Pentecost 11 – July 27th, 2008
Your house is burning down and you have just minutes to escape. What do you take with you? What's your most valuable possession?
Your family? Ok, let's assume they make it out safe. What one thing would you take? A wedding album? A piece of jewelry? Maybe your computer or some family heirloom. Something irreplaceable right? Something that might not be worth a lot of money, but to you, is worth saving more than all those other things.
Today we conclude a series of parables from Matthew 13. Today we hear Jesus talking treasure. The treasure buried in the field and the pearl of great price. The kingdom of heaven is like these, he says. But what does he mean? Let's take some time this morning and consider “valued treasures”.
Well I hope I got you thinking for a moment before about what you truly value. And in a crisis situation, perhaps your true values become more clear. First make sure your family is safe. Then your own life. Then worry about what can't be replaced, and then what can. But many of these valuable things and people we take for granted until they are threatened. In normal life, we tend not to think about what's most important.
What's most important, what's most valuable, what's the best and brightest treasure for the Christian? The Gospel, of course! The good news of Jesus and what he has done for us! This is our great treasure. Or you could say, Jesus himself. Or our faith in him. Or eternal salvation. It all goes together really. But lest we take this parable too lightly, and end this sermon too quickly. Let's think about that a little more.
How often do we act like the man in the parable? Selling all we have to obtain (or maintain) the kingdom? Do God and faith and church and the Scriptures really come first for us? Or do we become distracted and complacent, do we forget the treasure before us always? Are we mindful of our baptism, and the daily forgiveness it brings? Do we appreciate that each breath we draw is a precious gift we don't deserve in the least, and that even though our sins do deserve death that God in Christ has promised us eternal life?
Oh, but there's a sale at the mall! There's a big deadline at work. My kids have a soccer game and a birthday party. And I need to see the season premiere. And we have a busy weekend planned and company's coming over and boy gas is expensive and did you see how much a pound of meat costs now and yep there's that doctor's appointment and....
Where's your treasure? What's important? In the parable, the man sells everything else to obtain the kingdom. That doesn't mean that Jesus is telling us to do the same. Family and Work and Possessions and Reputation are all good gifts of God. They have a proper place and role in the life of God's people.
But they're not the true treasure. Martin Luther said it well, “Take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife. Let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won. The kingdom ours remaineth!”
Let's hope it doesn't take a crisis for us to see the treasure. But the beauty of the treasure is that it shines brightest when we need it most. I recall standing in the room of a dying man of faith. And I was privileged to observe as he said his farewells to his loved ones. He said all the things you might expect – expressing his love for each one, giving words of advice. But the most poignant moment came when he told them all, “keep the faith!” For certainly, in his last hour, he knew where the treasure was. He could see what was most important.
Paul says the same in our reading from Romans today. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ – not trouble, hardship, nakedness, danger or sword. Not angels or demons, height nor depth nor anything else in all of creation – not even life or death. Such a great treasure it is.
And while many have read these parables and said, “gee, I could do a better job of treasuring the kingdom” there is perhaps more to it than that. In the parables Jesus has been telling, he is the main character. The farmer who sows the seed. The fisherman who casts the net. We could even see him as the man who sells his possessions for the treasure in the field, or the merchant who does the same for the pearl.
For certainly, Jesus gave his all. He gave his life. The one man who never deserved death, who had no wages of his own sin, died in our place on a Roman cross. He was tried like a criminal though he had no crime. He was found guilty who had no guilt. He was put to death like a common thief and buried like any other dead man.
He gave more than just his physical life. He endured shame and ridicule. He was humiliated and tortured. They even divided his garments among them. But worst of all, he suffered the wrath of God for the sins of all mankind. All the punishments of hell and damnation were laid on him, the one who took our place. Yes, Jesus gave his all.
But why? Our catechism puts it this way, “He has purchased and won me from sin, death, and hell, not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death, that I may be his own, live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness innocence and blessedness”
He gave it all – to purchase us. You see, if Jesus is the man buying the field or the pearl, then that makes us – you and me – the treasure! Such is the kingdom of heaven.
We love him for he first loved us. We serve him for he first served us. We treasure him, for he has treasured us – valued us – put us before himself.
And he still gives us his riches. Sure there's the earthly wealth we enjoy – good gifts from God to be sure, but not the best. In the words of absolution, we hear his own priceless forgiveness. At the altar, we receive his own body and blood and the riches of his grace are for us again. In the font he pours out, literally, life and spirit and grace – not just then but in a daily flood of blessings.
This is the richness of the Gospel, the treasure of our faith. That Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, treasures you. And nothing can take that away, nothing can make that irrelevant. Nothing can tarnish the treasure trove of blessings that are ours in Jesus Christ.