Scripture: Matthew 13:31-35
Key verses: (31, 33) “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed… like yeast…”
Reflection: Mustard. Palestinian farmers were troubled by mustard. As I said in a sermon a few months back, mustard was not what we think of as we smear it on hotdogs. Mustard was an invasive weed like kudzu is to us. It took over.
Yeast (or leaven, as our older English bibles translated the word). Leaven was smelly. It was old, leftover dough in a high state of fermentation. Just like day-old fish scrapings left in our trash can smell up the whole house, so leaven could smell up a room. Leaven was therefore not always welcomed. It could be troublesome.
Yet Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone deliberately sowed in a field. He says the kingdom of heaven is like a little, smelly ball of leaven someone deliberately hid (that is the Greek word used in the text) in a huge amount of flour, three measures — about fifty pounds of flour!
What happened? The mustard took over and became a “tree” grand enough to shelter the birds of the air. That tree refers to the tree from a dream Daniel interpreted — the tree “whose top reached heaven and was visible to the end of the whole earth…which provided food for all…and in whose branches the birds of the air had nests” (Daniel 4:20-21). And that leaven made those fifty pounds of flour rise into more than enough bread to feed over a hundred people. Could such a large amount of bread be a sign of the Messianic Feast to whom Jesus invites all people?
I am intrigued by these parables. For how often is it that Jesus is troublesome to us? How often is it that his description of God’s Beloved Community is offensive to us?
This week I sat in on a group of young adults here at the church who had ventured out to share an afternoon with residents of a drug treatment shelter. These Myers Park young adults were reflecting on their encounters with the residents of that shelter. They knew Jesus said these were their sisters and brothers. These Myers Park young adults were troubled. For having to acknowledge these other people are indeed part of their family, their community, ones Jesus welcomes at the same Table to which he welcomes them was unsettling. Yet, was the way Jesus was messing within the lives of these Myers Park young adults like the mustard and leaven — little invasive, troublesome irritants shaping citizens of the kingdom of heaven?
How is Jesus like an invasive weed in your life today? How is Jesus like smelly fermenting old dough in your dwelling place today? Consider today the way Jesus, by troubling your life, is at work shaping you into being a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. And give thanksgiving to God for being so troubled!
“The peace of God, it is no peace, but strife closed in the sod,
Yet let us pray for but one thing — the marvelous peace of God.” Amen.
William Alexander Percy (1885-1942) from the hymn, “They Cast Their Nets in Galilee”
Author: Pete Peery
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].