Reading: Psalm 4, Proverbs 2:1-15, 2 Corinthians 4:3-12, Matthew 13:44
Preached at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, Ellicott City, April 19th 2015
This morning I invite you to a treasure hunt. Matthew 13:44. “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.”
The man looking for treasure travels through three stages.
- There was firstly DISCOVERY
- Then there was DELIGHT
- Then came DEDICATION
Let us consider those three things.
The hidden treasure I am inviting you to discover this morning is the Kingdom of God. Everyone of us here is somewhere along the road in the search for that treasure. It may be you have only come along for the baptism of a child. It is lovely to see you and we'd love you to come and be with us again.
The fact that you are here means that you sense the Kingdom of God is somehow important in the life of this little child, and is therefore important to you. What a treasure the gift of a child is! I know they can drive you round the bend sometimes, but life is precious. And today we have made a commitment to discover some of the treasures that life holds. Every service of worship is an invitation to come and experience the richness and the value of God. Every time we meet for worship is a treasure hunt.
If you ever have to do any digging in the garden you know that eventually you are going to strike a stone. You expect that. But it can still give you a jolt! Occasionally you hit something and you think, 'Hey, that feels different, that's not a stone'. So you look down and clear the earth away, and you see a bit at a time. If you are lucky you may have discovered something of real value.
For many people it is just like that with the Christian message. When Paul, one of the first great converts to Christianity, tried to preach his message, he knew it was something that people had to approach as a discovery. He writes to the church in Corinth “If the Good News we preach is hidden , it is hidden only from people who are perishing. …. the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News.” (2 Cor. 4:3-4 NLT)
The treasure of the gospel is often hidden to us by a society that enshrines many false gods. We lift up celebrities as role models, we are cushioned by materialism, we want instant answers and quick fixes, we want the next 'thing'. Our culture often refuses to acknowledge it's need for a spiritual foundation.
At times the church hasn't helped in the process of discovery. Jesus has been hidden within our stained glass windows, traditions and theologies. We have treated faith as such an intensely private thing that we are not sure how to share our beliefs with those who don't share them.
Yet there are treasures hidden mysteriously deep in ourselves. It is a basic biblical teaching that we are all created in the image of God. Whilst in each of us that image is tarnished by our compromises and sins, there still remain resources in ourselves that we can tap into if we are prepared to dig for them. During His earthly ministry Jesus recognized that even in those society rejected, to name but two, the prostitute, the leper, even in the lives of those whom others looked down their noses at, lay the capacity for renewal and change. The darkest places still hide deep treasures. He called people by name and acknowledged their needs and affirmed that their lives counted to God.
Our lives matter to God. They are something God treasures. They are something God desperately wants to be a part of. They are something He sent His Son Jesus Christ, to die for that there be no barrier between ourselves and God's love.
To me that is one of the greatest discoveries any person can find. That the God they once thought of as distant and unreal can become personal and relevant and of more value to them than precious gold. That's what this little parable talking of hidden treasure is all about. The man digging in his field and discovering a treasure tat is going to change the rest of his life. After he makes this discovery comes a second thing.
"The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.” (Mat 13:44 NLT)
The New Living Translation talks about excitement. Other translations use the word 'joy' or 'delight'. If you find hidden treasure whilst digging in your garden you are going to be well pleased! But if you have any sense, you won't go bragging about it to the whole neighborhood. Notice that the man hides it for a while!
I was in my later teens when the things of God's Kingdom started to become a reality to me. I made a commitment to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I was stupid enough to believe that meant that I now had all the answers, or more irritatingly, that only my answers were the right ones. You remember how it was in our late teens. There were no gray areas. Everything was black and white, right or wrong.
My initial attempts at sharing my faith were a disaster. Mostly because it took a while for my lifestyle to catch up with my mindset. I was talking the talk, without walking the walk. My self righteous outpourings alienated people rather than inspiring them to draw near to God.
It took me a while to understand that one of the great values of Christian faith is that it does not provide compact, easy, answers to all our dilemmas. What it does helps us to do is ask the right questions. To think outside the box … or one could say think outside the tomb... as we are still in the season of Easter. The grace that God provides, through the help that is the guiding Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can discover life lessons to treasure and guide us through the complex mess of our lives.
That for me is where the delight comes in. When Jesus exercised His earthly ministry and people were touched by his love they came alive. No matter what sort of people they were, in terms of social standing or morality, or any other classification, once they glimpsed something of His love then they started to ask the right sorts of questions. They started to live in a way that brought some of the things of the Kingdom He kept talking about to be a part of their lives.
To use the terminology of the apostle Paul, he rejoices in the great mystery that our lives, which are nothing more than 'common clay pots' can become vessels of 'spiritual treasure'. As I heard one Pentecostal preacher proclaim “I was in the darkness, now I'm in de-light”
This delight is not simply an emotional response, it is something deeper than that. It is a delight that transforms us. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 “We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren't crushed. We are confused, but we aren't depressed. We are harassed, but we aren't abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren't knocked out.” In the midst of an often unfriendly world it is a delight to know that there is a God who is on our side. But if we want that sort of treasure, there has to be a third thing;
The last part of the parable tells us of the man that “In his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”. The ancient wisdom of the book of Proverbs puts it this way: “Turn your ear toward wisdom, and stretch your mind toward understanding. Call out for insight, and cry aloud for understanding. Seek it like silver; search for it like hidden treasure. Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and discover the knowledge of God”. (Proverbs 2:2-5)
Dedication is never an easy task. There are many stumbling blocks that prevent us from achieving our purpose. Often the biggest stumbling block we have is our self. For as we allow the Spirit of God to dig deep into our lives, what is revealed is not always sweetness and light.
In Luke 6:45 Jesus tells His listeners; “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”
The challenge can be framed by a simple question; 'What are our hearts full of?' The gospel message is not so much about external behavior as it is about the inward attitudes that our behavior stems from. If we can get our heart in order, then everything else finds its rightful place. The treasure is inside!
But recognize this... Good treasure is always worth having! And the treasure which is Jesus Christ is the greatest treasure of all. We learn about it in the Scriptures. We can discover its living reality through prayer. We can discover it in worship.
So today we are invited to go on a treasure hunt. I've been on it for a while now and what I have discovered has changed my life for the better. It is still far from perfect, it is still treasure in a clay-pot, but that is just as well, because I don't want anybody to become followers of me, but disciples of Jesus Christ.
We have dedicated the life of a little one to God through baptism. Our little ones are just one of our treasures. God has great blessings for us all, if we can but have the commitment to keep on digging.
There is treasure beyond our wildest dreams.
- Treasure to DISCOVER
- Treasure to DELIGHT IN
- Treasure to DEDICATE OURSELVES TO
“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.”
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.