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11th Sunday of the Year 14th June 2009 I see that some people call

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11th Sunday of the Year 14th June 2009 I see that some people call

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									11 Sunday of the Year 14 June 2009 I see that some people call this Sunday, Mustard Seed Sunday as thr Gospel tells two parables about seeds, the one being the famous one about the mustard Seed. As I [Pat] read these parables to you this morning, I’m sure that you began to interpret their meanings. Perhaps you thought that the planted seed was a bit like your own faith. It was planted and appears to be growing but you are not sure how, because you haven’t prayed more, or read your bible more or anything like that. Or perhaps you thought Jesus was comparing the Church to the Mustard seed – small beginning but growing into a worldwide organization that welcomes all people through missionary outreach. The thing I noticed was Jesus starts by saying: “The Kingdom of God is as if…” He is talking about the Kingdom – not your personal individual faith or the Church. The reading this morning ended with the comment “With many such parables he spoke to them, as they were able to hear it: he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.” What Mark is saying is that we cannot take the scriptures literally. They have to be interpreted. Now the Anglican Church, following the more Catholic tradition of the Church speaks about the three legged stool for the interpretation of Scripture. What are these three legs? Firstly, the Scripture it self, which can be interpreted literally but the text of the Scripture plays a role in the other two interpretations as well. Interpreting Scripture literal works fine in historical or legalistic passages but can we interpret the wisdom literature literally or even the parables of Jesus literally? Being facetious I want to tell you about Fr Harry Wiggett who when he was the Rector of Fish Hoek planted some mustards seeds in St Margaret’s garden. In fulfillment the tiny seeds Harry planted did grown into a rather scraggy bush that was much taller than Harry himself. When he preached on this passage he suggested we go and look at his mustard tree. It helped us understand what Jesus was saying but not what Jesus meant but I don’t think that was Harry’s aim anyway. The second leg of the stool is Tradition, which can be both Good and Bad. It is bad when the we follow the early church leaders in interpreting parables as allegories. For example, the great St Augustine taught that in the parable of the Good Samaritan each little detail had a meaning. The man who fell among thieves is you and I, who have fallen for the evils of this world. The Good Samaritan who saves and rescues is Jesus himself, the Inn to which he takes the victim is the Church, the Innkeeper is the Pope to whom Good Samaritan/Jesus has given the two coins or the two sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. You can see that this interpretation is ignoring the context of the story, which is about loving our neighbour and exactly who a\our neighbour is. This also shows how the Church manipulates the scriptures to get the meaning it wants to retain its own power. A great danger to be avoided when we interpret scripture is using church traditions. This very danger was avoided by the protestant reformation which allows each person to interpret scripture according to their own understanding. But this too is bad as we end up with as many interpretations as their own people. A good thing about church traditions is, believe it or not, is the Church’s Year and the Lectionary. After many months of feast, fasts and festivals we are now entering into a long period of ordinary Sundays. Those of you who own a copy of the Lectionary will notice that I have chosen the thematic OT reading and not the continuous readings. So our OT reading from Ezekiel actually helps us to understand the parables from Mark ch 4. I am sure that the Israelites must have looked at the mighty cedars of Lebanon and wondered who planted them there on the craggy mountain tops. And who maintained them? Ï the Lord have spoken; I will accomplish it” So to does god accomplish the germination and the growing of the seed the farmer has planted. So one passage of scripture explains another and this is brought through the tradition of the Lectionary. The third leg of the stool is reason. This is the academic and intellectual study of scripture using reason. But for us normal person in the pew this can be quite difficult to follow and understand. On Monday at the lay minister’s meeting one of them shook his head and ask why people make the Bible so complicated. What we need is a happy medium. We need to make it intelligent but understandable; yet also practical & applicable to us. So trying to fill these criteria, how do we interpret these parable? Mark says that Jesus explained it all to the disciples. But Mark doesn’t tell us what Jesus said. When I had beard a mother came to me and said her very young child wanted to know if I was Jesus. No I am not Jesus! But I going to give you my attempt and the attempts of some commentators for these parables. I’ll try to apply this to our situation

