It’s the cutting edge of making choices,
splitting what you choose from what you don’t choose.
And making your choices will set you apart
from others, even friends and family.
This is the work of becoming your own self.
When your choices upset those around you
it may be because you’re being foolish.
But it may be because you’re making your choices
instead of letting them. It will be like this.
Abandon that owned self, and find your own self.
Listen deeply to God.
Let God alone lead you.
Make yourself available to God
as an instrument of righteousness,
and know that even as you let go of your life
you receive life.
Jesus moves on, according to Matthew, from stories of God-the-Mad-Farmer who sows seed everywhere and refuses to weed the crops, to stories of choices that must be made, stories in which it is not God, but we who must do the choosing, between small seeds that can grow God-crops in the world, and all the welter of things the world wants us to choose instead.
The grain of mustard seed – the smallest of all the seeds, can grow in a weedy patch to become the largest of all the bushes and offer shelter to many birds. A small amount of yeast can grow flour into bread enough to feed a town. The priceless pearl, a small thing among fakes and baubles, has value far greater than everything we own. A great treasure, unexpectedly found in the field of your life, will require everything you have. And the full fishnet, teeming with life and trash, will best be sorted on shore, so bring it all in.
Each of these tales requires everything. And each requires just one thing. The price for the treasures of God is everything we have. And the prize, the treasure, is only one thing, one thing that must be seen and named and taken and prized.And none of them would get you a round of applause in your choosing. And most of them would get you some rolled eyes, or some catcalls, or some Damn Fool! remarks, maybe muttered, maybe said to your face.
After all, who are the likes of you and I to be purchasing pearls? To be selling the farm for something you found in a field? To be wasting all your yeast to raise three barrelsful of flour into bread for strangers? To be planting mustard instead of fig trees or olive groves? And as for that fishnet, any fool can see the old boots, the broken bottles, the sea-bottom trash in that haul – throw it back, cast your net again!
What’s precious, say all Jesus’ stories, is likely to be judged as junk by most folks, and likely to require a lot from you and me.
And I can’t help but think about children – for all around the world, they’ve been decried as worthless this week by some.
Three boys in Israel were killed, just for spite, a few weeks ago. And then a Palestinian boy was tortured and killed for revenge. And then four Palestinian little boys were bombed on a beach, in an Israeli military operation. Collateral damage is the military term for this. It will be years before we know what all this has really cost the Gaza, and the nations of the world.
And here on our own border, some 57,000 children have arrived without parents or passports or permission to enter. The furor crescendos. They are seen as an economic threat by many, as the enemy by some, as a humanitarian crisis by some.
Coming from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, they are likely all to be baptized, and therefore brothers and sisters of every Christian in the world. And very likely none of them has been innoculated against any diseases and all may be malnourished. And again it is likely none of them speaks more than a few words of English.
In a parable similar to the choosing-the-kingdom ones, Jesus offers the man who was beaten on Jericho road – and the priest and the lawyer, who saw a problem and a nuisance, passed by without stopping – and the Samaritan, who saw a pearl, a treasure, took everything he had to pay for the life of this man.
Which one of these men, asks Jesus, made the right choice in the eyes of God?
At the end of this week’s reading, Jesus asks the scribes if they understand him, and then tells them it is for them to offer the hospitality of the master (God) of the house (earth), bringing forth the new and the old.
All around the earth, migration is streaming people and cultures together, bringing the southern hemisphere into the north, and immigrants come for every reason, in fear, seeking safety, hoping for education and jobs they cannot get where they came from, for love, for money, for hope, for adventure, in sickness and in health.
The hand of God is in this. And not a single story or teaching of Jesus, about the kingdom or God’s love, comes to my mind that would let us say Go Away.
The stories say: Shelter, Feed, cherish them as Prizes, pull them all in and sort it all out later. The stories say Do not forget to welcome the stranger, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware . . . The stories say Children (the Meek) shall inherit the earth.
All the stories say – Make yourself available to God -
Poem by Steve Garnaas- Holmes, from his Blog, Unfolding Light
1. Mustard Seed vs. McWorld - Jordan Cooper, Poster, 2007. Worship Freehouse, an alternatigve worship community in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Vanderbilt Divinity School Library, Art in the Christian Tradition.
2. Breaking of Bread Service, 2013, Annunciation of St. Mary Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Toronto, Canada. Vanderbilt Divinity School Library, Art in the Christian Tradition.
3. Immigrant Children, Breitbart, Texas
4. Israeli Murdered Boys.
5. Immigrant Children, Breitbart, Texas
6. Dead Palestinian Boys on Gaza Beach.