Sunday

26 July 2020

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

‘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.’ (v. 33)

Psalm: Psalm 119:129-136

Background

What is the kingdom of heaven? Jesus tells us that it is small, hidden, mysterious and generous. There is a time sequence here which covers both discovery and its outcome. Jesus may be speaking of the kingdom of heaven as something that was arriving and appearing to his contemporaries. Yet, we must say that it is always arriving, always being discovered by individuals and it is not taking over; it is part of an ecosystem – a shrub amongst other shrubs. It is also in relationship – the birds rest in its branches. It does not result in Christian countries, institutions, denominations – these are quite different things.

Key to Jesus’ message, throughout all that he says, excepting the rather different Gospel of John, is the small things that make a big impact. I suspect that is not how we read Scripture or theology most of the time. I think we should be careful in making too much of small things and particularly of treating Jesus’ parables and imageries as allegories. However, I was struck by today’s selected text which mentions the woman with the yeast. We should always note the women in the text because there is a great risk that they disappear into the background of otherwise male texts. What struck me is that the woman is God. The kingdom of heaven is God’s kingdom  – this is better understood as the place where God is at work rather than where God is ruling – and God is busily mixing yeast into the world until God’s raising effect is everywhere. I do believe that we should hold onto and be looking for female imagery in relation to God, because God is not a bloke in the sky. God herself (noting that the Methodist Church ascribes no gender to God) is a challenge to patriarchal attitudes.

 

To Ponder:

  • How do you feel about the use of female imagery for God?
  • What does the kingdom of heaven look like to you? How would you describe it?

Bible notes author

Julian Bond

Julian works for the Connexional Team as the grants team leader. Previous to that he was the director of the Christian Muslim Forum, which is built on friendship between a group of Christians and Muslims, showing how faith is a catalyst for good relationships and welcomes the 'other'.

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