Sermon Pentecost 6 – July 24, 2011

July 24, 2011 at 9:57 am Leave a comment

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field,
which a man found and hid;
then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
When I was a child, I never understood this parable.
These are interesting parables,
because unlike the last two weeks,
St. Matthew does not record Jesus’ explanations –
perhaps because Jesus did not give any explanations of these parables,
or perhaps because St Matthew thought them unnecessary.

Certainly the parable of the fish parallels last week’s parable of weeds among the wheat,
that we must wait for the moment when we finally see evil separated from righteousness.
The parable of the mustard seed and the leaven have something to do with growth,
and again, patience.
But the parable of the treasure hidden in the field
points to something that was not immediately clear to me as a child.
I must confess that when I was a child,
my first thought was –
“Why does he hide it and then buy the field?
Why doesn’t the guy just take it?”
No one knows it’s there, obviously –
For some reason it didn’t occur to me that this would be stealing.
As I thought about it some more, I guess this dawned on me.
Even though no one knows the treasure is there,
you do,
and you can’t just take it.
You don’t have to tell the seller about the treasure,
but you do have to pay the asking price for the field.

But then as I was thinking about this this week,
I thought about another thing.
What if you can’t move the treasure?
What if it’s not like a treasure chest full of gold and jewels,
but more like a mineral deposit –
say, a natural gas reserve?
Now there’s a parable we here in this area can relate to.
And we’ve got all sorts of people around here who want to buy our fields –
well, if not buy, to lease the mineral rights –
so that they can have the treasure that is covered over.

And then I thought of the patience that would be required of the person
who had found the treasure hidden in the field,
the hope and expectation tempered with anxiety –
is this treasure really worth everything I have, everything I own –
my reputation, my life up to now, everything,
in order to possess this one thing?

You remember the movie, “Field of Dreams,”
where Kevin Costner’s character, Ray, must choose between selling his land
to the large farming corporation
or retain it so that part of it can become a baseball field
where Shoeless Joe Jackson can come and play ball again,
where Ray can reconcile with his father?
Ray’s brother thinks he’s nuts.
He will lose everything.
And yet Costner’s character goes the distance.
“If you build it, they will come,” says the voice.
And they come.
They come through the fields, they come to a place of encounter
with those they love and with those who love them,
to play the game that brings them together.

This, too, is a parable.
A parable is something you throw up alongside reality,
a parallel to reality to make reality clearer.
And what Jesus seems to be saying in his parable
about the treasure hidden in the field –
what he seems to be saying to me, anyhow, at this point,
is that the kingdom of heaven is not a place,
but it is a reality.
It is a reality that Jesus is king in my life,
and that it’s true both now and in the future.
But the kingship of Jesus is not one that can coexist with other realities.
Just as the man who found the treasure couldn’t just take it
without giving up everything that he had,
just as Ray in Field of Dreams
had to risk his security to find the place where the past and the present met,
so we cannot have a situation where Jesus is in charge,
and we are in charge.
We must give up in order to gain,
we must let go in order to have,
and we must spend in order to acquire.

Spending our lives in pursuit of the treasure of Jesus
is the call we were given in baptism.
If in our nation’s Declaration of Independence
our forefathers declared that we were given the rights
to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,
then Christians identify happiness as the state of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord.
Whatever anyone else may define as happiness,
that is what Christians pursue.

Now what I am clearly not saying,
is that I have yet acquired the treasure hidden in the field.
God’s Word, and Jesus’ parables,
tell us what the kingdom of heaven is like.
And the kingdom of heaven is not just when the field is bought.
But it’s when the person finds the treasure,
realizes what it will take to obtain it,
considers whether or not to do so,
takes the necessary steps,
and finally purchases the field.
I’m not sure whether I’m on step one, step two, or step three.
But if we are hearing the call, we are hearing the good news
of what the kingdom of heaven is like.
If we hear of the granting of Solomon’s prayer for wisdom;
If we hear Paul’s proclamation that good can come from evil for those who are called,
that Christ is for us, and who can be against us,
that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord;
If we hear Jesus’ message that the one who found and hid the treasure
is joyful even as he gives away his old life to find the new one,
then we are in the presence of the kingdom of heaven.
We are being called to live into the new reality,
that Christ Jesus is Lord of our lives,
that heaven reigns despite hell’s fury,
and that one day our joy will be complete,
as what we long for and hope for becomes fully ours.

Amen

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From “Dying with Dignity” to “Living With Dignity” Sermon Pentecost 8 – August 7, 2011

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