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27th July 2014 - Sunday Morning - Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs

Sermon for Proper 12 - Trinity 6
1 Kings 3. 5-12
Matthew 13. 31-33, 44-52

How many people here today are good at de-cluttering?

I wish I were.... I am hopeless! Very good at acquiring 'stuff' and very bad at getting rid of it... partly because I can always hear somewhere in the back of my mind my grandmother's voice and my mother's - "are you sure, you won't want that some time??? Waste not want not!" So I end up in danger of being paralysed by my possessions... Just as well they give Vicars fairly large houses - or maybe not? If I had less rooms to fill with junk, maybe I would be better at getting shot of it?

In today's Gospel reading with its succession of snapshots of what the Kingdom of heaven is 'like', i can imagine Jesus trying out one image after another and then almost discarding them as he sees the faces in front of him and realises that they are grasping very little of what he tries to tell them.

"Have you understood all this?" he asks the disciples who all dutifully answer "Yes" - and you can see them all nodding away - and understanding really nothing.

Well when we look around the world it is hard to see the kingdom of heaven anywhere isn't it? Even though we know - from last week's gospel - that we have to allow the weed and the wheat to grow up together. .. Looking at the dreadful scenes in Gaza and Israel, or in Mosul in Iraq - where a Christian community nearly 2000 years old has been all but wiped out this week, or when you see the sad lines of those plain wooden coffins coming off the military planes coming from the Ukraine? Any one of those terrible stories is enough to make us shake our heads and say "No, we do not understand." We do not understand how fellow human beings - who are just like us in so many ways, can fall so short of the pattern that God has set for us, and cause so much suffering in the world.

Teachers must become learners. Jesus' comments are infuriatingly cryptic at times, but what he seems to be saying to us is this - When a teacher of the law has become a learner in the kingdom of heaven, he is like a householder who can produce from his store, things both new and old.

So teachers must become learners too - but the good news (especially for those of us who stand up here week by week (!) is that such a transition, a change, is possible. That is good news for the clergy; Popes and precentors and prebendaries; archdeacons and archbishops; canons and curates; bishops, priests and deacons.... not to mention the Readers too - all can become disciples (one who learns). It is never too late. But conversion of our lives is not like the conversion of your spare room into a useful sewing or hobby room. It is not a once-for-all event. Becoming a disciple is much like becoming a child or child-like. It is a process not a destination. So we have a constant process of de-cluttering our minds of all the paraphernalia with which religion clutters up the way of Jesus.

When people tell me they have no time for organised religion - I am often sympathetic... because I long for people not to follow an institution, but to find and follow Jesus.

But you can go too far the other way - throw out all tradition and you lose something very precious that roots and grounds our faith and helps us to understand that we stand in the traditions of our forefathers and mothers. And that Christian Faith is worth remembering and celebrating - why else would we have an act of remembrance at the heart of our worship?

That is what we have to offer if we listen properly to today's lessons. The disciple is like the householder in whose home both the old and the new are valued. Therein lies the wisdom that Solomon was seeking - that Jesus tried to pass on to his companions.

This is the wisdom that we seek to bring to a broken and battered world out there. We come here to be fed at God's table; to be reminded of the values and principles that motivate and inspire us; to take God's peace out to a war-torn and grieving people. That in truth we need to be committed exclusively neither to the old nor the new, but to the One who transcends both.

So, with Syndey Carter the hymnwriter, we pray,
You are older than the world can be,
You are younger than the life in me;
Ever old and ever new,
Keep me travelling along with you......