Sermon by Fr. Joshua Bell SSC, 26th September 2020
Readings: 1 Kings 3:5,7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52
What is the best buy you ever got – the best bargain, or hidden gem? We sometimes hear about priceless paintings donated to charity shops. I’m quite fond of Bargain Hunt – if you aren’t familiar with it, the teams are given a couple of hundred pounds to buy three items that go to auction. If they make a profit: they keep it!
Which leads me on to today’s gospel. Jesus presents us with a number of images for the Kingdom of Heaven, and the first two are, I think, especially beautiful.
First: a man who finds treasure in a field. I wonder, did you ever own a metal detector? I did – though my trips to the beach never found anything more than empty beer cans.
A few years ago there was a lovely sitcom with Toby Jones about two detectorists – it’s on iPlayer and I thoroughly recommend it! Across three series they search the fields of Essex for hidden treasure.
Their ultimate goal is to find the burial ship of the Saxon King Sexred, and all the gold that goes with it.
Now imagine the excitement of the man in Jesus’s parable: he too is searching for buried treasure, and when he finds it, he sells everything he owns, in order to buy the field. We can only assume that the worth of the treasure is more than the value of the possessions he sells to buy the field it is in! Imagine something so valuable that to gain it, you would be prepared to lose everything…
Jesus’s parables often invite us to ask ourselves the question: “Who am I?” “Who am I in the parable Jesus is telling? In the parable of the Good Samaritan, am I the Samaritan, or the Levite who passed by? In the parable of the Prodigal Son, am I the younger son who rebelled but repented, or am I the older son who never faltered, but who resented the party thrown for the younger son?” Two weeks ago, we heard the parable of the Sower, and we asked ourselves, what sort of soil are we?
Today’s parable seems to be much simpler. We may often have heard this and considered that we are the merchant looking for fine pearls, or the man looking for treasure in a field. And we think of the treasure, the pearl, as being the Gospel – the good news about Jesus Christ that is worth losing everything to gain.
But what if it’s the other way around? I’d like you to think: what if I’m not the merchant – what if I’m the pearl? What if God, instead of being the pearl that is worth selling everything for, is instead the merchant who rejoices over us?
In the first chapter of Genesis, God brings the world into being. On each of the six days, we hear that God saw what he had made, and saw that it was good. The final thing to be created is humanity, and after this, the Bible tells us, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
Think about that for a moment. God creates humanity, and sees that it is very good.
Of course, we know that humanity’s relationship with God was broken in the Fall, and the history of God’s people is his repeated attempt to restore that relationship, through Abraham, Moses, King David, and the Prophets. Throughout the Bible, God longs for that relationship to be healed. So in the fulness of time, God sent his son, Jesus Christ – who emptied himself and became human.
We are God’s treasure. To gain us, he went, and sold all that he had.