The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost - Proper 12A (7/27/2008)
The New and the Old
Lessons: 1st Kings 3:5-12 Psalm 119:129-136 Romans 8:26-39 St. Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm Genesis 29:15-28 Psalm 105:1-11, 45b (or) Psalm 128
Prayer of the Day: Beloved and sovereign God, through the death and resurrection of your Son you bring us into your kingdom of justice and mercy. By your Spirit, give us your wisdom, that we may treasure the life that comes from Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
13.31 He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 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." 33 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."
44 "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. 45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. 47 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 "Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes." 52 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."
St. Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
I have long been a history fan, and admire those whose understanding of events past runs deep. I used to love hearing Professor Tim Lull discuss Luther and his time. His grasp of Luther's life, ministry and theology was powerful - and he would share those old stories with us in a way that made us want to live and think and believe in the same ways. Likewise Shelby Foote, in the "Civil War" series presented by PBS years ago, seemed to make the past present again when he spoke of how our nation evolved during those tumultuous years. I love learning from a good historian. They teach us about our past in a way that helps us live more wisely in the present.
I also enjoy learning from those who have insights into what the future holds. Whether it is in congregational ministry, political science or economics, there are those who seem to know where events are leading us; people who can provide insights into what might make for a strong future. They help us shape our present in a way that allows us to most effectively address the future.
In this weekend's Gospel lesson Jesus teaches us that both of these viewpoints are essential if we are to be about the work of God's kingdom in a way that truly makes a difference. God's people sometimes find themselves polarized - with some claiming that faithfulness is all about being true to our past, while others are claiming that adapting to the present and preparing for the future is our primary task. Jesus teaches us that "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." Faithfulness has to do with living amidst the interchange between the ancient word handed down from our ancestors and the creative insights about where God's future is leading us.
Beverley R. Gaventa, Associate Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, writes these words:
Not every new wind is a Nor'easter that will shake the church's very foundations. Neither is every stone in the foundation the makings for a prison. Both the new and the old belong in the householder's treasure. Both the new and the old may serve the church. Both the new and the old may reflect the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"Both the New and the Old" from Christian Century, June 30-July 7, 1993, page 669.
She reminds us that whether we are embracing that which is old, or experiencing that which is new, it is important to measure them both against what we know about God in Jesus Christ. How do our traditions (and our traditional beliefs) point us to the one who died and rose on our behalf? How do new insights (or new beliefs) draw us into those things that mattered most to Jesus?
May be faithful in asking just such questions together.
David J. Risendal
Exploring This Week's Text:
- What do these parables teach us about the kingdom of heaven?
- Are the images Jesus uses here old images or new images?
- What new insights does he provide into God's kingdom?
Connecting with This Week's Text:
- What aspects of our (Christian or Lutheran) tradition are most meaningful to me?
- What new ways of being God's people have stirred me most deeply?
- How have the old and the new worked together to help me better know God?