Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Kingdom of God
Volume 7 No. 429 August 11, 2017
II. Lectionary Reflections: Kingdom of God

Hidden Treasures, Priceless Pearls and Fishing Nets

by Heaven's Family

Gospel: Matthew 13:44-50

In the ancient land of Israel where Jesus lived and taught, on occasion, people accidentally found hidden treasures that had been buried hundreds of years beforehand by some wealthy member of a forgotten civilization. Naturally, if the fortunate finder didn't own the land where he found the treasure, he would attempt to buy it, thus gaining the land and, more importantly, the treasure. If the purchaser thought the treasure was valuable enough, he might sell everything he owned to have enough money to purchase the field. It would be worth it, however, because he would regain all he sold and more, once the treasure was in his hands.

A place in the kingdom of heaven is like that because it is the most valuable thing anyone could possess, and it would be worth giving up anything and everything else to gain it. People who truly believe the gospel, who believe there is a place in heaven to gain, value their salvation above all else, and it shows in their lives. They repent of their sins and will give up anything that they know might keep them out of heaven. Their relationship with Jesus is the most important thing. It is their hidden treasure and their priceless pearl!

I'm sure you easily understood the parable of the fishing net, so there's no need for my explanation. However, this would be a good time to learn something about interpreting Jesus' parables. Usually, each parable serves to illustrate one primary point, and to try to find spiritual significance in every detail of a parable is dangerous. The point of the parable of the fishing net is that there are two categories of people in the world: the wicked and godly. One day they will be separated, and the wicked will be cast into hell. That's what Jesus wanted to teach through this parable. There is no spiritual significance to the net, the beach or the crates mentioned by Jesus, and we shouldn't look for any.

Q. What would you be willing to take as a trade for your salvation?

A. If you answered, "A billion dollars," or named anything else, you probably don't really believe the gospel. True believers value their salvation above all else. There is nothing they would take in trade for it.


When the men of the first two parables realized what could be theirs, they did whatever it took to gain their desire. Following Jesus does cost us something, and many people decide not to follow Jesus because they value other things more highly than eternal life, like respect from other people, or their wealth that they don't want to share. We should value what God values, because He knows what is truly valuable. 

The Kingdom of Heaven is Like Yeast…

by Dr. Janet Hunt

Gospel: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

There are so many images of the Kingdom of Heaven in this week's Gospel reading that it's hard to know where to begin. We are reminded of its similarity to a mustard seed, to the yeast that leavens a family's bread, to hidden treasure, to fine pearls, and to a net cast into the sea which brings in fish of every kind. Wow. One would do well, it seems to me, to spend a little time each day in the days to come, simply letting these images sink in. Indeed, there is almost too much before us now, which could just be a perfect match for our world which is literally dying for precisely this sort of Good News. Even so, I'm settling in on one:

I find myself remembering now Christmas Eve some seventeen years ago when one of the images of the Good News offered in this Gospel lesson came home to me in a vivid and memorable way.

My dad had died the January before. I was dreading this holiday as do so many who grieve. And yet, given my call as pastor, I could not avoid it. At the same time, I was desperate to keep my grief at bay so as December deepened I made some decisions. I asked family to stay away - promising to catch up with them on Christmas Day. And I planned the day with great care. I planned it so I would stay busy and not have too much time to think, hoping that the losses of the past year would not have time or space to catch up with me.

The morning of the 24th was open though and so when I got up I decided to bake bread.

I am no stranger to baking bread. I learned the skill from my mother who learned it from her mother who, no doubt, learned it from hers. I hoped that the hands-on routine of measuring the flour, proofing the yeast, and sinking my hands deep into the dough to knead it would be a comfort. I knew the sight, the sounds, the texture, the smells would tie me to my own past in ways that promised to be a much needed gift.

And so I went to work. I was elbow deep in bread dough when my doorbell rang and I was called away. Quickly, I scraped the dough from beneath my fingernails, brushed the flour from my hair, and not knowing what else to do, I plopped the half-kneaded dough into a bowl, covered it, and shoved it into the refrigerator.

It was many hours later when I finally arrived home. I had a little time before our first service that night, so I changed back into my blue jeans and sweatshirt and with no hope at all, I opened the refrigerator door. And do you know, to my utter surprise, that dough had risen!

I was shocked. I had, even by then, worked with yeast for years and so I had first hand knowledge of how finicky it could be. Oh yes, I had 'killed yeast' plenty of times - with liquid too warm or too cold - or with rising conditions not quite right - so that the bread would wind up a heavy, unpleasant, nearly inedible combination of flour and water which was entirely unappealing. But this time? Even when everything was working against it, that dough still rose. And that Christmas, the bread was somehow all the more wonderful for it having come to me in this way!

Jesus offers us today a brief one sentence comparison in this parable:

"The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."

