could find such a tiny seed with the capacity to grow into a Giant Sequoia the biggest organism on our planet and the most impressive of the great tree collection there. Likewise in our villages the ‘kingdom’ may seem tiny at times: but think how Jesus’ activities in small rural communities grew to be the most powerful force in today’s populous world.
Notice, too, this isn’t just about ‘the church’ – a narrowly defined inward-looking group on the margins. The key to bread-making is the addition of a small amount of yeast to a quantity of flour – an ingredient that spreads and transforms the whole mix. So too an entire village can be transformed by an apparently insignificant Christian influence as I’ve observed in the many villages where I have worked.
Nor is this just about a hobby. Since March I’ve been able to ‘zoom’ with half a dozen interest groups. Some have enthusiastic leaders. But Jesus parables are about an enthusiasm like that the finder of the Staffordshire Hoard (remember 2009) or just typical Antiques roadshow participants. Without saying in detail what the ‘kingdom’ would be like Jesus correctly anticipated that millions would come to give everything for it.
And finally, however exactly we’re to think about the sorting process: a good world is only one where evil has seem separated out and removed. A milestone for me in the easing of the ‘lockdown’ was the reopening of the Stanford recycling centre. Another was the reopening of my favourite local charity shop. Why? Because I’m sure I’m not the only one who has used recent weeks for sorting. And how good it feels when only the good remains after the sort. So Jesus must often have noticed with the fishermen of Galilee.