Friday, August 07, 2009

Thursday Vespers

This was our second-to-last night at Kanuga. Later in the evening, while I was celebrating the Eucharist for closing ceremonies over at Camp Bob, Little Charlie and Nana were busy becoming stars as they acted out the poem "Jabberwocky" under the direction of Glenis Redmond. Ms. Redmond teaches teachers how to teach poetry, how to encourage students to write it and to read it aloud. The kingdom of heaven is like...

Matthew 13:47-52

Have you understood all this? Jesus asks, searching their faces for the slightest sign of comprehension, and hilariously, the eternally point-missing disciples say yes. Have you understood all this? What will be our response?

The kingdom of heaven is like... Over and over again this week we have heard Jesus try to teach what he has been demonstrating in his life. The kingdom of heaven is like a field sowing a mustard leaven mixed with a a pearl... Have you understood all this?

Tonight’s parable is the last we will hear together this week - Jesus will have something different for us tomorrow night. Tonight the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind. The story goes on to describe how the fish are sorted, but let us for a moment notice that the net itself does not judge its contents.

The Greek word used for the net describes a seine, a drag net of the sort that was usually about six feet deep and several hundred feet wide. It had to be positioned by boat and required many hands to cast it out and haul it back on board. In something of the same way kudzu covers everything in its path, so would the net catch everything in its path as it was dragged through the water - not only fish but flotsam and jetsam as well.

In fact, the word “fish” doesn’t appear at all in the original text - we supply it because we presume that’s the primary purpose of casting a net into the sea, but the parable as Matthew has Jesus never refers to fish. The net simply “catches every kind”.

The kingdom of heaven is like this. The other parables we’ve heard have painted for us images of the kingdom hidden in the world like a seed in the ground or yeast in bread. But tonight Jesus is giving us an image of how the world is in the kingdom, and it is simply this - everything, fish and flotsam and jetsam and all, is caught up in it. The kingdom, like a seine, is sweepingly unselective. As far as God is concerned, all are included, all are welcome whether you are a good fish, a bad fish, a piece of seaweed, a shipwreck, or even an old tire.

What then, of the sorting that takes place on the shore, once the net is full of everything under the sea? What of the sorting that takes place at the end of the age, once the kingdom is full of everything under the sun? The Reverend Robert Farrar Capon carefully sorts through the Greek here and notes that the good gathered into baskets and the bad that’s thrown out are not very carefully defined. In fact, what one fisherman (say you or me) might call bad, another fisherman (say, our creative, reconciling, life-transforming, flotsam-and-jetsam-loving God) might call good. Madeleine L’Engle put it this way: “Jesus is constantly trying to make us understand that God’s ways are not our ways, and that God’s love is far less selective and far greater than ours.” Only those fish who can’t bear the thought of being caught up in the kingdom, who flop themselves right out of the net, will find themselves, as Capon writes, “gasping on the beach.”

Have you understood all this?

I have stepped, these past two days, into something of a parable over in Minkler Grove, where my mom and I learned to make these.

Not nets, obviously - they wouldn’t be much good at catching fish, I suspect. But like the net dragged through the sea, these baskets have been woven together and are made in order to hold things, to catch things, to collect things. It is the first basket that I have made.

Now, I do not presume to suggest to you that my basket is like the kingdom of heaven. My basket is more like the contents of the net - beautiful reeds of all shapes and sizes and colors, good intentions and hard work, and mistakes of all shapes and sizes and colors. Another basketweaver with whom I sat today told me that the Kanuga baskets she has made are scattered throughout her home where they catch things of every kind - clutter on bedside tables or kitchen counters, treasures found on long walks, bits and pieces on bookshelves.

I probably won’t have time to make another basket while we’re here, but I did learn from Joe (the basket-making teacher) that I could use the grass-consuming wisteria in my backyard for weaving at home. In fact, he said that even kudzu can be made into baskets! All are included, all are welcome... Have you understood all this?

The truth is, of course, we can’t fully understand, for now, the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of, says writer Kate Huey, our "seed-planting, fish-netting, pearl-hunting, bread-kneading God." But then, we are not called to understand these things but, rather (and thank goodness) simply to live them. How will we, as kingdom people, make our yes to God? What will be our response? Amen.

Artwork: Photo taken on our visit to the Georgia Aquarium; "Church in the midst of life," by Nancy B. Johnston; Our baskets (mom's on the left and mine on the right).

No comments: