Ninth Sunday after Pentecost 07/30/23
Text: Matthew 13: 31-33; 44-52
Title: One Man's Trash is Another Man's Treasure."
Two weeks ago, in the parable of the sower, we found out that we are to throw the seed of God's Word everywhere. We are not to decide who is worthy or not worthy of hearing the Word of God.
In last week's parable, the parable of the wheat and weeds, we found out that it is not our business but God's business to decide who is a child of God and who is not. God will make that final distinction on judgment day.
In today's Gospel, there are several parables, but I will take a closer look at the parable of the treasure found in the field. I have always wondered how you would treat an object you thought was worth only a few dollars after discovering it is worth thousands. Do you lock it away, put it out for all to see, or sell it? Maybe you sit in front of it and admire it. I don't know, but I am sure that you would never look at it in the same way again.
In our reading for today, we see that God's love is hidden in the ordinary things of life. The Kingdom seems to be anything but extraordinary. A mustard seed is tiny. The yeast seems invisible and insignificant. The treasure is hidden in the field. The fine pearl is mixed in with the ordinary pearls. And hidden in the net among all the fish caught is the finest seafood.
Looking at our lives, we see only the mundane, the struggle to live as we would like. As we look back on our lives, we see the what-ifs, the dreams that were not fulfilled, the ambitions that were somehow lost, and the evil in the world. And we think that if there is a God out there whom we can trust, he is surely doing a good job hiding. And that gives us a problem, for we would like to have an active God that we can see, talk to, and maybe even touch.
But we don't have that kind of God, at least we don't think so, because we who are spiritually blind cannot see the Kingdom of God that is at work among us. For the most part, we are unable to see what God is doing right under all noses in the seemingly mundane things of life.
We look in all the wrong places, we read all the latest self-help books, the most popular religious books, and everything but his Word, all in the hope of seeing God at work when in fact, he is at work in our lives.
I am afraid that too often, we do not grasp the significance of a little baby born in a manager. We fail to see that the tiny mustard seed can produce a mighty shrub that spreads its branches far enough for birds to build nests. We fail to see that a little yeast in a huge amount of flour can make a truckload of bread. We fail to see in the weed patch of life a treasure.
This reminds me of a Texan that was mining gold, but he could never get the pit cleared of some sludge. It just kept seeping in and ruining his work. One day a city slicker from the East came by and offered to buy the land; the Texan jumped at the chance and sold it to him. Little did he know that that sludge was an indication of oil, black gold and that the man he sold it to would become wealthy beyond his imagination. That Texan who thought he saw a sucker was blind to the treasure before him.
We, too, are often blinded to God's work because we are caught up in instant gratification, consumerism, and all those things that keep pushing God out of his rightful place in our lives. I am afraid that, for the most part, we are so blind to God's work in our lives that we often do not see what is right before us in his Word and in his Sacraments.
Just because we are often blind to God's work in our lives does not mean that he is blind to our lack of compassion, our grudge-holding, our "they will just have to get over it," or "tough luck" attitude toward those we have hurt, either unintentionally or on purpose. God notices those things in our hearts.
Our present and future would be bleak if God had not come into our world as that seemingly insignificant little baby boy. God could not and did not leave us on the trash heap. He wants to turn us into treasure, for he treasures us.
He comes to us today, not as a person publicly doing miracles, nor does he come in flashes of lightning or thunder, but in the mundane, the broken bread, the wine poured out, the water splashed in baptism.
He is the mustard seed that will grow into a wonderful, almost tree-like bush. He is the treasure worth giving all for. He is the pearl waiting to be discovered. He is all those things, yet he was and still is rejected today. The world was blind to the treasure he is, and so they trashed him by nailing him to a cross.
As awful as that was, God knew his son was not trash but treasure. He knew that through the trashing he was taking, he would take the trash of the world, that is, you and me, and make a wonderful treasure out of us. And what he treasures will not have to worry about being thrown into the trash dump.
Brian Stoffregain, a Lutheran pastor, once told a modern-day parable designed to be told along with the parable of the treasure hidden in the field. It goes like this. A man finds a treasure box hidden in a field. It is too big for him to carry home, so he buries it so no one else can find it. He finds out the field is for sale, so he gets all the money he can get; he even goes into debt to buy the field, for he knows it will be worth it once he has the treasure box.
He digs it up and cleans the treasure box until it shines like gold. It was a beautiful box, heavily carved and made of the finest materials. He spent hours just sitting there admiring it. He talked constantly about his beautiful treasure box. He would wake up in the morning thinking about the box. At night he would lay in bed dreaming about his wonderful treasure box.
Whenever someone would ask him what is in his wonderful treasure box, he would reply, "I don't know. I haven't looked inside. But it sure is a beautiful box, isn't it?" To the day he died, he never looked inside the box. He never found out what great treasure the box contained.
Brian's modern-day parable is about how we in the church often emphasize the box rather than the real treasure inside the box. Too often, we let denominational loyalties, buildings, liturgies, hymn books, creeds, and the confessional books that make up our treasure box become more important than the treasure they contain. In doing so, we let them become barriers to the real treasure, which is the Kingdom of God.
I want to close with this thought. It came to me as I reviewed my sermon this morning. It is time to shift our priorities so that God is at the top of our list instead of wherever we have him now. For we do not possess the Kingdom of God, it possesses us. In fact, God asks us to be slaves to his Kingdom, for it is only when we are slaves to his Kingdom that we will learn how pleasurable it is to start to turn loose of our time and money as we care for those in need of our society, those who need to see and hear of the love of Jesus.
God has given each of you the most precious treasure, the most gift, all bought at the greatest cost; the life of the Son of God, to hold and to share until the end of the age. Let us then respond to his great gift by devoting our lives to thanking, praising, serving, and obeying Him. Amen.