The seventh Sunday after Trinity

26 July 2020

READINGS

Genesis 29.15-28

 

Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?’ Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’ Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.’ So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.’ So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?’ Laban said, ‘This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me for another seven years.’ Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

Romans 8.26-39

 

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. 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.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 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. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 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? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 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. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
   we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 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.

Matthew 13.31-33,44-52

 

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.’

‘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.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ 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.’

Collect

Lord of all power and might,

the author and giver of all good things:

graft in our hearts the love of your name,

increase in us true religion,

nourish us with all goodness,

and of your great mercy keep us in the same;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

(or)

Generous God,

you give us gifts and make them grow:

though our faith is small as mustard seed,

make it grow to your glory

and the flourishing of your kingdom;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

SERMON

Richard Finlinson

The reading from Matthew is a chapter where Jesus was talking to crowds by a lake from a boat since there were so many in the crowd and he was telling them several parables. The section of our reading is all about what the kingdom of heaven is like.

 

It shows a definite turning point in the ministry of Jesus. At the beginning of his ministry we find him teaching in the synagogues , but now we find him teaching on the sea-shore. The change is very significant . It was not that the door of the synagogue was as yet finally shut to him , but it was closing. In the synagogue he would still find a welcome from ordinary people , but the official leaders were now in open opposition to him. The scribes and Pharisees and elders were trying to find fault with him and turn it into an accusation.

 

It is one of the supreme tragedies that Jesus was banished from the church of his day but that did not stop him and his message of good news. He simply took to the open air , village streets and roads , by the lakeside and in people's homes.

 

Anyone who has a real message to deliver and a real desire to deliver it , will always find a way of passing it on. Are we like that ? Do we have a desire to pass on the good news of Jesus ? Are we willing to find any way to talk about him and the life he brings to all who believe ? Or are we too shy to do so ? Too diffident or embarrassed to talk about Jesus ? Or worried that other people will ignore what we have to say ?

 

Surely we should take our lead from Jesus , himself , who could not be stopped from passing on the good news about God and his forgiveness for all mankind. Perhaps we need to ask for Jesus strength to do his will and talk to others before setting out each day .

 

The great teaching value of the parable is that it compels interest . The surest way to interest people is to tell them stories. The parable puts truth in the form of a story. The simplest definition of a parable is " an earthly story with a heavenly meaning ".

 

One final thing must be remembered . The parable , as Jesus user it , was spoken , not read. Its impact had to be immediate . Generally speaking it will only have one point to make.

 

In the parable of the mustard seed we have to remember that in Palestine the little grain of mustard seed did indeed grow into a form of tree which could easily be 12 feet high or more. It was a common sight to see such mustard trees surrounded with a cloud of birds. The point of the parable is crystal clear. The kingdom of heaven starts from the smallest of beginnings but no one knows where it will end. In Middle Eastern language and in the Old Testament itself , a great empire is pictured as a great tree with the subject nations depicted as birds finding rest and shelter within its branches. This parable tells us that the kingdom of heaven begins very small but that in the end many nations will be gathered within it.

 

We can be that mustard seed . Small and insignificant to start with but with Jesus help we can have a large impact on others around us . Who knows how far that impact will go ?

 

It is the fact of history that the greatest things must always begin with the smallest beginnings. An idea which may well change civilization begins with one person. In the British Empire it was William Wilberforce who was responsible for the freeing of slaves. We , too , can have an impact for Jesus from our small beginnings . Never despise the small mustard seed !

 

The parable of the yeast in the bread is about one thing............ the transforming power of the yeast. Yeast changed the character of the baking. Without the yeast bread would be unappetizing and uninteresting . But with yeast it is transformed into something which is good to eat. So does the coming of the kingdom cause a transformation in life.

 

The parable of the treasure hidden in a field is about a man who found this treasure in his daily work as he stumbled unexpectedly upon it. The kingdom of heaven................ what a find in everyday life ! It would be a sad thing if it were only in churches , in so-called holy places and in so-called religious occasions that we found God and felt close to him.

 

There is an unwritten saying of Jesus which never found its way into any of the Gospels but which rings true : " raise the stone and you will find me : cleave the wood and I am there " . When the mason is working on the stone , when the carpenter is working the wood , Jesus is there. True happiness , true satisfaction , the sense of God and the presence of Christ are all to be found in the day's work when that work is honestly and conscientiously done.

 

Brother Lawrence , the great seventeenth century saint and mystic , spent much of his working life in the monastery kitchen among the dirty dishes and he could say " I felt Jesus Christ as close to me in the kitchen as ever I did at the blessed sacrament . "

 

Would that we could say the same as Brother Lawrence and find Jesus present in all we do , think and say from waking up to going to sleep at the end of the day ! What an ambition to achieve that level of the realization that Jesus is always with us ! But we can achieve this if we but ask him at our waking in the morning and keep him in our minds throughout the day . How much better would our lives be , our relationships with others and our effectiveness through each day.

 

The parable of the fish teaches that the time of sorting people out will come. But it is not our work to decide who is good and who is bad , but God's. How often are we judgmental ? It is the nature of a fishing net that it draws all things into it as it is pulled through the water. If we apply that to the church it means that the church cannot discriminate but is bound to be a mixture of all kinds of people , good and bad , useless and useful . It is not the place of any one of us to say who is committed to Christ and who is not. The church must be open to all and like the fishing net , as long as it is a human institution , it is bound to be a mixture.

 

So........ what can we learn from all of this ? Perhaps, that if we feel Jesus close to us in all we do throughout the day , we , too , can be like the little mustard seed and grow into a large tree and be beneficial to all we meet and introduce others to Jesus and ultimately , heaven.

HYMN

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice like mountains high soaring above
Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish, but nought changeth Thee.

Great Father of Glory, pure Father of Light
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
All laud we would render, O help us to see:
’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee.

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.