True Value by the Rev. Bob Gochenour (7-27-14)
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
I went to the doctor last month.
After he examined me he asked me why I came to see him.
I said: “When I look in the mirror every morning, I see some hair falling out, gray hairs coming in, a bulging stomach, wrinkles around my eyes, and hairs growing out of my ears…
I’m a mess! What’s the problem, Doc?”
The doctor replied, “I don’t know, but the good news is that your eyesight is perfect.”
We are a nation inundated with news: the 24 hour news cycle has filled the TV, Internet, radio, phones, and print with endless reports.
We are witnesses to multiple tragedies every day.
Not only do we hear the bad news, but we get to see live images from the crash sites, war zones, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.
We hear reporters interview people struggling with disasters.
We get expert analysis of the situation.
We observe families going through the wreckage of their homes, lives, and trying to cope with an unknown future.
We hear one statement repeated over and over:
“Things can be replaced, people cannot. Everyone in the family is safe, and that’s all that matters.”
Not everyone can give that good testimony!
We hear of planes being lost in the Indian Ocean or shot down over Ukraine and the ominous words: NO SURVIVORS.
These events force us to reflect on our true values.
We become aware of the reality of death and the joy of life.
We become aware that this can happen to us or our loved ones.
We become aware of just how fragile life can be:
How suddenly everything can change;
How vulnerable we really are.
We long for justice.
We long for understanding.
We long for answers.
We long for assurance that heartaches and tragedy will not have the final words.
We may find ourselves in a crisis: longing for normalcy.
We may realize that some things in life just really don’t matter that much and we want to focus on the important issues.
We may question what really has TRUE VALUE?
Jesus tells us what has true value in the parables.
Jesus spent his entire ministry teaching us about the Kingdom of Heaven—explaining what has TRUE VALUE in this life.
He says it five times in todays’ scripture reading:
The Kingdom of heaven is like…
A mustard seed, planted by a farmer…
Yeast for baking…
A treasure hidden in a field…
A merchant searching for fine pearls…
A net thrown by a fisherman…
If we attend church regularly, we know these words.
They are familiar to many of us; but do we really understand them?
Have we ever planted a mustard seed?
Do we bake bread every day? Ever?
Have we found a treasure in a field?
Have we ever been a pearl merchant?
Have we been a full-time fisherman?
There is a big cultural gap between us and this text.
We do not really feel these parables like the first disciples.
These images point to the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The hardest thing for modern people to connect with is the phrase: the Kingdom of Heaven.
Some of us have a vague idea about heaven and hope we’ll end up there eventually.
We may understand that a kingdom is a particular type of government ruled by a king—we Americans have not experienced that form of leadership in over 200 years.
The result is that we really do not understand what Jesus is talking about when he describes the Kingdom of Heaven.
Let me suggest some modern signs of the Kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom of heaven is like:
A friend bringing meal to another person recovering from illness;
A nursing home resident dancing for joy to the music;
A young person sending a thank you note on real stationary;
A child telling their parent: “I like sending time with you.”
Rain falling on dry and arid ground;
A family reunion;
A community fellowship dinner;
An elderly person being able to stay in their own home;
Getting away for vacation;
The satisfaction of a job well done;
Petting your dog;
Reading a good book;
Forgiving a neighbor;
Having that same neighbor reconcile with you;
Making new friends;
Giving food to the hungry;
Giving a job to the unemployed;
Building a house for the homeless;
Working on a VIM team;
Volunteering at TOPS;
Teaching a VBS class;
Drinking coffee with a friend;
Singing joyful music;
Creating something beautiful with your hands;
Giving it away;
Learning a new truth about God;
Teaching others about God’s love;
Finding God’s truth in Sunday morning worship!
What is the Kingdom of Heaven?
I think it is this:
Remembering that relationships matter more than things.
Deliverance when the storms of life are raging.
Confidence that Christians never say goodbye.
Assurance that we will see our loved ones again.
The gift of everlasting life and Christian perfection.
All of these qualities come from one central truth:
The Kingdom of Heaven is discovering that there is ONE who knows and understands the “real you.”
The Kingdom of Heaven is accepting the ONE who cares for you so much that he sent His Son Jesus to die for you.
The Kingdom of Heaven is experiencing that miracle found in Romans 8:
“If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This is what Jesus is describing in these parables.
The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed:
A small seed that produces big results.
The kingdom of heaven is like yeast:
A tiny pinch of yeast makes the whole loaf rise.
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure in the field:
Once finding this treasure, the person sells all that he has to purchase the field, he stops at nothing to obtain it forever, the person enters into the joy of his creator.
The kingdom of Heaven is like a pearl merchant:
Once he finds the best pearl he has ever seen, he understands true value and sells all that he had to buy it.
The kingdom of heaven is like a fisherman who throws out his net into the sea:
He keeps the good and throws out the bad.
These parables point us to the Kingdom of heaven.
We must understand our own spiritual poverty.
We must yield ourselves completely to the ONE who paid the price to give us the inheritance to become God’s children.
We must put aside all other prizes, priorities, personal goals, personal pride, self-interest and cling fast to the ONE who gives life TRUE VALUE.
TRUE VALUE: you can enter into the Kingdom of heaven by belonging to King Jesus, trusting in His leadership, and following him through this life long journey.