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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Ordinary Sunday 17, Year A
South Sydney Uniting Church
July 30, 2017

Genesis 29:15-28; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

‘Love comes first’

Jesus is talking about his experience of G-d (or heaven), the way he feels the presence of G-d in his heart and all around him. And Jesus wants to share this experience – feelings and thoughts, values and hopes – that’s why he tells stories about it. So that disciples (students) might understand and enjoy – and share – their faith too. G-d be with you

He describes his experience of G-d as entering the “kindom of heaven” – in Greek (Matthew’s Gospel) the term is βασιλεία … basileia ... in Hebrew (Jewish Scriptures) the term is malkuth … and in Aramaic (the language Jesus spoke), malkutha … It’s a word Jesus uses over and over. It’s very important to him because it means something like the place where love is king or queen, the place where love rules … or simply, the place where love is.  

Where is G-d? Where is heaven? Jesus says, you’ll find G-d, you’ll find heaven in the place where love rules, or in the place where love is. And according to the parables Jesus tells, that place is all over the place!

It’s in the soil that nurtures the seed. It’s in the tiny mustard seed that grows into a tall bush. It’s in the heart and actions of someone who knows what real treasure is. It is a pearl more valuable than any property. It’s in the joy of finding a coin or sheep that was lost, or seeing someone again you thought had gone away forever. It’s like the yeast a baker takes and mixes with the flour …

When I was growing up there was a pop song by a singer called Belinda Carlisle I really liked. Some people might know it: “They say in heaven love comes first/ We’ll make heaven a place on earth/ Ooh, heaven is a place on earth” (1987).

That’s a very good song about the kindom of heaven.

Kin means relative, like brother or sister, parent or child, cousin – member of the family. It can also mean friend, neighbour … comrade, companion … We might say that a good friend is a mate … We might call a dog or cat “baby” or “buddy” … Margaret paints the fig trees she loves and sees them as fellow beings … Pamela once suggested that “family of G-d” might be a good translation for “kindom of heaven”.

Seek this family first, Jesus teaches (Matt. 6:33). Look for this love, this underlying holiness, this connection, this way of sharing what’s needed for life, this family feeling or Spirit … And don’t let other things worry you too much. Once you enter this kindom of heaven you’ll be with G-d and you’ll want to share everything … you’ll have everything you need …

Even a little of this love – like a little bit of yeast – can make a big difference.

Jesus tries all kinds of ways to share his experience. He knows it’s not always easy to enter a place where love is, and not easy to stay there.

Sometimes, it seems, we prefer living in other kingdoms – kingdoms of fear, guilt or shame; kingdoms of competition, greed, hatred, violence. We don’t want to care for little feelings or ideas about love. We don’t have the patience for that. We don’t want to think of people we don’t like as kin, as family. We might not want to feel a spiritual connection to animals or rocks or trees …

Jesus is teaching a wisdom that Aboriginal people know very well. We are all connected to the land, through the land. There’s an underlying holiness in the Earth. The land is sacred. The Spirit is in the water, the animals …

Jesus was a Jewish teacher (rabbi), and bread had special meaning for Jewish people. They remembered that G-d had rescued them from slavery. This was one of their most precious memories/beliefs. G-d was the G-d of freedom. And when Moses gave them instructions for escaping their place of captivity (in Egypt), they obeyed what G-d said through Moses and made their bread quickly so they’d be ready to go. Making their bread quickly meant there was no time for yeast, no time for waiting until yeast activates and dough rises. And so they liked to eat flat bread …

So when Jesus described his experience of G-d in a story about a baker adding yeast to a batch of dough, some of his disciples would have thought, “Oh no! That’s not for us! That’s not how we think about bread/G-d!

“Is it?”

Yeast activates the dough, yeast changes the dough, just like asking a question changes what we (and others) think and feel. Jesus is encouraging us to ask questions about life and about the way we live.

Are there different types of bread? Are there other ways to bake it and break it (that nourishment might be enjoyed and shared)? Who has something fresh to share with us that might be good for us? Have we been unkind or unfair to some people? Have we pushed long-suffering souls away (just like we push away yeast as something we don’t like or value)? Can our G-d speak to us through human and non-human beings we thought ungodly? Are there new ways for us to organise our community, our worship – more inclusive ways of celebrating difference? Making space so that this might be (and might keep being) a place where love rules? … Amen.