Sermon for Trinity 5.
In reply to the question; “What sort of people are required for the Kingdom of God?”, a dozen or so parables supply the answer dotted amongst the gospels. Among them we have two here this morning that have been lumped together with some others to illuminate us.
There is the parable of the treasure stumbled upon in a field, which after being found by a man, he goes and sells everything he has in order to buy that field and immediately afterwards we have the parable of the merchant in search of fine pearls who finds this wonderful pearl of great value and does likewise – sells everything he has to buy that one pearl.
Both of them challenge us listeners to make a decision for total commitment. In both parables the Kingdom of God is likened to wealth that surpasses all other wealth and possessions. He seems to say “If you have the kingdom – nothing else much matters and indeed you don’t really need anything else!”
That’s quite a challenge if taken seriously.
Are we really ready to part with everything we have in order to gain it? Willing to part with family, possessions, ditch one set of values to gain a new set of values, commit ourselves to an uncertain future with (certainly in Jesus’ time) the possibility of execution at the end of it?
Well are we or aren’t we? That’s the challenge that Jesus lays before us in these parables. Do we want that treasure that much. Is that pearl really worth it? I always remember Alex tell me that she’d given up her lovely house by the sea, money, stability and in her case even gave up living in her own country. She didn’t like it but she did it. Would you?
Or are we wedded to money, security, position, comfort and we’ll do anything, absolutely anything to gain the kingdom – except something that upsets our comfort and stability – which ultimately is then proved much more important to us in reality. Contemplating these two parables seriously will sort out in our minds where our true priorities lie.
You see, there’s nothing light and fluffy about these parables. They offer a real challenge if you are wanting to take them seriously, as they were intended.
These two parables are alike in that each one of them portrays the kingdom as treasure beyond measure if you have it. But they differ in how the person comes upon the kingdom.
The treasure in the field is just stumbled upon by a person who wasn’t even looking for it. That is a pretty good description of how I found God. Working in a warehouse in my mid thirties, on the night shift in the early hours of the morning suddenly coming to a belief and knowledge of God in my life. I’ve been trying to reconcile the God I found with the church I found later ever since.
In the other one though the merchant had been diligently and studiously looking – actively seeking God – perhaps for years or decades until eventually he found him. Or perhaps we are a mixture of the two, once catching a glimpse of God and then spending years trying to find him again?
So in two similar parables Jesus appears to acknowledge different routes to enlightenment. You can look and look for years or you can just stumble upon it – and no-one really understands the hows and the whys.
And not knowing the hows and whys brings me neatly to the parable of the yeast . The kingdom is like yeast. It is alive and at work and bubbling away but is within and always out of sight just below the surface. It is hidden. As it says in another place, the Spirit is like the wind – you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going..........
It can also be like a mustard seed - insignificant. To the casual observer the original disciples must have seemed like a pretty poor and unremarkable bunch. Rather insignificant. People may well say the same about us. Yet within them and within us, lays the germ of an idea, a way, treasure, a great pearl – perhaps obscured and hidden, covered in mud but here nonetheless and carrying such enormous potential that could change lives.
That germ of an idea is that we are both “children of man” and “children of God” simultaneously and when we discover the divine within us – when we find God, that treasure, that pearl of great price we become a conscious and willing agent of the kingdom of God.