Summary: The Kingdom of God stars from small beginnings
Illustration: There’s a traditional saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin which says,
" For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for the want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for the want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for the want of care about a horseshoe nail.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus touches on a similar theme. But before we touch on that theme, I would like to say a few words of introduction about how we should read the Bible
1. Plain Meaning
When we read the Bible, I believe it is
important that we give the Bible its plain meaning.
In other words, if you presented the passage to a judge in a Court of Law, how would he interpret it.
Plain meaning doesn’t always mean its literal meaning to us.
2. The Original Text
A judge would first look to see what the original text said. This has been done by many scholars and is called “textual criticism” – and out of that a large number of English translations of the Bible have come about
So the best way to try and understand what the original text says is to take a look at a few different translations of the Bible to see the meaning
3. Literary Genre
Then the judge would look at the literary Genre and there are at least 14 different Genres in the Bible.
The 66 books of the Bible have different genres. Genres like History, Poetry, Revelation, Parables and even Hyperbole.
Comment on hyperbole: Jesus when he told his disciples that they should take the plank out of their own eye before taking the speck out of their brother’s eye. I am sure he wasn’t only speaking to people in Jerusalem walking around with a 15 foot plank sticking out of their eye!!
4. What was the meaning of the passage to the first recipients of the text
My hypothetical judge would then ask “ What was the meaning of the passage to the first recipients of the text” taking into account their culture and what would be assumed by the hearers. What do I mean by assumed.
If I were to ask you if children under 18 should be allowed to drink – you would assume I am not talking about water!!
It is only after asking these questions that we can start to try to apply the passage to our every day lives.
5. The Parable of the growing seed and the Mustard seed
Our Gospel reading today covers two parables.
A parable is a story taken from everyday life used to illustrate a more abstract and deeper matter. In our Gospel passage today, the deeper matter is the Kingdom of God.
Both have to do with the growing of seed, pointing to the fact that the Kingdom of God is not about big and powerful goings on, but starts from small beginnings
It speaks of small beginnings – and also of patience.
The farmer has to wait a long time to see his harvest
In God’s kingdom, the time for preparation can be a long time.
It is quite the opposite of the McDonaldisation of Christianity that we tend to see today.
But just as the seed needs good soil and needs to develop good roots to grow effectively, so it is with our own Christian lives and also with the church.
Jesus gives us permission to start small!!
In these two parables Jesus also is speaking about the rule of God.
What would we expect the rule of God to look like and where would we look for it?
In our time we are not used to being ruled by an absolute monarch, but the people of Jesus’ day were.
So what would they have expected?
“Their king in their day was Caesar, the Roman emperor, ruling from distant Rome though his governors with efficient authority.
Caesar was the equivalent of a god, and indeed at some times was worshipped as a god. His power was absolute, and obedience was demanded. His presence was attended by much pomp and ceremony.
He lived in luxurious palaces, and enjoyed rich food and fine wine from golden vessels.“ (Common Worship, Living Word B3)
For the Jews in Jesus day, God’s kingdom would be expected to mirror at the very least the hated Caesar’s kingdom.
But Jesus surprises them
“The kingdom about which Jesus speaks is altogether quieter, and smaller.
It sneaks up on you like a thief in the night, it lies dormant in the ground waiting to produce a tiny sprout, it hides in ordinary working folk, farmers, shepherds, fishermen, housewives, as they go about their everyday business.
God’s reign is present everywhere, hidden, tiny, ordinary. “ (Common Worship Living Word B3)