The Kingdom of Heaven does not just exist within the world, embedded in it, but it exists as a force of transformation, of bewildering transformation. Jesus gives a third parable in this section about the way the Kingdom conquers evil: by overtaking it, by swallowing it up. The first two talk about the very real problem of evil in such close proximity to us, infesting our world, frustrating our efforts to flourish as God's people. Suffering that seems to just grow up in our fields, in our hearts, in our bones. So much is lost in the weeds, so much good slips through our grasp. Thankfully we ourselves are not lost; Jesus says that the good farmer will be sure to gather the wheat from the weeds. Another parable follows: the Kingdom of Heaven is like a small seed to grows into a mighty tree of rest for the weary. The third parable Jesus gives is of flour, so many measures of flour that it could feed forty people for several days. This is a lot of flour, the world is a big place, your life and my life are big places full of all kinds of evil, unbelief, reason to doubt.
Only a small measure of leaven is hidden within the flour because, frankly, you don’t need much leaven to have it transform the entire lump. This is what Jesus says, that you don’t need much; you don’t need much of the Kingdom of Heaven to have it swallow up the whole of evil. After all, the Kingdom of Heaven was hidden in a stable. Hidden in a trough, hidden in a baby who is the Son of God. Hidden in the son of David, the son of Joseph. Hidden in Bethlehem in the relatively irrelevant region of Judah, hidden in the relatively unimportant Roman state of Israel. Hidden as he grew into a laborer, a craftsmen. Hidden as he began his earthly ministry, an itinerant preacher mainly in the region of Capernaum, an insignificant spot of society a breath away from the wilderness. Jesus walked and taught and raised from the dead and healed and confronted and fled in an area so hidden that for a time modern archeologists differed about whether the places even existed at all before they finally found them. Hidden on the road to wherever where he found men fishing for whatever, and tax collectors in their booths, human beings all of them in their skin, hidden within them were hopes and dreams that one of these nights dawn might break.
The weeds grew along with the wheat and he was crucified, dead, and buried. Buried in evil, buried in grief, buried in the powers and principalities of this world, buried in every question and anxiety, worry and unbelief that you bring with you in worship. When Jesus was buried in sin on the cross, and buried in that darkness in the tomb, it was your and my sin that did it, we were the flour and he the leaven. And of course when the stone was rolled against the tomb it was time for evil to wash its hands. Because this was over and done with. But as we know, New City Presbyterian Church and these people are here, and their children are here or will be here, because defeat and burial isn’t how things shook out at all.
From that small measure of leaven everything rose: the body of Jesus, the destiny and influence of the Apostles, the institution of the church and the word of God into the hands of so many laid low, and the establishment of hospitals in destitute corners and universities and schools and libraries in the far corners of the world, and the recognition of childhood as a thing to be honored and protected, and the care and honor of the elderly, both of which were not meaningful categories of protection until Christian Orthodoxy birthed it, and freedom from slavery in the British Empire, and the end of slavery in this country, and the establishment of human rights for African Americans, all of it borrowed from a vocabulary Christianity created and nurtured.
Not to be lost in all that rising is you, among the weeds, among the plants of the garden, among the measures and measures of flour. You too rise. You too are gathered into your God's storehouse, where moth and rust do not destroy, where thorns no longer infest the ground, where every good thing that slipped through your grasp is found forever.