Revd. Tim’s Sermon from Last Sunday, 26th July, 7th Sunday after Trinity
Mt. 13:31-33, 44-52; Rom. 8: 26-39
St. Andrew’s Totteridge:10 a.m. Zoom service
26th July 2020: 7th Sunday after Trinity
O God, help us to listen to your word with understanding, to receive it with faith, and to obey it with courage, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
Last Sunday, Margaret talked to us about, if I understood her correctly, how confusing the mixture of wheat and weeds in the parable of the same name can be. She urged us not to be judgemental in wanting to be doing a bit of uprooting ourselves now and again. This was how the slaves felt when Jesus said, don’t do that now, be patient, otherwise you’ll only manage to uproot the good with the bad.
This week, Jesus is still on the same track, trying to get us to understand that no-one is perfect, and that if there is any life-judging to be done, any disqualification to be attempted, this is best left to him and his Father. In Matthew’s gospel, “the angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous” – the evil from the good (13.49).
But is that possible? In his ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde’, R. L. Stevenson concludes that evil and good are forever entwined. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn struggled with this too, writing in The Gulag Archipelago that,
Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years.
And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains… an un-uprooted small corner of evil.
Since then, I have come to understand the truth of all religions in the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.
And, of course, the message we can take from this is, ‘who are we to think that we are exempt from retaining a little bit of evil inside each and every one of us.’ We too need to be patient, with others and ourselves, and realise that it is hard for us to get things right, but that doesn’t mean we should write ourselves off, or that we should be written off by others. “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Rom.8.26)
Some of us stumble upon the kingdom of God almost by accident when we’ve been looking for something else. Others search diligently all their lives and, in the end, find what they are looking for. But when you do find the kingdom – i.e. the reign of God on earth of justice, peace and presence – when you do find the kingdom, whether by accident or design, the response is exactly the same. You know this is what you’ve been searching for all your life. You know this is worth everything. And so, you go, metaphorically or literally, and sell everything you have and buy that field, or buy that pearl of great value.
These parables can be read as if they are about sacrifice. The emphasis being placed on those words, ‘sells all that he has’ (v.44). We miss the point if we focus on what it is we have to give up in order to follow God’s call. These parables are about value, not sacrifice. Ask yourself, is the man digging the field richer at the beginning or at the end of the story? Is the merchant better off after he sells everything or before?
When St. Paul writes of the surpassing value of knowing Christ, he is not exaggerating (Phil. 3.8). Coming to know God in Jesus Christ, and discovering the kingdom, are the greatest treasures this world affords, treasures that last into the next. What we can do, as we reflect on these parables, is ask ourselves, how do the values of the kingdom affect our own values in this world? Can we see how the great vitality of the love of God is vital, in all our thinking about everything?
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 The Parable of the Mustard Seed
31 He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 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.’
The Parable of the Yeast - 33 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.’
Three Parables - 44 ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Treasures New and Old - 51 ‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ 52 And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
God’s Love in Christ Jesus
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.