This morning, we conclude our series looking at parables of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel that begin with the phrase ‘The kingdom of heaven is like……..’ The language of ‘kingdom’ presents challenges in our time; perhaps raising images of side-lined, ceremonial duties at best and patriarchal, oppressive domination at worse. But, for the original hearers of Jesus’ parables, a new kingdom represented the possibility of real change, of freedom from oppression and just rule. Jesus’ first listeners would have assumed that this new kingdom would be achieved by military might but Jesus told parables or stories to challenge their perspective, to puzzle and provoke.
In proclaiming the kingdom of heaven, Jesus announces and enacts the intention of God for creation. “May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. The parables cause us to look closely and to wonder, what does the plan of God look like on earth, and what is my part in making it happen? This morning we consider the extraordinary generosity and grace of the kingdom in the story of the generous employer in Matthew 20. Our service will also reflect on the non-violent actions of the people of Parihaka in response to the advancing colonial forces on November 5th 1881, the response of the people of Parihaka gives us a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven.