Toorak Uniting Church

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God’s reality for us is like, ....

Matthew 13: 31 – 33, 44 – 52   Romans 8: 26 – 39
Rev. Ian Brown
24 July 2005

Perhaps celebrity is the closest thing we have to a good modern example of single minded purposefulness.
For Michael Jackson the most important thing seems to be to have the perfect face – I don’t understand that, but women like Cher and men like Sam Newman seem to know what it’s about.
Sir Bob Geldoff has used his celebrity to campaign for the world’s poor.
For Shane Warne it’s a little hard to know what he values most! But he certainly has celebrity – I’m not sure that I understand that.
With Homer Simpson the most highly prized things in life seem to be donuts and beer – I come a little closer to understanding some of that!
For people like John Howard title and power seem to be all important. For Eddie Mabo it was land rights for his people, for Nelson Mandela it was freedom and equality for black South Africans.

And there are horrifying examples of single mindedness in our grief-stricken world too. Lives wasted for a cause, the most precious gift we have, literally thrown back in the creators face as bombers try to make a point.

Most people in our culture would claim to pursue more mediocre aims. We seek security, comfort and pleasures. Mostly we shun extremes. But think for a moment, what is it that you and I value and pursue?

Is there some-thing, some- cause, some- relationship, some- attribute worth really going after with everything we have?
Most of us have some smaller or greater experience here. Think, what is it that you would miss an appointment for? What would make you want to miss church? – Or is it that there has to be something making you come?
What would you miss a meal for? Miss a family occasion in order to do instead?

If you have ever had any of those sort of experiences, it comes close to the field Jesus is speaking of.

Jesus said, "the Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found, and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."

Like the artist who painted the poor African farm laborer on the cover of the order of service today, can you imagine the pure delight of that discovery! Almost accidental generosity, unadulterated joy, 100% proof wonder!
This is what the reality of God is like.
This is worth downing tools for!
This is worth missing dinner in the rush to sell the old cow, the few chickens, the tools, a family heirloom – to scrape the cash together to buy that field, to make the treasure his.
Delight, joy, the pursuit of this treasure of God’s, this is what being a kingdom person is all about.

Again, Jesus said, "the kingdom of God is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it." If you’ll pardon the pun, this is a gem of a parable!

Jesus says that the one thing to value above all others – the one important thing to be sure of, that one thing to chase, to seek out and be a part of – at all costs – is the kingdom of God.
Now different people value different things. And we are taught to be a tolerant and understanding people, accepting of the values of others – and that’s good – because I’m utterly convinced that God cherishes the variety and uniqueness of each one in creation – but!

But underneath and behind every chief motivation and every different value, Jesus is pointing us to the one thing that will keep our desires and motivations healthy and well directed, the one thing that nurtures our uniqueness and provides it’s true foundation.

That "pearl of great value" is to belong to the family of God, to be a part of God’s reign and to be shaped as part of this kingdom of God. This is the thing to seek out and value above and beyond all other values, the one thing true worth. These are key stories in showing us the nature of God’s reality. A reality that, like a mustard seed will grow, like leaven, mysteriously changing from within, a reality of joy and discovery, of the greatest value!

This reality is the one Jesus speaks of so often as the "kingdom of heaven, or of God" – a reality he says is "at hand" or "near to you." This reality of God’s is one with it’s own values and ways of being

The 17th century minister, Thomas Traherne, spoke of the kingdom of God this way:

"It is the room and place of our treasures, the repository of our joys, the dwelling place, yes the sea and throne and kingdom, of our souls."
It is the ground and foundation of our satisfactions.... the measure of our delights, and the grandeur of our souls.
It surrounds us continually on every side, it fill us and inspires us. It is so mysterious that it is wholly within us, yet even then it seems wholly without us.

In Jesus this kingdom comes and is proclaimed with great joy. It is a cause of immense happiness because nothing else in all creation is worth even a jot compared to this!

Each one of Jesus parables has a facet of the kingdom, and this ‘pearler’ shines with the ultimate value seeking out God’s kingdom – but there are other parables that show us the view from the other side; parables like the lost sheep and the lost coin and the lost son, that show us from God’s perspective that each one of us is, for God, like a pearl of great value – God seeks us out as being of inestimable worth.

Is the finding hard – not if we have our eyes and ears open is Jesus advice.
The story goes, there was once a pearl oyster lying on the sea bed, who saw a loose pearl not far from her. She wriggled to it and lifted it up onto the top of a rock next to her – in the hope that if a diver came by he would take the pearl and spare her, who had no treasure.
A diver came, missed the pearl and took the shellfish – why? – he was conditioned to look for oysters, not pearls. So we need to have our eyes open!

This talk of the kingdom in terms of pearls might give the impression that God’s way is flashy and immediate – found by sudden discovery like a treasure suddenly discovered in a field, but no!
God’s way is also like a mustard seed and the work of yeast in dough. These things seem insignificant – tiny seed, and microscopic yeast organisms. Not only are they small, but they work slowly!
Huge trees don’t grow overnight, yeast doesn’t work instantly. One discovers by accident, one through a painstaking search, some of the kingdom is like organic growth.

Time is needed, patience is required. The kingdom of God is the same. God’s values and ways won’t transform us or our world overnight, even though we might dearly wish for that. We need to be open to small beginnings and take the time to nurture fragile young growth, growth in us and in others.

Jesus stories of the kingdom indicate to us that, as part of God’s family we should be characterized by our patient, steady growth, like a mustard tree, that as individuals we need to be open to new ways of seeing God and new perspectives on God’s ways and above all we need to have that seeking attitude that looks for pearls of wisdom and seeds of growth and when we do find treasures unexpectedly, we need to be willing to drop lesser priorities and go after them with a focused sense of purpose.

And there is the honest blunt issue of cost. We may stumble on the treasure, but still there is a costly decision to be made to appropriate that treasure. There must be a cost. Too much of the trendy fluff that passes for spirituality these days is about meeting this treasure in this field, another treasure in another field, no real cost, no real commitment.
Jesus is clear though that God’s reality is a 100% all in affair; it’s the whole mustard tree, not a bunch of cuttings, it’s the completely leavened lump, not a basket of assorted crumbs, it is everything to buy the field, not just your spare cash, all you own to have this pearl, a 100% kingdom commitment.

But all is not discovery, growth and joy.
And when we see no treasure before us, when we can find no pearls just at the moment, and especially when we are affected by the selfish who try to just take, or the hateful who just try to destroy, then a these times, we might just pray with the Spirit. As Paul tells us, "the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that the very Spirit intercedes with sighs to deep for words." This truth is a precious treasure too.
But I imagine the Spirit has been doing much sighing lately over the state of our world!

Then after we have sighed, prayed with the Spirit’s help and shaken our heads over the awful tragedies of life, then we might be reminded of these stories again.
We might remember the treasures of the kingdom and a better way of being that Jesus came to inaugurate and we might have a go at living out their values a little more outwardly.
And perhaps we might share something of the hope we have for God’s peace, harmony and compassion to make our world a better place. And then even do something about it!

And we might think more seriously about the positive contribution that our beliefs could make to our families and our communities, because, – and there is nothing surer than this – if we do not, if the good news of Jesus, the reality of God’s kingdom is not spread – then other values will be. We who have seed to share, treasures to rejoice in, and yeast to use must share it, must rejoice in it, must let it grow, shaping us and our world.

Thanks, then to God – the God who puts treasures out there for us to find, the God who plants the seeds of great things in us, the God whom to know is worth more than all the finest pearls in the world. Amen.

© Rev. Ian Brown, 2005

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