No matter how often I weed my garden, within hours more show up. It’s always been a mystery to me. I see no seeds; I certainly didn’t plant them. How did they get there? I would like to claim “an enemy has done this”. But it happens every year and in every place I have had gardens. Is my enemy a stalker?
Jesus gives three different analogies of what the kingdom of heaven is like: a field, a mustard seed and yeast. Next week he gives two more. I think it is because the kingdom of heaven cannot be adequately described, even by the Son of God.
First the field and the surprising words of the master who says: “Let them grow together”. A time of harvest will come and then there will be separation. Sometimes we are impatient and quick to judge about who is worthy of the kingdom. How much pride is involved when I think that the kingdom certainly includes me and not that other person. We’d do well if we imitate God who judges with clemency and with much lenience, permitting repentance, a good ground for hope for all God’s people. I’m reminded of a saying one parish made into a banner: “There’s no one so bad who can’t enter here; and no one who is so good who can leave.”
Jesus claims the mustard seed is the smallest of all the seeds. Perhaps he never saw a portulaca seed. One time I was preparing to put some of that seed in the ground. A strong breeze blew the seeds from my hand onto the soil. I couldn’t see them much less pick them up! But they grew and spread and flowered. The point is the kingdom grows and spreads, so much so it provides shelter for us even though it may start small.
Now think of the difference between eating hardtack and a dinner roll. In the War between the States hardtack was referred to by the soldiers as a “jawbreaker”. On the other hand, a dinner roll is soft, airy, and easy to eat. What makes them so different? Hardtack is made with water and flour; but, a dinner roll has an extra ingredient: leaven. Leaven transforms. Living according to the Kingdom is like that. It transforms us.
The lessons of the weeds and wheat, the mustard seed and the yeast should a little clearer now. But analogies are just that: analogies.
The Kingdom of heaven is so vast, so different, and such a mystery that it cannot be reduced to one image. If you were asked what the Kingdom of heaven is like, what image would you use?
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, A17