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Sermon for Pentecost 8

Readings: Genesis 29:15-28, Romans 8: 26-39,

Matthew 13:44-58

Hidden within the walls of our homes are electricity cables.  We cannot see the electricity they provide, but at the flick of a switch we can turn darkness to light, produce heat to warm ourselves, cook our food, power our televisions and charge our mobile phones.   We may not think about electricity very much and probably take it for granted.   We know it is there because of what it enables us to do and it’s only when we get a power cut that we realise how much we need it and rely on it!

We are willing to go to great lengths for the sake of having electricity and nations spend huge amounts of money on power stations and fossil fuels.   Thankfully, there is now much more research into renewable alternatives but they still come at a considerable cost.

In today’s Gospel we continue to read from Chapter 13 of Matthew and the whole of this chapter tells us how Jesus uses parables to describe to his followers what the Kingdom of God is like, or the Kingdom of Heaven as Matthew calls it.   And if Jesus were telling these parables today, he might well liken the Kingdom to electricity because it is so essential to our lives and even though we can’t see it, we can see the effect it has.

Firstly, it is helpful to know what was meant by the Kingdom of God in Jesus’ time.   To the people of Israel, the Kingdom of God is what they were hoping and waiting for.   They longed for a return of God’s law and God’s sovereignty over the whole world, and they expected a strong military leader would come to overthrow Roman rule.   

The Kingdom was something that was going to come in the future.   But Jesus’ message is that the Kingdom of Heaven is here now and he tells several more parables, using everyday images to try to help the people to understand.

The first two stories – the man who finds buried treasure and the merchant who finds a pearl of great value are very similar.

Finding buried treasure is not as unlikely as you might think.  It does happen in the U.K. from time to time.   In fact, in 2009 the largest hoard of Saxon gold, silver and precious stones was found just a few miles from where we lived, by a man using a metal detector.   The value was estimated to be about £3.3 million, but the man who found the treasure had to share the proceeds with the owner of the field.    However, in this parable Jesus tells how this man was so overjoyed, that he sells all that he has, in order to buy the field so that all the treasure can be his.

In the story of the pearl of great value, the merchant, who would have dealt with countless pearls in his lifetime, finds the finest pearl he has ever seen, and also sells everything that he has in order to own it.   So Jesus is comparing how valuable and beautiful the Kingdom of Heaven is, so that when we discover it, whether by searching for it or finding it by chance, we should be so full of joy that we do all we can to possess it and hold onto it because it is more valuable than anything else we can imagine – it is beyond price!

In the third parable Jesus compares the Kingdom to a fishing net which, when thrown into the sea catches fish of every kind, both the good and the bad.   The nature of a drag-net is to gather up all kinds of things and its contents are bound to be a mixture.   This is an analogy of God’s Kingdom being freely open to everyone, gathering in a mixture of all kinds of people, the lovable and the unlovable, those who accept God’s Kingdom and those who will reject it.   

The lesson for us is that if we apply that to the Church, which is the instrument of God’s Kingdom on earth, it tells us that we must be inclusive not exclusive because God wants everyone to be part of the Kingdom.   

We are told that the time of separation will come but we are reminded that it is not for us to separate who is in and who is out but that God will decide at the end of time.   God requires us to be welcoming and open to all and not to judge or discriminate.

Then Jesus goes on to speak about scribes who have been trained for the kingdom of heaven and this was probably for the benefit of his disciples.   But today we are those scribes, we are Jesus’ disciples.   The Kingdom of Heaven is within us and we all bring gifts and skills to the Kingdom.   We are not called to give up these things but to use them in the service of Christ.   

And with our gifts and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are charged with growing the Kingdom, and reflecting the beauty of owning the Kingdom here and now.   Even if we find it difficult to speak to others about our faith, like electricity we can show others the effect it has on us by the way we live our lives.   

The Spirit works through the little things that we do and say.   Maybe it’s the kind words we say to the harassed shop workers at the supermarket.   It might be simply saying ‘hello’ to someone in the street – we may think that’s unimportant perhaps but what about if that person hasn’t spoken to anyone else that day?

Perhaps it’s that phone call we make to someone who is ill, or the visit we make to someone we know is lonely (when we’re no longer in lockdown that is!).   Little gestures can mean such a lot and who knows, perhaps someone’s faith will be awakened by a word – or just one little act of kindness.   

We may not always be listened to but neither was Jesus when he returned to his hometown, so we must not let that discourage us.   We can be sure that God is at work in us and no matter how insignificant we feel and how unpromising our circumstances might seem, God can use us to grow the Kingdom.   

There is a lot to take in from today’s Gospel reading and we can’t really sum it up in one sentence.   But let us take from it the knowledge that to know God and to walk with God in our lives, is more valuable than anything else and as Christians we have found our buried treasure and our valuable pearl!   

We don’t have to sell all our possessions in order to gain the Kingdom – but it is not without a cost because we are called to reject a lot of things that the secular world deems to be valuable.   And so just like making sure we have enough electricity, we should also be willing to go to great lengths to have and to hold onto the Kingdom because our relationship with God is so great and wonderful that it is worth the cost.   

God’s Kingdom is more precious than anything else we could imagine and we pray that everyone would know the Good news of Jesus Christ and share in the Kingdom too.   So, even though electricity cables are hidden within our walls, let us make sure our treasure is not hidden within us.   Let it show and let us share it with others.

In the letter to the Romans, Paul also tells us that we already possess the Kingdom.   We have the presence of the Holy Spirit within us and we are loved, completely and for ever.   He reminds us that the Holy Spirit and Jesus both intercede for us and that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.   These words assure us that we are and will always be part of Christ’s family and citizens of the kingdom.    

Amen. 

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