Now I don't know if mine is a Christmas Story or an Easter Story or just an Ordinary Every Day Much Needed Story of the power of the Kingdom of Heaven. I do know that it is an image, a story which brings me hope in a world which needs it more than ever… where my news feed is overwhelmed by news of war being waged in the Middle East once again, where against all that we know is right and good and just we hear that people on their way to holiday or home to family are suddenly shot from the sky, where little children are risking their lives for the chance at any kind of life at all, where yet again this week-end children have been shot and killed by stray bullets in nearby Chicago, leaving loved ones to grieve entirely avoidable and inexplicable losses. I need this promise of 'the yeast' and the certainty that it can and does work even when I least expect it, even when everything is working against it. Without a doubt, the world needs it, too. For if it could happen in my refrigerator, Jesus would say it can happen anywhere: that hope beats despair and life prevails over death. Even here. Even now. Even in this. And perhaps, yes, much like ordinary yeast which makes our bread rise - perhaps even through altogether ordinary 'us.' For like yeast can be a powerful thing, so are you and I who bear the news of this Kingdom which also rises in cold, dark, unlikely places.

Jesus offers a number of marvelous images of the Kingdom of Heaven in this week's Gospel. Which one especially speaks to you? How have you seen it live in the world now?

What are the circumstances in your life or in the life of the larger world which especially need the promise of the image you have chosen? How does it speak to that?

Consider setting aside a little time on each day in the days to come to meditate on each of these marvelous every day images. Then think about 'writing your own parable.' How might you complete the sentence: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like…" ?

About The Author:

Dr. Janet Hunt is a long-time partner and Associated Trainer for Church Innovations, a research and consulting non-profit institute that innovates capacities of churches to be renewed in God's mission.

Source: DancingWithTheWord

What is the Kingdom Like?

by Rev. Todd Weir, bloomingcactus

Gospel: Matthew 13:31-52

To what would you compare the Kingdom of Heaven? It is like finding the technology stock you bought in the 1980s for $50 and suddenly realizing you are a millionaire. It is like the owner of DeBeers finally finding the perfect diamond and selling a billion dollar empire to have it. It is like the harassed physician tired of the HMOs, selling home and BMW and finding bliss in a mission in Congo. It is like the crack addict waking up with a clear head and is free to choose a new life.

What will we tell our congregations about the Kingdom of Heaven? What makes this Kingdom any better than what can be gotten at the mall? Is it bigger than the consumer paradise promised every 7 minutes while we watch Desperate Housewives? Is it something that can only be had in the next life, so we must patiently suffer in this life to earn it? Will we be any closer to the Kingdom of Heaven if the right Supreme Court Justice is nominated, if our kids pray in school and have the 10 Commandments etched in 20 tons of marble in front of every town hall, or if we properly observe separation of church and state? If we double the new member classes and exceed the demands of the annual budget will we be any closer to the Kingdom of Heaven?

Sure, these may sound like silly rhetorical questions. But I must confess that I regularly let things much less valuable than the Kingdom of Heaven take on ultimate importance in my life. As much as I wish to deny, repress and shove this thought into my unconscious, worldly success too often is my measure of the Kingdom of Heaven. I can easily settle for much less than the life Jesus has to offer. I think our churches and our spiritual lives suffer more from an anemic view of what being a Christian can be like and a paltry view of the Kingdom of Heaven in our midst than from doctrinal error or, God forbid, a lack of funds. When our congregations start to complain about the hymn selection or meet far into the night about carpet colors it is time to rise up and say, "What is the Kingdom of Heaven like?" Jesus did not go to Webster's Dictionary for a precise definition of the Kingdom of Heaven. Precision has its place, but here he means to stimulate the imagination. Our life with God is better than the most breath-taking thing we can imagine. We plant tiny seeds, we search the fields for it, we scour the marketplace and when we find the divine presence, nothing else can compare. It seems that the searchers in these brief parables were not quite expecting what they found. They didn't know their seeds would grow so well, they stumbled across the treasure while working the field, while looking for fine pearls they find one so incomparable. They were searching and working, but found more than their imagination.

I take this short series of parables to challenge me into a daily awareness of the Kingdom of Heaven breaking in all around me. It is there if I can lift my attention from lesser things. Greater intimacy with God awaits my vision to sweep in a new direction. My urban ministries professor, Bill Weber, always said, "The Kingdom of God comes in inches, and we must learn to celebrate every small glimpse we can find." Then he would talk about finding the Kingdom in every unemployed person that found a job, every addict who got sober, every poor child who stayed in school and got an education. These are the mustard seeds of hope that surround us.

What small and insignificant seed of great importance are you called to attend to today?

The Kingdom of God

by: Robert King

The kingdom of God may be said to be the theme of the Bible. Sadly, though, most people with some familiarity with the Bible have very little knowledge of the kingdom. The majority of churchgoers suppose that the kingdom of God is merely heaven, since it is alternatively called the kingdom of the heavens. But as the term also suggests, the kingdom of God is a government. That's what the kingdom is - God's government.

