... Ecclesiastes 2:26 ...
Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.

Pentecost 7 Year A
Message July 27, 2014

Recalling the Divine: Aiding Discipleship

Text: Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11; Romans 8: 26-39; Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52

Everyone should run away from home once in their lives. I ran away when I was 5 or 6 years old. I can’t remember why I had done so – perhaps over some insignificant matter which at the time I had felt very hard-done by or which I had thought grossly unfair. Suffice it to say I packed a little suitcase (I still have that case today – measures about 18in.x12inx4in deep), and left. I recall sitting on the steps of the house and my Dad saying, “Well if you’re going to leave you better get going!” Totally enraged I jumped up, grabbed my case and began to stomp off up the street. I think I walked about 2 miles before I even began to contemplate where I was going, what I would do for food, shelter etc. as my pace slowed and fear loomed greater a great quandary set in. Pride told me I had to stick to my guns, but fear prompted a return to safety. But how could I return home and lose face? I think I began to recall all the good things – the love, the joys, the security of family and the hugs. Recalling all those wonderful aspects won the day, and despite the shame and scolding I was sure to endure, I turned back. To my utter surprise there was no scolding no shaming no spanking – only hugs. Memories of the past good relationships had triumphed and what might have been disastrous ended up “all’s well that ends well!”

The psalmist must have had just such an experience as to give advice to a nation bent on running away from God. Calling Israel to remember all the good things, the Lord had done and to weigh them over against the possible harsh consequences of running away. Despite the seemingly harsh present God has in the past been faithful to the covenant made with Abraham and which was confirmed to Jacob. The natural disasters which were to come upon the land as a whole had been foreknown and a process had been put in place to provide for and protect the chosen people.

The process had begun long before and as we hear in the Genesis story of the trickster being tricked plays out as God ordains. Jacob the ever shrewd and somewhat irksome character has run away from home and the wrath of his elder brother Esau. He has gone to his uncle Laban’s place for refuge. While there he falls for Rachael and asks Laban for her hand in marriage as we would say. Laban agrees but then tricks Jacob by substituting Leah the older sister on the wedding night. And so the story unfolds – Jacob desiring Rachael so much agrees to another 7 years of servanthood and during that time begat at least 13 children – 12 sons by his two wives and 2 concubines. But it is the first born of Rachael who will become the means by whom God ensures the survival of the chosen and the covenant. Joseph will go on to become the one who provides for both Egypt and Israel during the great famine. What at first seems cruel unpleasant unfair or one hard-done by is only a small snippet of the larger plan god has for the welfare and survival of the human race.

Romans 8 is also a call to remember – a reminder of God’s way of God’s movements from knowledge to outer and from saving grace to promised glory. In his argument Paul acknowledges the human condition – we are weak, we are in turmoil, we are beset with all manner of trials difficulties persecutions and the wiles of the evil one. In fact we are in such a state we don’t even know how to pray. Yet all is not hopeless – God knows our plight and has given us a measure of the Holy Spirit who is able to overcome our senses futility, our fear our inabilities and in being so becomes the mediator between the human and divine so that no matter what it is we think we pray for the Spirit knows our true needs and those needs are what become the petitions which arrive at God’s throne. What at first appears as weakness and failure, he argues, will become the strength and fortitude for God’s people. The logic Paul uses hinges on his, “If God is for us who is against us?” The “if” of his premise is not the normal conditional “if” we use in most reasoning. Paul uses it at the rhetorical “if” whereby the god is for us is a given fact. The question is in reality “who is against us?” Thus remembering God’s present grace and covenant surely we can overcome our fears and pride resting assured that all is as God has planned, the world is unfolding as it was designed and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!

If the desired effect of Paul’s logic was to strengthen the will and fortitude of those in the early church and to have non-believers see the call God has offered to all, Matthew’s list of parables is an occasion to pause, to reflect on the scope of discipleship and to renew one’s commitment to God.

The parable of the mustard seed calls the disciples to take heart – what appears as an impossible task or mission in time becomes a walk in the park. The mustard seed so small at first grows into a gigantic shrub, so big as to become the protection and haven for many. The parables of the treasure and the pearl are similar in nature focussing on the value of the Kingdom. The main character of each parable come from such diametrically opposed backgrounds but are linked in their understanding of the overarching value of the kingdom that they divest themselves of all else in order to be in possession of the one true worth. Discipleship has its costs but these costs, Jesus’ comments, are insignificant compared to the rewards of the kingdom. Those who are able to sense that and are willing to become the pearl merchants or the treasure finders, are the ones who will reap the rewards.

And the rewards are expounded upon by the last parable, “the fishing net”. The kingdom at the end of the age will gather all and those who have been the true disciples will be kept and the false ones tossed away. This parable in many ways is likened unto the first kingdom of heaven parable – the parable of the wheat and the tares mentioned last week. Together the parables encourage the disciples to look around to see the present, to reflect on God’s actions of the past and by so doing see God in the present. Understanding this will give them strength to surpass the barricades of the present, leap over the obstacles of pride and fear and push away the temptations of the evil one.

Recall God’s actions of the past, see God’s hand in the present and let go of the fears, concerns and reliance on self. Remember God has been in control since the beginning; we have been here but a blink of an eye. If we could but truly understand this perhaps our relationship here and now, our patterns of living and our call to be stewards of creation might take on a whole different concept.

May God’s Holy Spirit cause us to recall, turn back to God and in God’s love through Christ Jesus become better disciples, better stewards and better brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen