the penultimate WORD
Series 1999 - Proper 17 Canon Jim Irvine
...what is new and what is old.

 

Jesus said, "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." Matthew 13: 52

 

It has been almost a year now, since the introduction of The Bag. Used at the Rectorís Talk following the Collect, the children gather at the chancel step, seated variously on the step and on the nave floor. The Bag is retrieved from a table close by.

Its contents will be the focus of our Talk.

Over the year, dozens of articles have been secreted away. Their discovery by the Rector has been a highlight. Great care is taken by young and old alike to keep the contents secret. Itís like a game.

The children played the game at first. Then some parents wanted to play. Later other adults, those without children, wanted to be included.

Now, everyone plays the game.

As The Bag is opened, eyes, wide in anticipation and constrained excitement, fix on the thing withdrawn from within.

Silence fills the church.

How might this remind us of God, or the ministry of Jesus, or even the Kingdom of Heaven?

Jesusí stories help us here. We know them as parables. Oh, he didnít have a bag close at hand. But he did draw on the imagery of what was commonplace in the lives of his listeners. For some, he talked about agricultural images. For others familiar with the care and tending of livestock, he talked about sheep, and shepherds and sheep-pens. And still others, those who knew the sea, he spoke of fish and fishing.

He drew on what was known and familiar, and he engaged his listeners in such a way that their hopes and imaginations were ignited and they could see something new.

"Have you understood all this?" Jesus asked in todayís gospel, and they answered, "Yes."

Indeed they did understand what Jesus said. The mustard seed and the yeast, the treasure hidden in a field and a pearl of great price, and a net - a net thrown into the sea - they grasped the vision, a vision, their vision or insight of Jesusí teaching.

The informal teaching at the chancel step with the disclosed contents of The Bag is a lot like that. The pager placed in the bag by a telephone employee, a compass placed by a Beaver, a clothes-pin placed by a Sunday School teacher, an elastic placed by a confirmation candidate - they each one listen attentively and grasp the vision, a vision, their vision or insight of the teaching.

Jesus 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."

That is the object of the teaching. The detail of the story is only an illustration of a greater lesson to be grasped: that in Jesus all things are made new.

The mustard seed and the full-gown plant can never be seen the same way again. And neither will a treasure hidden in a field, or a pearl, or even a net - they will each one be seen forever differently. They will appear familiar and they will be seen as if for the first time!

The Bag helps us integrate that principle in our lives today. It isnít someone elseís experience and insight but our own that enlightens our understanding. Drawing out of our treasure, we discovered a new vision in what is old. "Behold," said Jesus, "I make all things new."

Copyright © 1999 James T. Irvine

Series 1999