Mustard and Bread

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds[a] of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:

“I will open my mouth in parables,
    I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”

Matthew 13:31-35 (NIV)

In my opinion, the smell of fresh baked bread makes a house seem like a home. The difference between a house and a home is that a house is a structure, a dwelling place, while a home is about a feeling you have when you are within the structure. Feelings of warmth, protection, acceptance, and love are the basis for a home. I am fortunate that in my house bread is made weekly and as I smell the bread baking, those feelings are brought to the surface.

Jesus is trying to give insight into the Kingdom of God using comparisons which will invoke feelings. The first is using a mustard seed. The tiny seed is planted and grows to becomea shelter and roasting place for birds. The image of a house comes to my mind. There also is a reminder that the kingdom starts small and grows into a larger reality which provides protection and rest. Jesus’s second comparison is using dough and how yeast is worked throughout the dough which is necessary for the dough to rise to become bread. Here we see the clear implication that the kingdom permeates every aspect of life and the world around us.

You probably understand why the images of bread and home entered my mind as I read this passage. I like the idea that the kingdom provides a safe place for me to receive shelter and rest. I also like the realization that I am the recipient and participant in something which began small but now offers a safe haven for everyone.

The reality that God’s kingdom is in the midst of everything reminds me that there is nowhere I can go that the kingdom is not present. It challenges me to strive to find the kingdom in the most unlikely places. I also find comfort in knowing the kingdom is in me even as I am in the kingdom.

The Good and The Bad

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Matthew 13:24-30 (NIV)

There was a time when soybean farmers would hire teenagers to work for two weeks in the summer removing weeds from their fields. If you were hired, you awakened at sunrise, put on jeans and layers of clothes, drove (or were driven) to the field bringing with you a hoe or corn blade. Once you had arrived you took your jug of water and the hand tool of choice and walked to one corner of the field. Then you spent the next four on five hours walking up and down the rows removing weeds you saw with either your hoe or blade. Some weeds, like button weeds, had to be pulled out by hand. The farmer always advised wearing gloves and  to be careful to only get weeds and not the bean plants. Inevitably one or two or fifty bean plants were cut out because the tool slipped or you were not paying enough attention.

Everytime I read about Jesus telling the story of the wheat and weeds, I think back to my years of walking beans. In this story, good wheat seeds are planted but as they grow, weeds grow among them. The farmer blames this on an enemy. He refuses the offer from his servants to pull up the weeds because he does not want to destroy the wheat. Instead he directs his servants to let the two grow together and sort them out at harvest time. Jesus presents this story to communicate that while good and evil reside together now, it will all be sorted out in God’s time.

When we look at the situations around us, we clearly see the coexistence of good and bad. We may desire to find ways to eradicate all of what we define as bad. In fact, we may be prone to ask the Lord why God does not remove the bad. We might even go so far as question why God even allowed bad into the world. During these series of thoughts we need to be reminded of two truths which are illustrated in this story. First, God did not bring the bad into the world, God introduced the good. Second, when it is the right time, God will indeed sort out the bad from the good.