Most Australians awoke on Friday morning to the devastating news of the destruction of Malaysian Flight MH17 after being shot down by rebel forces in the Ukraine with the loss of 298 lives, including 37 Australian residents and citizens and some medical professionals who were heading to Australia to attend an AIDS conference in Melbourne. In the midst of the incomprehensible grief and numb confusion was a basic question – how can God allow this kind of senseless violence to continue. In the meantime, the atrocities committed in the continuing military action by Israel in the Gaza Palestinian territory had led to the deaths of more than 270 civilians. Where was God?
Once the question is asked an immediate reply is called for – where would the limit of this divine action be? How evil does the act have to be before God would sweep in to issue his divine judgement and punishment? Should every evil thought or intention within my heart be immediately judged and punished? The three parables by Jesus that we have in Matthew 13 today all begin to address this question: God is acting, but the overall call in the midst of history is for the need for patience. God has already acted in a complete and massive way in the death and resurrection of Jesus, but the outworking of this victory will only be complete at the final judgement.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 10am (6’55”)
Sunday 16, Year A Gospel: Matthew 13:24-43
Jesus put another parable before the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” “Some enemy has done this” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”’
He put another parable before them, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.’
He told them another parable, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’
In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed, he would never speak to them except in parables. This was to fulfil the prophecy:
I will speak to you in parables
and expound things hidden since the foundation of the world.
Then, leaving the crowds, he went to the house; and his disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain the parable about the darnel in the field to us.’ He said in reply, ‘The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!’