have we understood?

preaching-epiphany-laurens-1-22-17 a sermon, based on Matthew 13.31-33, 44-52, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 8th Sunday after Pentecost, July 30, 2017

“Have you understood all this?” Jesus asks. They answer, “Yes!”

Sometimes I wonder about Jesus’ disciples. So quick to reply to a question of cosmic significance of the meaning of life, the nature of God, the character of the kingdom of heaven; all said, the meaning, nature, and character of life with God.

But the disciples were disciples. Students. They had come to Jesus to learn from him. And sometimes they seem like the children of any classroom. Faced with a question and with the approval of the teacher hanging in the balance, they either remain silent hoping one of them will speak up, usually the impetuous Peter, bearing for all of them the weight of judgment or, in boisterous solidarity, blurt out an answer hoping their unanimity will count for something.

“Have you understood all this?” Jesus asks. All these parables piled one upon another? (Parable, as I shared with you last Sunday, from the Greek, parabole; literally a thing tossed alongside. Not the reality itself, but a story, a parallel image to help us understand that reality; here, the kingdom of heaven.)

“Have you understood?” “Yes,” they answer. Then comes the point of the question. “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.”

Huh? I confess that I don’t know what this means. I do have some guesses. And that, too, is the point.

None of us knows the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. About anything. About people. Others or ourselves. About life. This one or any other. All we have is our guesses. Our perceptions and presumptions about the reality around us, which are like parables; things we toss alongside to help us understand our experience.

Looking again at this odd saying of Jesus, my guess is that he is the scribe trained for the kingdom of heaven. He is the master of the household who, in his teaching, brings what is new out of what is old; new interpretations, new meanings from old, well known images and ideas.

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven, the life of God, our life with God is like a tiny mustard seed that grows expansively, invasively everywhere or yeast that makes bread rise in bountiful measure or hidden treasure or fine pearls, priceless and worth every effort to obtain or fish nets that catch and hold all fish or all of the above.

So, let me toss some things alongside our reality.

The kingdom of heaven is like this Sunday morning when we, all alike in our shared humanity, yet each of us different in our individuality, come together to make community, gathered in this sacred space that, like a net, holds us all.

The kingdom of heaven is like this morning’s Holy Eucharist when we take what is familiar, bread and wine that we have made from creation’s ancient gifts of grain and grapes, and offer them to God with timeless words, “take, bless, break, give”, that we might partake of spiritual food to be strengthened anew to be like Jesus…that we may go out into the world as scribes trained for the kingdom, sharing with all the treasure of life with God.

Have we understood all this?

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2 thoughts on “have we understood?

  1. Thanks Paul!!! I understand that!! Being in community and sharing Communion is definitely what the Kingdom of Heaven is to me!! It’s hard teaching new things, interpretations and concepts to folks even if they are based fairly old ideas and concepts. As a teacher I get worried at times when students have those blank looks on their faces, do I tried to find new ways of teaching until I believe they really understand!! My LEGO bricks have gotten me out of a lot of situations and blank stares!! I’m sure Jesus had his tricks too!! I know I’ve learned a lot from you even when I didn’t always understand the words you used! I could always say “what do you mean by that” and you’d explain to me and any other parishioners until you were sure we understood!! For me that’s all good communication is, making sure that the audience clearly receives your message. In our case, when we clearly understand his message we can go out and do his work in the way he intended!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, Loretta, for me, you make that essential coupling between communication (that is, what the speaker/writer intends [for, indeed, I can make the case that communication means that intersection of transmission of meaning and reception of intent]) and connection. Always a fundamental AND difficult interaction, for one never can know of one’s success. To wit: teaching is an inherently rewarding (what grandness it is to share with others what can and may be life giving for them) and difficult vocation (for who can know the reward of that essential labor in real time (sometimes [often, I think] it takes years, if ever, to know!).

      Like

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