Reflection for the seventh Sunday after Trinity

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

Jesus 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 yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’ ‘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.’

Reflection: Buried Treasure

Have you ever found buried treasure? During the lockdown, parts of my garden were dug that had not seen a spade for many a year. Twice I dug up toy cars, long forgotten; a reminder of when our boys were young and played in the garden with their toys. It reminded me of my own father unearthing my old toys in his garden a long time ago.

Let me tell you about some buried treasure found recently in the cathedral during the present building work. When the south west corner was being excavated to lay sewerage and water pipes, under supervision by an archaeologist, a carved granite head was unearthed. It is about 12 inches high and was attached to a square faced stone, where presumably it was mounted on the wall of the previous church building on the site, possibly from the 13th or 14th century. The carving is a man’s head, of quite striking appearance, wearing a crown. We await the opinion of experts as to its age and whom it may represent.

The head was buried in the foundations of the present cathedral, which was built over two hundred years ago. We could speculate how it came to be there – was it discarded thoughtlessly? Was it lost unintentionally? Or was it placed there knowingly, to be preserved for posterity? We can only guess, but why did anyone bury treasure?

In ancient times, people often buried items of value for safekeeping, perhaps during a war or invasion to prevent it being looted. Many such artefacts have been discovered. When Jesus told the parable of the hidden treasure, he was addressing a farming community that was probably familiar with finds of buried coins and suchlike, as they tilled the ground in a land where many battles were fought. Imagine being a farm worker, ploughing the land and finding gold coins or jewellery? If only he could get enough money to buy that field and own the treasure, it would be like winning the lottery. No more drudgery for a few cents a day!

That is exactly how Our Lord described the Kingdom of heaven. Let us be clear about what is meant by the Kingdom of Heaven – it is the world as God intends it should be, and one day will be in the fullness of time. The parable of the dragnet and the fish in today’s reading is about future judgement, the putting to right of all that is evil in the world. In the meantime, the kingdom is being built on earth, as it is in heaven.

The world as God intends it to be. In the simplest terms it is where God’s will is done – where we love God above all and love our neighbour as ourselves. There are many signs of the kingdom where people actively care for others, helping the most vulnerable. We have seen examples of good neighbourliness during the COVID-19 restrictions. However, we are only too aware of how the opposite is true, where the innocent suffer, the poor are exploited by the powerful, and racial discrimination denies equality of opportunity.

The parable of the hidden treasure challenges us to rearrange our priorities and to concentrate on the things that really matter. As followers of Christ, we are to be oriented towards God’s will and reality, and view the world through the eyes of Christ. If we lived like that, how could we ignore the suffering and needs of others or fail to care for them?

The parable of the yeast illustrates how the followers of Christ are expected to make a difference in the world. Just as yeast transforms dough into something tasty and edible, so we are called to be an influence for good in the world. How strong is our desire to make that difference – to see God’s kingdom built? Is our desire like the person who finds buried treasure, so that we are willing to sacrifice everything to achieve it?

Collect for the seventh Sunday after Trinity

Lord of all power and might,
the author and giver of all good things:
Graft in our hearts the love of your name,
increase in us true religion,
nourish us with all goodness,
and of your great mercy keep us in the same;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers of intercession

Let us pray for the growth of the Kingdom of God.

God our Father, guide your church to cherish and cultivate the precious seed of the Kingdom, so that your people may grow in faith and love for you and each other. Teach us to desire your kingdom above all else and to dedicate ourselves to your service. Bless Pat our bishop, this diocese and its people.

Lord hear us: Lord, graciously hear us.

We pray that all that tends to goodness and love in the world may grow and prosper. Give to the rulers of nations and all in authority the understanding that there is a greater kingdom than their own and richer treasure than wealth so that life for all people may be more abundant.

Lord hear us: Lord, graciously hear us.

As the world continues to live with the COVID-19 pandemic, we pray for all who devise and implement health policy, all who are engaged in medical research, and all who work in the frontline of our health service. We pray for responsible behaviour that will help prevent the spread of the virus. Protect all frontline workers as they care for people in need and maintain essential service.

Lord hear us: Lord, graciously hear us.

Help us to value the gifts of home and family life. We ask your blessing on families during school holidays and pray for all who are working to reopen our schools safely. We pray for children moving to new schools and those moving on to further education or beginning careers. Guide and help them through these transitions.

Lord hear us: Lord, graciously hear us.

We pray for all who are ill and who struggle with their health. We remember all whose mental health has been affected through isolation or stress. Grant them your peace and healing. Support and strengthen all who care for loved ones. We pray for all who mourn the loss of loved ones and comfort them in their grief.

Lord hear us: Lord, graciously hear us.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with us all evermore. Amen.

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