We are God’s Treasure and God is ours

July 26, 2020
8th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 12

Genesis 29:15-28
Psalm 105:1-11, 45b
Romans 8:26-39
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Let’s take a trip back in time, to way before Corona, for some of us way, way, way before … back to our Jr. High English Class when we learned about metaphors and similes. Are you there – in the classroom sitting among your classmates and listening attentively to the teacher (we’re pretending, remember, so we might as well make it good).

Both similes and metaphors are forms of comparison to help explain or describe a concept or thing. Metaphors are more of an abstract or implicit comparison like telling a story to make a point or draw out a truth from a current situation. Often the similarity is obscure and not easily identifiable at first and we have to work to draw connections.

Jesus does this often in his parables, not because he wants to make things difficult but because it is by the forming of these connections in our own thoughts that the point of the story is made more real to us. The point of all of Jesus’ stories is to change us and help us grow.

Two weeks ago, we read Matthew’s telling of the Parable of the Sower. Jesus at first doesn’t make a direct comparison between the soil or the sower and us, he just tells a story. Sometimes it is easier to hear a truth about ourselves if we can see it about someone else first.

It is only when the disciples don’t get it that he draws the connections for them. Like our Jr. High English teachers, he’s teaching them and us to make these connections. With this metaphor of the sower, Jesus is setting the stage, helping us till our soul’s soil, so to speak, for what he’s going to say next.

In last week’s gospel reading, Jesus begins using similes, a direct comparison, and says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a person, not a place. The kingdom isn’t bound by time or place because the kingdom is us learning to live now on earth as it is in heaven and Jesus wants to make sure we get the direct connection between what he says and who we are to be.

In our reading this week Jesus continues to describe the Kingdom as acts of abundance.

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. The purpose of a mustard seed is to become a mustard plant to make more mustard seeds so that we can all enjoy a really good hotdog. That last bit is my editorializing but you get the point: God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven is like a mustard seed that does what it is created to do and in doing so, provides for the wellbeing of other creatures in the kingdom.

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast in bread. Yeast’s job, it’s purpose, is to spread throughout the dough and cause it to rise so that we have nice, palatable, fluffy bread rather than ration biscuits. God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven is like yeast doing what does to create abundance and nourishment.

The kingdom of heaven is like finding treasure and giving up everything else to get it.

God gave his life for us. We are God’s treasure. And Jesus shows us that when he says hard things like “those who lose their life find it” what he’s really showing us is how to discover, like a long lost treasure, the life God created us for all along.

The kingdom of heaven is like finding the perfect pearl so that we are willing to give up all that we have to gain this one thing. God loves each and everyone one of us as if there were only one of us, as if we were the one perfect pearl. And when we discover we are God’s treasure, God becomes the only treasure we need.

And then just so our heads don’t get too big, Jesus returns to the theme that it isn’t ours to sort who’s “good” or “bad”. The kingdom is fish of all kinds gathered in one net. We don’t get to sort them out, we are simply called to be what we are created to be – God’s children living in and sowing the abundant love of God. The angels will sort us all out later.

I don’t think these descriptions of the Kingdom are in random order, I believe that they build on each other.

Jesus talks about scattering seeds and the point of that parable is to teach us to till our own soul’s soil so that we can grow the seeds of God’s love in abundance and scatter them.

Then we learn about how it isn’t our role in this glorious kingdom to determine who in or out, good or bad, but to let the Holy Spirit cultivate us so we can be who God created us to be.

And now we have mustard seeds, and yeast, and invaluable treasure. When we live as God created us to live, we do bring heaven to earth. We bear the fruit of the kingdom – love, peace, hope, compassion, in abundance, and through our fruit others are equipped to bear the fruit, too.

Later on in Matthew’s telling of the gospel story, Jesus says if we only had the faith of a mustard seed we could move mountains. We often take this to mean we’ve failed because we don’t have “enough” faith. Faith, even if we start with a tiny bit, becomes like yeast in the right conditions. It grows and permeates the entire batch and brings life and sustenance to the kingdom.

You hear me say it often – our faith, our belief, our choosing to follow Jesus isn’t some eternal life insurance policy for later but for our every day, ordinary, now.

The salvation that God offers is about saving us from the forces in this world that work hard to convince us
that happiness comes from things,
that people are to be used for our individual benefit,
that we have to look out for our own individualized interests because there is never enough of anything to go around.

We are saved by God’s grace when we realize the purpose for which God created us – to live in loving relationship with God and each other.
We are saved as we come to understand that joy and peace and strength and hope are grounded in our relationship with God and not the temporary things of this world.
When we are saved we spend our energy reaching out with our hands and hearts to serve God by serving others in all that we think, say, and do.

The kingdom of God is not a place. It is people and actions of abundance and being as God created and intended. The Kingdom is knowing that we are God’s treasure and God is ours.

The kingdom of God is now. Discovering this treasure is the point of all of Jesus’ stories, however he tells them.

And like St. Paul, I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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