Pentecost 8, July 26, 2020

Title:Pentecost 8, July 26, 2020

Today’s readings remind us of God’s presence and how we are to respond to it. Solomon delights God by asking for a heart of wisdom to govern Israel. Paul confidently reminds the believers that God’s plan of salvation for them will be fulfilled. Jesus reveals to his disciples that the kingdom of heaven is worth all that they have.

Kings 3:5-12 reading comes from the beginning of the narrative of Solomon’s reign, based largely upon the “Book of the Acts of Solomon” (11:41). During a time of worship, Solomon has a dream, a customary form of divine communication (Genesis 20:3, 28:12, 31:11; Matthew 1:20, 2:19).

Solomon expresses a due sense of humility before the Lord and is already prudent enough to ask for “an understanding mind,” the grace of practical and judicial wisdom, rather than for wealth or long life. To later generations Solomon was the epitome and patron of all wisdom (Matthew 12:42), and the Jewish wisdom tradition was often associated with his name.

Romans 8:26-39 – The Spirit cooperates to bring the Christian’s prayer before God and compensates for our weakness. The Spirit intercedes for us, implying a full sharing in our suffering and longings. God, “who searches the heart,” (Proverbs 20:27) and the Spirit have one will and purpose (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). In the activity of prayer God is on both sides, both immanent and transcendent.

Verse 28, much beloved by Christians throughout the history of the Church, summarizes several of scripture’s clear teachings: (1) God is in control, of circumstances and of our lives; (2) God protects and guides those who belong to God; and (3) God is powerful and loving. In verses 29-30 Paul describes God’s plan of salvation. He is not dictating a rigidly deterministic framework for all humankind nor is he prescribing the fate of individuals. Scripture is clear that each individual will be held accountable for his or her response to the word (Ezekiel 18:20; John 3:18).

The tense of the verbs in verses 29 and 30 indicates a completed action. From God’s perspective, the whole work of redemption is an accomplished fact. We experience it as a process, painful and bewildering at times, but God assures us of the absolute certainty of its fulfillment.

The Gospel reading puts Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 together a sequence of three parables of the kingdom that are found only in Matthew. These parables begin with the customary phrase “the kingdom of heaven is like…,” but the meaning is more “it is the case with the kingdom of heaven as with…”. Thus the focus of the comparison can be shifted from one particular item to the pattern of whole story, especially its conclusion.

Matthew places these parables after Jesus has left the crowds and gone into the house (13:36); they are for the disciples’ ears only. The parables of the treasure (which, because there were no banks, was probably someone’s valuables buried to keep them safe and now long forgotten) and of the pearl emphasize the cost of discipleship, and the supreme value of the kingdom. The disciple may come upon the kingdom by chance or by diligent search. But in both cases, he recognizes its surpassing worth one must give up “all that he has,” relinquishing everything “in his joy.”

The parable of the net, like the parable of the weeds, presents the picture of the Church as a mixed body. Verse 47 may have been in itself a parable of mission, stressing the universality of the call to the kingdom, fish “of every kind.” The time of separation and judgment will come at the end.