Monday, July 21, 2014

mustard seed

The parable of the Mustard seed

The Good news

The way we see God, others and ourselves is through the lenses of our culture, how we have been taught to see. Someone once asked God why God had sent a son, not a daughter to show God to us. God’s reply seemed to be that God’s daughter has come a million times only no one has ever recognised her because she was a woman.
In the Gospel reading set for today, we have a number of small illustrations of the kingdom of heaven. The final one in Mat 13:52 says, “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.” Have we in the church been guilty of just going along with the old and been too reluctant to use the new? Could this be why some many of the younger generations no longer have time for the church? We are too attached to the old?

The Good News is that this passage suggests there is new available for our use, new ways of seeing and valuing every person, daughters and women as well as sons and men. People without children as well as those with them are blessed by God in different ways. We have the assurance in Romans that all things work together for good and that nothing can separate us for the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus. We can encourage our scribes to bring out the new for us to embrace as part of the kingdom of heaven for us all.
Rev Julianne Parker
(see sermons page for full sermon)

The opposite

The opposite of the kingdom of heaven
is that loss of spirit,
that diminution of hope,
that dark emptiness,
where the possibilities
of surprise and generosity
have been forgotten.
No seeds grow,
the birds make no nests,
and no one searches for pearls.

© Ken Rookes 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A parable about ambiguity

"At heart, this parable isn’t about the nature of evil and provides little material for constructing a coherent theodicy (if there even is such a thing). Rather, I think this parable is about ambiguity. Yes, the sower planted with good seeds. Yes, there are now weeds strewn among the wheat that puts the ideal harvest the sower had imagined at risk. Ideally, the servants could just rip out the weeds, but the sower knows that to tear out the weeds now risks ruining the maturing wheat as well. And so the sower must wait, living with both the wheat and the weeds until the day of harvest when they may be separated in due time.
How often do we not also face similar dilemmas? If not with wheat and weeds (although there may be a few gardeners in your congregation who sympathize with the sower!), then with a multitude of other difficult choices:
like between getting a job to support the family or staying at home to spend more time with the family;
or between supporting someone who consistently struggles at work and pulls the quality of your team down or firing that person;
or between choosing the best school you’ve been accepted to or one that is more affordable;
or between two different treatment options in responding to a grave illness;
or between staying in your current call where things are comfortable or choosing to move on to newer, but unknown, pastures;
or between giving into peer pressure because it just plain sucks to be left out or choosing to stick to your values and risk isolation;
Do you see what I mean, dear Partner? Our lives are littered with situations where there is no clear or easy answer. And yet we rarely talk about these things in church. Maybe we don’t know what to say. Or maybe we ourselves aren’t quite sure how the faith relates to this. But I hear in this parable Jesus’ promise that in ambiguous, challenging situations we have the promise that, in the end, God will sort things out."

Monday, July 14, 2014


© Ken Rookes 2014 


It is too neat; this allegory-parable
of judgement, burning weeds and
the furnaces of hell.
It purports to be the words
of the itinerant teacher called Jesus.
Perhaps it is;
doesn’t make it right, though.
Does that shock you?
Feel free to pray for my soul
if it makes you feel better.

Too neat;
feeding the smug self-righteousness
of those who know themselves to be on the inside.
We are all weeds; we are all wheat.
There is no inside,
there is no outside.
We are the causes of sin,
we are the evildoers,
and yet it is not always so,
need not always be so.

May the righteous indeed shine like the sun;
let us all be reborn into truth.
And let the children of the kingdom
shine with love, with humility,
with justice and with grace.

Relax and leave the weeding to me

For those of us who have been brought up to believe that weeding is an honourable duty, an absolute necessity and that a weed free garden is a virtue, such a statement seems almost sacrilegious, if not insane.  Surely the sensible thing to do is to get rid of weeds as soon as possible. They rob the soil, smother the legitimate plants and harbor pests

It comes as a surprise to us to hear that we may do better with those we don’t want in our midst than we would do if we tried to get rid of them.  Those we regard as mere weeds in society may be important companion plants in God’s gracious judgement, as precious as wheat.  It is made quite clear in the story that we are not in the position to judge the insiders from the outsiders, those who belong and those who do not, those who have a worth and those who are worthless, a fact that we are reminded of in the story of Jacob. It is not good to assume we are the wheat and the others are the weeds. God may see it differently.

Sometimes it feels a risk to let all things grow together, but God appears to like risks.  Why else did God choose Noah, Abraham, Sarah Jacob, Moses David, etc.  How do you allow those whom you believe to be wrong to grow along side you and those whom you love?  When my older son was fourteen, we were asked to take a fifteen year old boy who had been in trouble with the police, into our home. The request felt like we had been asked to transplant a weed into our crop. It took us so long to decide that by the time we said yes, they had found somewhere else for him.

We are just beginning to appreciate the benefits of diversity in bioculture and becoming aware of the dangers of monoculture. Today, in the Uniting Church around Australia, multiculturalism is being celebrated. May we, too, give thanks for diversity, enjoy being part of it and encourage others to be true to themselves as they grow around us. May God bless you all as Jacob was blessed by God’s words, “Know that I am with you and will keep you safe wherever you go.” In line with the parable, Christ has added to this, “Relax, and leave the weeding to me!”

Rev Julianne Parker (full sermon n sermons page)