Stories that Stick: Treasure In Field
Minneapolis Livestream · Sunday, August 9, 2020 10:15 am
Matthew 13:31-32, 34
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
Dear beloved of God, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ. Amen.
What is the one thing for which you would sell absolutely everything? All you have. What has the singular ability to capture your attention, your focus, your energy, your very being?
Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like that thing.
It’s like treasure that is so valuable to you that you would sell all you own to secure it. It’s like a pearl so precious that nothing else matters but possessing it.
Did you know that the third most viewed TED Talk of all time takes this idea up. It’s been viewed nearly 55 million times. And it’s by the author and thinker Simon Sinek. Sinek challenges businesses, and by extension individuals, to be clear about why it is that they exist. He says people aren’t really buying your products. They’re buying you. They’re buying your reason for existing. They’re buying into your reason for being. That TED Talk was given more than 10 years ago.
Spend anytime on social media these days and you’ll come across someone — whether they’re a social media influencer, a self-help guru, a life or business coach, or a fitness enthusiast — and they’ll say the most important ingredient to finding success, to reaching your goals, is to get clear about why you’re doing what you’re doing. “What’s your ‘why’?” they ask. When you know your why, it’s easier to do the hard work that’s required to get there. When you know your ‘why’, you’re willing to stay in the fight, to grind out those last few reps, to stay disciplined with what you eat, to log those late night hours, to say no to the things that distract you…
You get the picture.
The kingdom of heaven is that like thing, that reason, that purpose, for which you would give or do anything.
Whenever I’ve heard this parable, even at a very young age, I’ve thought, “what’s the matter with me?”
I don’t know that I’ve ever been able to identify my treasure in a field or pearl of ultimate worth to clearly articulate my ‘why’. I’ve always found those exercises where people say something along the lines of, “what would you do, if money were no object, how would you spend your days,” to be really unsatisfying. I can always think of a few things, but none of them would capture my imagination for very long.
And then I think, if I can’t come up with something here, an earthly fascination, how will I ever devote myself to the work of the kingdom of heaven, whatever that means exactly.
I mean isn’t that the implication here. Jesus says, the kingdom of heaven is like the thing for which you would sell everything, everything, upon finding it. So you should sell everything for the kingdom of heaven.
And faith or religion or church or spirituality, or whatever you want to call what we’re doing here, has never captured me with the kind of joy that would prompt me to sell everything. To give everything. And look, I’m not trying to work out my issues publicly here, but I want to acknowledge that fact. These mini-parables might be hard for some of you, maybe even most of you. And if it is, know that you’re not alone. They’re hard for me too.
I don’t have a clear picture of what I am searching for. I’m not the merchant who is looking for that perfect pearl with laser focus. I’m not the treasure hunter. Most days I feel like I’m just looking, kind of aimlessly.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been reading more and more from a monk who lived in Kentucky in the 1960s named Thomas Merton. Merton lived in an austere monastery and lived a very different life than those in the outside world in the 1960s. But he wrote with a deep appreciation of “normal people” and life outside the monastery. He wrote a prayer that I return to frequently. I may have even shared it before on a Sunday morning, but even so, it bears repeating. At least I think so.
It goes like this:
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
It’s worth noting that we encounter the treasure hunter and the pearl merchant at the end of their quests. We have no idea how long they were looking or how many dead ends they turned down. We hear nothing of the pain and frustration that marked their path.
I’ve recently become fascinated by a few verses in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I’m sure I’ve read them before. But I never paid much attention to them. Maybe it’s this season of uncertainty that we’re living in, but they’re helping me.
“It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. Beloved of God, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus has grabbed a hold of you. Statement of fact. In the cross and resurrection of Jesus we and all of creation are bound forever to God’s life. Jesus will never let you go.
So we spend our lives searching, chasing, questing after exactly what that means for us and for the world. As Paul writes, it’s an upward call — a call out of ourselves or beyond ourselves. It’s a call and invitation to search for a different kind of life that ushers in joy and wholeness and fullness for all people.
I don’t know how to get there. The way forward is profoundly uncertain. But since we’ve been grasped and held by Jesus we can’t help but to keep searching.
The kingdom of heaven, the life and world that God intends for you and for all people, is worth the wait. It is worth the work. It is worth the hours and days and months and years of searching. It is worth giving all we have and all we are to uncover it. Because when we find it, we’ll know.
And there will be no buyer’s remorse.