Friday, March 03, 2006
March 5 Sunday Sermon Notes
The Scripture text is Matthew 13:44 (TT) "The Kingdom of the Heavens is like a treasure, hidden in the dirt field. When a man found it, he re-hid it, and joyfully goes home and sells everything to purchase that field."
Remember, when Matthew uses the phrase, Kingom of Heaven, it is his way of referring to God. So Jesus is giving us a description of what God is like. There are nine of these comparisons in the Gospels, where Jesus is teaching us about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Some of his descriptions include a merchant, a king, a landowner, a sower, a net, a treasure, a mustard seed, yeast. So the sermon text is only looking at one of these teachings about the Kingdom of Heaven.
A word about the phrase Kingdom of Heaven. It is not just another way to say God's name, but it is designed to reveal the range of God's rule. A kingdom is the area over which a king has dominion. The stronger the dominion and his ability to enforce it over more people, the bigger the kingdom. The kingdom is then inhabited by people who yield to teh choices of the king. God's Kingom is that place where God's choices prevail over people. Christians are those who live in God's kingdom, people who live under the choices of God. When Jesus prays for God's kingdom to come, he is praying for God's choices to previal on earth. That is a very important prayer.
The text for Sunday instructs us on what a normal reaction is to encountering/discovering God and His Kingdom.
Jesus' first sermon (and overarching theme) is (Matt 4:17) "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near you." And so now Jesus is saying, for those that get very near the "kingdom of Heaven", their natural response is going to be great joy and total allegiance/affection. The "kingdom of heaven" is such great news that upon hearing it, my life is not the same.
In the story that Jesus tells, the man finds a hidden treasure. How does one go about finding a hidden treasure? Why would treasure be hidden in a field? In those days there were no banks available for regular folks. They kept their valuables hidden from thieves by burying it in the ground. Their nation was also a major battleground, many nations fought one another on the plains and valleys of Israel. Thus when looting soldiers came thorugh (which was often), folks would bury their stuff, hoping they would be alive to come back and retrieve it. As would often happen, the owners of the buried treasure would be killed, carted off. Thus treasure would be buried in a field, and the owner of the treasure and field would be never returning.
So the field passes into the hands of another ,who does not know that there is treasure in it (he might assume it, and seeks to find it).
This is where the movie clip from Kingdom of Heaven is helpful. In that scene the young warrior enters his father's land. It is a land with buildings, people, livestock and some vegetation, but no water. His father did not care for the land, and did not think that there was any treasure (water) buried there, so he never looked for it. Water is the treasure the young son/soldier must find if his new land is going to have new opportunities to sustain life and build dreams. And so everyone looks for this treasure, this water. They find it through diligent and hard work. They celebrate together this discovery. Why was the treasure worth finding? Because it would change their life.
Jesus point: God's Kingdom, God's rule (always right, always generous, always good, etc) is discovered by those with eyes to see, hearts desiring it, hands willing to obtain it. And those that discover God respond with great joy (God, as reavealed in Jesus is Good News). And in discovering/obtaining God, a new life is made possible, new dreams and a new future is both promised, and initiated by God.
Can one obtain God? Jesus says in John 15 "Abide in me" or "Remain in me" and "I will abide/remain in you". We can say one obtains God, but it is not against God's wishes, but rather, what He has always wished: that God and Man would be One.
The man in Jesus' story sells all he currently owns (home, tools, clothes, trinkets, food, toys, animals, etc) so that he may purchase the field in which is the hidden treasure. Once the man buys the field, all he has is a field and a treasure. And now he takes his treasure, and out of it begins to build a new life, builds a new home in a new place, starts a new crop, with new animals, his family has new clothes and new food and new tools and a new future. And in selling all he had, he now has more than ever thought possible.
And so with us and God, in obtaining God, we forfeit our kingdom in order to obtain His Kingdom. In "selling" our kingdom, our way of life, our fate and destiny, we obtain God's Kingdom. Out of Him and his Treasures, we are able to start a new life, rooted in His choices, his resources, his wisdom, his generosity. We lose our old kingdom, but gain a whole new Kingdom, the way it is supposed to be for us.
We think that this story outlines the obvious...that if someone saw immense treasure lying in a field, that of course they would sell everything they currently own to obtain a new treasure which would change their life.
Oh really...? I think the more obvious story is that someone discovers a treasure, and tries to obtain that treasure through dishonest gain, and that they would merely add that treasure to what they already possess.
What is interesting about this story is that we read it in our prosperity...what would we do with a million dollars? In light of the nice house and cars we already have, in light of the decent health and many toys we possess. The man in Jesus' story, whatever his financial situation, had just enough (through selling all his possessions) to purchase a field, to make himself homeless, even if for a day or two. This man in Jesus' story took an enormous risk to increase his financial situation. This story isn't about why we should take risk for financial gain, but rather, risk must be a factor when leaving one kingdom and entering into another, especially when one must leave the old kingdom behind.
What am I trying to say?
God and His Right Way is like Buried Treasure. God and His Right Way, when they are found, result in fantastic enthusiasm. But like Buried Treasure, it changes your life. It makes a whole new life possible. When you discover God, the fantastic enthusiasm lies in the new life he can make possible (remember: repent, for God is near - Emmanuel!). God is a Treasure, and if he changes our life, he changes our life to make us Generous. What does God's Generosity look like? How do we Remember God's Generosity to us? Through Communion. The Body Of Jesus, Broken for Us is what God's Generosity Looks Like. The Life-Blood of Jesus, Poured Out for Us, that is Generosity. And it is to this that is either fantastic Enthusiasm or revulsion. When I Discover God, as revealed through Jesus, as Experienced in His Kingdom, either their is Fantastic Enthusiasm for the changed life and the opportunity for Broken Body, Spilled Blood kind of Generosity, or their is revulsion.
The man in Jesus' story likely wasn't a greedy hoarder. He sold all he already held precious and dear to him, that he might gains something greater. Greedy people keep what they have while trying to attain more. This man was wise, he knew that the temporary trials was a small price to pay for the new life ahead for him and his family. And if he took these wise, legal measures to obtain the wealth, then one would naturally think that he would use his new wealth wisely and legally.
In God's law, that means giving to the poor and needy. OT law required more than just 10% tithe, the total was actually over 25%. And so this new wealth and new life was not about pampering self, so much as new opportunities to give more away. The more you have, the bigger the sacrifice that is expected. That is what is evident with Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. God has everything, so he sacrificed that which meant everything to Him, that we might have everything with him. What generosity on God's part! And since we delight in generosity, God is inviting us to delight in him, in his generosity, and to delight in being generous back to God and those around us.
What is our response to God? Delight. Ongoing delight in God throughout the day, because there are always opportunitites to be generous towards others throughout the day. Generous in words, kindness, patience, humility, cup of cold water, visitation, warm coat, etc. And when we are Generous in Jesus' name to the least of these, we delight God and are able to delight with others.
Well, if you've made it to the end of this rambling, virtually unedited article, then pat yourself on the back for endurance. I needed to get a ton of stuff on "paper". Now I can think a bit more clearly about the sermon on Sunday. Do not be afraid, my sermon won't be this long, or rambly, or windy!