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What is the kingdom of God? God' kingdom is mentioned more than one hundred times in the New s Testament, and we pray for its daily as we pray the Lord' Prayer. So it must be important to us. s A kingdom can be defined as a territory in which a king rules over his subjects. But Jesus said that his kingdom is not of this world, meaning that it isn' a physical kingdom with geographical boundaries, as t normal kingdoms are. Neither is it a kingdom that can be seen with the human eye so that someone could say: ' Here is the kingdom of God or there is the Kingdom of God.'God' kingdom is invisible to those who s are in the world, because the kingdom of God is among or within us as Jesus told the Pharisees in Luke 17. Jesus said that no one can see (perceive or understand) the kingdom of God unless they are born-again that we heard in last week' Gospel reading (John 3:3). And no one can enter the kingdom of God unless s they are born of the Spirit (John 3:5). Jesus' kingdom is a spiritual kingdom where he reigns in the hearts of his subjects. His kingdom consists of everyone who has surrendered themselves to him and has made him King and Lord of their lives. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells two parables to help us understand the kingdom of God: the Parable of the Growing Seed and the Parable of the Mustard Seed. The first Parable, the Parable of the Growing Seed shows us the part that God plays in our spiritual growth and focuses on the life and the power that the seed itself contains. You will notice that it is human-beings who do the sowing. When we give the gospel to someone we are sowing the seed of the Word of God - of the promise of Kingdom of God. When farmer scatter seed they don' see where each seed falls, but as long as the seed falls on suitable soil t it begins to grow. That happens because the seed is alive. The same is true with the Word of God. If God' s Word enters a heart that is receptive it will begin to grow, but that is only possible because the Word of God is dynamic and alive. God' Word comes from God it is charged with God life and power, it has the ability to s change people' lives and bring them into the Kingdom of God. s Now, when farmers sow seed, they do so with the intention of reaping a harvest and the same is true with God. Jesus began to sow the seed of the Kingdom of God into human hearts two thousand years ago, and his Church has continued to sow that seed ever since. And the Bible says and the Church teaches that one day, in God' appointed time, the earth will be harvested and we will become part of the Kingdom. s Now I believe that this parable, besides telling us something about the Kingdom of God and that this Kingdom will come in God' own time, it is telling us about our own helplessness. The farmers don' make s t the seed grow. In Jesus' day the farmers didn'even understand how and why the seed did grow. In our day t biology and other bio-sciences supply the logical & technical reasons why seeds grow. But even then we get it wrong. I read in the Noseweek magazine that a genetically modified maize seed planted here in SA germinated but has failed to produce any corn seeds in the husks causing huge crop loses. Linking this back to the Kingdom of God - we like the farmer might plant the seeds but it God is the power and the will behind all things - including the coming of God' Kingdom. By not sleeping or pacing the floor in a worried s state is not going to hasten the coming of the Kingdom. The second parable, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, describes the extent to which Kingdom of God will grow. A small beginning of a tiny mustard seed grows, as Harry Wiggett discovered a large bush where various insects and birds could build their nests. Jesus was acknowledging Isaiah prophesise and implying that the Kingdom of God was not only for the Jews but for all nations. I must be careful and diplomatic in what I' about to say but I' sure there are still a few parishioners who m m remember looking at a map of the world and seeing those vast swathes of the world coloured red - yes, they were part of the vast British Empire. Did you look at the tiny island of Britain and think, "How could one little island state become the ruler of such a vast worldwide empire?" Stretching from the icy tundra of northern Canada through the hot and dusty plains of Africa through the exotic Indian sub-continent to the islands of the Pacific ocean including the Island continent of Australia. Some of you might even remember see Empire Exhibitions or even the present Queen' coronation where representatives from all the Empire gathered. A s Kingdom is a single state an Empire is a group of individual states under the rule of a single government. The Kingdom of God has a small beginning in the individual - Jesus and his 12 apostles - and me and you yet it will grow to encompass the whole earth, welcome all people all races. Is the Church reflecting this picture of the Kingdom of God? Are you taking the Good News of Jesus, the Word to others with this in mind or are you only sharing Jesus with those who you feel comfortable with?

Have I interpreted these Parable' correctly for people of the 21st Century living and having their being in s Rondebosch, Cape Town South Africa? I don' know. If what I have said has challenged you, or frightened t you, or angered you or even comforted you, then perhaps I have. But God' Word given in the Scriptures s are always a challenge to understand and that is why we return to them week-in-week-out. Fred Pratt Green in the last verse hymn we sang for the gradual this morning said: For the harvest of his spirit thanks be to God; for the good we all inherit, thanks be to God; for the wonders that astound us, for the truths that still confound us, most all, that love has found us, thanks be to God. Amen


								
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