|Pentecost 14, year A||September 14, 2014||Proper 19, Year A||Matthew 18:21-35|
|Pentecost 13, year A||September 7, 2014||Proper 18, Year A||Ezekiel 33:7-11, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20|
|Pentecost 11, year A||August 24, 2014||Proper 16, Year A||Matthew 16:13-20|
|Pentecost 10, year A||August 17, 2014||Proper 15, Year A||Matthew 15:10-20, 21-28|
|Pentecost 9, year A||August 10, 2014||Proper 14, Year A||Matthew 14:22-33|
|Pentecost 8, year A||August 3, 2014||Pentecost 8, year A||Matthew 14:13-21|
|Pentecost 6, year A||July 20, 2014||Proper 11, Year A||Romans 8:12-25|
|➤Pentecost 7, year A||July 20, 2014||Proper 12, Year A||I Kings 3:5-12, Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13:31-33|
|Pentecost 5, year A||July 13, 2014||Proper 10, Year A||Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, Psalm 65:9-14|
|Genevieve Davis’ Funeral Homily||July 13, 2014||Burial of the Dead, Rite II||Isaiah 35:1-10, I John 4:7-8,11-12, John 14:1-3|
|Pentecost 4, year A||July 6, 2014||Proper 9, Year A||Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30|
|Pentecost 3, year A||June 29, 2014||3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year A||Romans 6:12-23, Matthew 10:40-42|
|Pentecost 2, year A||June 22, 2014||Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year A||Psalm 69:8-20, Romans 6:1b-11, Matthew 10:24-39|
|Trinity Sunday, Year A||June 15, 2014||Trinity Sunday, Year A||Genesis 1:1-2:4a, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, Matthew 28:16-20|
|Pentecost, Year A||June 8, 2014||The Day of Pentecost, Year A||Acts 2:1-21, I Corinthians 12:3b-13, John 20:1-23|
Pentecost 7, year A
Sermon Date:July 20, 2014
Scripture: I Kings 3:5-12, Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13:31-33
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 12, Year A
"Parable of the Mustard Seed" – James Patterson
In today’s gospel, Jesus continues to tell the crowds the stories we know as parables.
After hearing about the mustard seed and the yeast, the people who heard these stories must have been saying to each other, “This man is crazy,”
Because, (according to Theodore Wardlaw in the commentary Feasting on the Word) in Galilee at the time, mustard seeds were less than worthless. These seeds produced a plant that was considered to be a nuisance, and no self-respecting farmer would have planted mustard seeds on purpose.
And yeast—yeast could kill you if you weren’t careful. If it had been growing for too long, then it became toxic. Basically, leaven was old dough that had fermented and was then added to new dough to make it rise.
In most places in the Bible, yeast or leaven, when it appears, is not a good thing—it usually represents sin or evil.
Even Jesus refers to yeast in a negative way later in the gospel according to Matthew, in Chapter 16, when he warns the disciples to beware of the yeast, that is, the false teaching, of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
The Apostle Paul reminds the Galatians and the Corinthians that just a little bit of yeast can leaven the whole batch of dough, just as a little bit of sin can contaminate a whole group of people.
So what on earth was Jesus trying to say when he told these parables using two things that people would have considered to be worthless?
One idea we can take from these parables is that even things that seem worthless or downright bad in our lives can turn out to be amazing!
Amazing enough to point us toward the kingdom of heaven itself!
The mustard seed grows into a great tree, so that the birds of heaven (that’s what the Greek says—the birds of heaven) come and make nests in its branches.
These words help us to catch a glimpse of the Tree of Life in the middle of Paradise, the Garden of Eden, where all of creation lived in harmony.
And the great tree of the parable also helps us to look forward to the heavenly city of God come down out of heaven to earth, where the tree of life with leaves for the healing of the nations lines the stream of living water that runs through the center of the City.
The woman in the parable mixes yeast into three measures of flour—the same amount of flour that Sarah used to prepare bread, at Abraham’s request, for the heavenly visitors that showed up at their tent in the middle of the wilderness.
A measure of flour was fifty pounds of flour—so with three measures of flour, Sarah was making bread enough for 150 people—enough bread for a celebration, enough bread for a heavenly banquet.
And in the parable, this yeast that the woman mixes into the flour will provide enough bread to feed lots and lots of people who might otherwise go hungry.
So now I’m going to tell you a modern day parable along these same lines.
The kingdom of heaven is like mold that grew in a petri dish full of staph germs left open for two weeks while a careless researcher was on vacation. And the dark green mold grew and turned black, and then bright yellow, and ever since, for 80 years has saved lives and brought healing to countless numbers of people.
This mold, of course, is penicillin, discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming, a researcher active in the early part of the 20th century. He was working with an influenza virus at St Mary’s Hospital in London when he accidentally stumbled upon the healing properties of a mold that had contaminated one of his experiments.
Fleming said of his discovery, “One sometimes finds what one is not looking for. When I woke up just after dawn on Sept. 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I guess that was exactly what I did.” http://www.healio.com/endocrinology/news/print/endocrine-today/%7B15afd2a1-2084-4ca6-a4e6-7185f5c4cfb0%7D/penicillin-an-accidental-discovery-changed-the-course-of-medicine
Today, penicillin has become the most widely used antibiotic in the world.
Something that could have been tossed out turned out to be a miracle.
In the familiar prayer attributed to St Francis, we see this same idea—taking what seems to be negative and using it for good. St Francis prayed that he would have the wisdom to use the negative things in his life for the good of God’s kingdom here on earth.
Francis knew that with God’s help, hatred could bring love, injury could bring pardon, discord could bring union, doubt could bring faith, despair could bring hope. Even these seemingly bad things that none of us want in our lives can turn into miracles of healing.
So here’s what I hope you’ll take home with you today from these two parables that Jesus told the crowds.
Jesus tells us to have the audacity and the courage to examine what seem to be worthless or downright negative in our lives.
Seek out the mold, the mustard seed, and the yeast in your life.
And then, remember to be like Solomon in today’s Old Testament reading and to ask God for a listening heart and a wise and discerning mind concerning these things—because with listening hearts and wise and discerning minds,
We can bring those seemingly worthless and downright negative things in our lives to God in prayer, even though we may not even know how to pray about them.
But God knows our difficulties, and the very Spirit that Jesus gave to be in us and with us, the Holy Spirit, will intercede for us with sighs to deep for words, so that God can use the weed seeds and yeast and mold in our lives for transformation rather than destruction.
And who knows, we might even find the kingdom of God springing up in us, like trees with enough branches to welcome in all of creation, or even like the Bread of Life itself, food for all and forever.
Resource: “Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52: Homiletical Perspective” by Theodore J. Wardlaw, pages 285-289, in Feasting on the Word: Year A Volume 3 Pentecost and Season after Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16). David Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 2011.