He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
One of the joys of what Richard Rohr and others call “the second half of life”, is that one has enough life time behind you as material for review and reflection. Naturally there isn’t total recall, (Thanks be to God!) and neither does one remember everything accurately. I reserve the right to embellish and embroider my life story so as to maximise the enjoyment, if not of my hearers, then at least of myself as the narrator. So coming to that life story which has more than a half century of content, I discover with amazement, how I have been surprised by God. Now this isn’t a new thought, C. S. Lewis wrote “Surprised by Joy” and Gerard Hughes wrote, “God of Surprises” and many others have commented on the wonder of a God who simply appears in theophanic moments of delight, often totally unexpectedly. What a Joy, C. S. Lewis, a joy indeed!
Ever since I first came across it I have been moved by the inscription that Carl Jung had on the doorway of his home. It reads, “Bidden or unbidden, God is present”. (You can see the Latin on the plaque in the right hand panel of my blog). The maxim captures the same mystical, mischievous, dimension of God’s self revelation in the forms of everyday events. Jesus was acutely attentive to that epiphanous reality in his life and it flowed into his teaching.
He taught that the Kingdom of God (literally of the heavens), the Divine Domain, is like… a minute micron of a mustard seed; a secreted treasure that is stumbled on whilst striding in a field; a precious pearl worth purchasing with your entire portfolio of provisions; a net straining with every kind of fish imaginable, so large a catch that you have to sift through it to get the good (and sustainable?) ones. Each learner of life (Scribe) has a treasure out of which we can skilfully select and bring forth the best for the world.
What I love about this teaching on the theme of God’s surprise manifestations, is that in most cases the human response comes after the surprise. Because God surprises us we don’t have to contrive and control the conditions. In short we can’t make the miracle happen.
It is a miracle that the miniature mustard seed makes it through the prodigal sowing, and weed ridden wheat field of the past two weeks lectionary readings; but it does, and thrives. The surprise of the treasure, the pearl, the fish catch all precede , the commerce of converting ownership of one kind for the consolation of a Kingdom investment. We respond to grace we don’t bring it into being.
How wonderful to realise as I look back on my life, that I really didn’t make much happen. When I tried too hard I tended to butcher it. No, I have been at my best, when I have simply allowed life to surprise me, and then responded to grace in gratitude and in giving. I am like the bulldog in the picture. Someone put be on this board and on this wave. God! what a ride!