One vital fact concerning God's government of which everyone should be aware is that the kingdom has not always existed. It is something that God will establish. For example, Daniel 2:44, which is a verse that Jehovah's Witnesses frequently cite in their public ministry to explain this vital matter, states concerning the kingdom: "And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite…"

Please notice that the verse in Daniel states that God "will set up a kingdom," indicating that it was not in existence when Daniel wrote down this prophecy 26 centuries ago. Nor was it in power when Jesus walked the earth, which is why he exhorted his followers to pray for God's kingdom to come.

The prophecy of Daniel pinpoints a certain moment in history when the kingdom will be set up. When is that? As it states, "in the days of those kings." Which kings are those? According to the dream that Daniel interpreted for king Nebuchadnezzar, there would be four empires that would succeed the Babylonian kingdom, represented by the breasts and arms of silver, belly of copper, legs of iron and feet of iron and clay. The eighth chapter of Daniel identifies two kingdoms by name that came after Babylon - Medo-Persia and Greece. The successor of Alexander's empire was, of course, Rome. The Roman Empire is symbolized by the legs of iron. Although historians speak of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire in the third and fourth centuries, the imperial system remained in place through the power of the Vatican up until the ascendancy of the British Empire. The world is now dominated by the Anglo-American dual world power.

According to the God-inspired dream of Nebuchadnezzar, there are kings - plural - that are to be crushed and brought to ruin by the kingdom of God, which are symbolized in the second chapter of Daniel as the iron and clay. The iron and clay symbolize this unlikely union of the London imperial system and the American Republic. The 11th chapter of Daniel pictures these two entities as the king of the north and the king of the south. The king of the north is the British Empire, with its London-centered global financial system and the king of the south represents America. The 13th chapter of Revelation depicts the Anglo-American dyad as a two horned wild beast.

So it is that the kings who are destined to be crushed by the kingdom of the heavens are the presently ruling Anglo-American kings.

As Daniel 2:44 indicates, the victorious kingdom of God will then rule over the earth. It will not be passed on to any other people, such as the earthly kingdoms that rise and fall. Once established, God's kingdom will rule forever. Indeed, Let your kingdom come.

About The Author:

Robert king is an author and blogger

Who Plants Mustard Seed?

by Rev. Todd Weir, bloomingcactus

Gospel: Mark 4:26-34

I have preached on this passage many times over the years and I realized this week that I have often missed the real point. This is a great passage to run out to the Indian grocer, buy some mustard seed for the children’s sermon, and talk about what a wondrous plant comes from humble beginnings. Therefore, if the Kingdom of Heaven is like a tiny mustard seed, we can have hope when we feel our efforts are unremarkable compared to the world’s need, and trust that God is going to do great things from our small plantings, and spread the Kingdom among us. Don’t be afraid to start small in life, because God always has a bigger plan. That is not a bad sermon to preach. I do believe that God can often be found in the small things and lost in large undertakings. But after a little research, I decided that is not Jesus’ point here in the Gospel.

The first problem I encountered is with the nature of the mustard plant. Despite the value of mustard seeds for flavor and medicinal purposes, it is not something you want in your garden. Think mint on steroids. It does grow into a fairly large bush, maybe four feet tall, and will spread quickly to every horizon. And what would you do with all that mustard plant? If you have ever cooked mustard greens, you will know that a little bit goes a long way. It has a horseradish kick, and you are not going to eat like you would potatoes or tomatoes. Mustard, in the Middle East, is a weed growing on the hillside, filling in the untamed and agriculturally undesirable spots. Most of the domesticated mustard grown in the world to make your Golden’s spicy brown mustard is grown in two countries, Nepal and Canada. My guess is because they have a lot of land areas not really valuable for anything else. There are no mustard farms in Iowa. When Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, watch out. It means that things could quickly get out of hand as you are unexpectedly overtaken.

And what about the birds, who come make their nests in the branches of a mustard plant? I always thought this was a comforting image of how tiny seeds provide a home for the poor birds who have nowhere to nest. Actually in ancient agricultural areas, where seeds were sown by hand and scattered across the fields, birds were a nuisance. Remember the parable of the sower who lost many of the seeds because the birds came and ate them. You really don’t want to encourage the birds to nest around your fields, hiding in the mustard patch and eating up your crops.

As John Dominic Crossan puts it:

The point, in other words, is not just that the mustard plant starts as a proverbially small seed and grows into a shrub of three or four feet, or even higher, it is that it tends to take over where it is not wanted, that it tends to get out of control, and that it tends to attract birds within cultivated areas where they are not particularly desired. And that, said Jesus, was what the Kingdom was like: not like the mighty cedar of Lebanon and not quite like a common weed, [more] like a pungent shrub with dangerous takeover properties. Something you would want in only small and carefully controlled doses -- if you could control it
(The Historical Jesus, pp. 278-279).

This is really not what I expected from the parable. Note that not everything is beyond our own doing. The first verse says that we play the role of farmer scattering seeds on the ground. But after that, seed and soil take over and we have little to do with it until the harvest. We plant, we take an action, and then so much of the result is out of our hands.


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