Anglican Church of Canada
A String of Parables
Jesus has already put before the crowds the parable of the sower and the parable of the wheat and tares. Now, Matthew decides to group a bunch of other parable sayings of Jesus. Did Jesus of Nazareth actually string these metaphors together at one time? – It is highly unlikely. But the barrage of examples actually works – this throwing at us metaphor after metaphor, example after example of the kingdom being like – in fact leaves a space for a wide variety of listeners to get it. You don’t relate to agriculture? Here is a fishing story. You don’t relate to fishing? Here is a merchant’s story. You don’t relate to men? Here is a women’s story and so on and so on There is a place for each one of us to relate, to enter – to know this kingdom living can be ours – there is a way to join in, to be part of this great plan of God’s ultimate reconciliation of all created order?
And if we choose not to – will that stop the kingdom flow, the kingdom advancement? No- these parables tell us – for the Kingdom of God is like mustard seed, like yeast. Instead of mustard seed, think dandelion or gout weed – planted who knows how but essentially there – rooted, blooming, reproducing, despite our greatest attempts to uproot and banish it.
And the yeast? The cosmic bread maker has mixed yeast into gigantic amounts of flour – to bubble, lightened, infuse enough bread for multitudes
I am very fortunate to have a husband who regularly makes one loaf of bread as we need it. He methodically measures the flour and water, using a scant quarter teaspoon of yeast. The bread is ‘no fuss’, takes 24 hours in total and is delicious. I grew up in a home where bread was made in quantities of 2-4 loaves, sometimes made with white flour, sometimes with flour and oatmeal and molasses. But my Dad’s parents were serious bread makers: my grandfather was a cook in a lumber camp, feeding upwards of 20 hardworking men. His wife, my grandmother, ran a boarding house that housed another 6 men in addition to the 7 children still at home. In both cases, there was bread on the table at every meal – lots of it.
Breadmaking went like this: The large barrel of flour was rolled into the kitchen from the pantry. Nana proofed the yeast in a pitcher of warm water with a little sugar and, when it was ready, she made a hole in the flour, dumped in the yeast mixture and began gathering the powdered grains of wheat until she had just the right amount. Once it felt right, she lifted the mass of dough onto her floured kitchen table and kneaded it with her powerful hands. As with all bread, it was left to rise and then kneaded again, placed in a dozen well- used pans and left to rise again. The rack of pans went into the oven at just the right moment and some 30 minutes later, she had the warm aromatic bread ready for the noon meal.
I tell you this story because I believe it helps to imagine the amount of flour and subsequent bread in the parable. Three measures of flour would have been 144 cups – about 14 Kilograms or over 30 lbs. That’s enough to make 52 loaves of bread – she is baking for a village not just her own family. She is in the business of changing the world, one hungry person at a time.
So, stepping back a bit and looking at the overview of possible parable messages, might this week’s ‘take away’ be that the Kingdom of God is paradoxically hidden and observable, dazzling and quiet, discerning and expansive, desirable and questioned. But through it all, advancing, surely, quietly, unobtrusively, inviting us to explore and experience a new, more relational way of being; inviting us to partner with a Cosmic yet intimate God to change the world. May we have the eyes to see and the heart to respond. Amen.