Worship @Wellington: July 20, 2014

Liturgist of the Day: Jason Green

Call to Worship

ALL:    And in the End
ONE:    The love you get
ALL:    Is equal to the love you give.

Prayer of Confession

God, we recognize that our own judgments and biases prevent us from recognizing the weeds in Your fields. We pray for the patience not to root out what we think are the weeds, and to seek guidance and wisdom from Your word and the way of Your son. AMEN

Scripture reading: Matthew 13:24-43

Preaching: Rev. Dan Dale

This morning, as we continue our journey with the Gospel of Matthew we come to parables about the kin-dom of heaven.   The central polemic in Matthew is between the World of the Homan Empire and the World that God intends and calls us to live into through the life and ministry of Jesus. Matthew uses the phrase, “Kin-dom of Heaven” for the World that God intends and it is synonymous to the “Kin-dom of God” used in the other three canonical Gospels.

In the gospel of Matthew, the salvation offered by God, through the live and ministry of Jesus, is participation in the Kin-dom of Heaven.

In the Kin-dom of Heaven parables Jesus is telling stories trying to help the people look and see reality in new ways. Jesus trying to break the power of the dominant system and its pervasive world view that blinds people to the reality, not only that another world is possible but that we can participate in it now.

Jesus uses images and metaphors from the daily experience of the people to get the people to think and talking about how the dominant system works, how we might resist it and work with the Holy Spirit to build the new world that God intends.

Because we live in a very different culture and society than the people of first century Palestine, the images and metaphors that Jesus uses in the parables don’t come from our lived experience. We must first try to understand the text in its context and then wrestle and play with the text to explore what images and metaphors might break the power of the dominant system and its pervasive world view that blinds people to the reality, not only that another world is possible but that we can participate in it now.

For example, in the parable commonly known as the “Wheat and Tears”, who knows what a “tear” is?……

First of all “tears” are not simple generic weeds. Bibles that translate “tears” as “weeds” further obscure and distort the images and metaphors that Jesus purposely uses.

Today, the common name in English for tears is “bearded darnel”. Does that help? Anyone know what a “bearded darnel” is?

Like wheat “bearded darnel” is species of rye. Ryes and wheats are all grasses. Bearded darnel bears a very close resemblance to wheat until the ear of seeds appear. And the important difference between wheat and Bearded darnel that everyone listening to Jesus tell this parable would know, is that while wheat when milled into flour feeds the people with bread but Bearded darnel when ground into flour that makes a loaf that is poisonous to humans.

Similarly with the parable commonly called the “Mustard Seed”, how did the people listening to Jesus know about the mustard seed?

Was mustard a good thing to plant in your field?

No, mustard is an invasive plant. It produces thousands of seeds that are viable for more than a decade and it is almost impossible to irradiate once it invades a field.

The parables are not simple morality stories with one correct moral that we get if we understand the context. They are complex mix of images and metaphors meant to help people break out of their limited world view and begin to ask questions and see that society doesn’t have to be organized that way it is and that another world is possible – another world that reflects the core values of their faith – the new world that God intends.

Let’s look at the third parable in our reading this morning and first see what were some of the things that people listening to Jesus would have heard and then talk about how we might use the parable to help us explore the way we understand our society.

Jesus told them another parable: “The kin-dom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

There are three characters in this parable: the yeast, the women and the flour.

What does yeast do?…..

Yeast is a catalyst. It is an active ingredient that when added to flour it changes the flour so that it can be transformed into something new.

To bring together the yeast and flour requires a human participation. In the patriarchal, gender based division of labor in Jesus’ society who performs this task? …..A woman.

What do we know about a women’s reality in Jesus’ society? Women were subordinate, marginalized, excluded from power.

The third character in the story is the flour. It is the only character that is given a specific description. There are “three measures of flour”.

How much is three measures of flour and why is it important? …….. Three measures in today’s categories would be about 23 liters or a little less than a bushel.

Traditionally in villages of Galilee women would make the bread for their family.

When the Roman empire forced the industrialization of the production of salted fish on the villages in the Galilee in order to provide a source of protein for the occupation arm, the production of bread was also industrialized.

“Three measures of flour” was the amount of flour used in a batch of bread each day by the women who backed the bread to feed the men of the village working in the salted fish production.

The system of incorporating the villages of Galilee into the imperial economy forced the maximization of the production of salted fish which caused the over fishing of the Sea of Galilee, forcing the men to work longer and longer hours to meet their minimum quotes – destroying both the sustainability of the village economy, as well as village and familial social structure.

How are we forced into the global neo-liberal capitalist system?

How is this affecting our neighborhoods and our families?

How is this affecting the environment?

What are the catalysts in our context?What is an active ingredient that when added to our context will change it so that it can be transformed into something new.

What if we image the flour as a metaphor for the neighborhood. What is an active ingredient that we can introduce into Lakeview that will change it so that it can be transformed into something new?

Who are the folks that are the ones who can introduce this catalyst into our neighborhood and into our lives so that we are open and ready to be transformed?

Where are you? Where are we in this story?