What Is the Kingdom..., Proper 12 (A) - 2005

July 24, 2005

What is the kingdom of heaven like? Jesus seems to have a lot of different answers to that question is today’s Gospel. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. Or, it’s like yeast. Or, it’s like a treasure hidden in a field. Or, it’s like a pearl of great value. Or, it’s like a net thrown into the sea.

We might well ask, “Lord, which is it?” All of these descriptions are just metaphors—the kingdom of heaven, of course, is not a mustard seed. It’s like a mustard seed. It seems that even Jesus was having trouble describing the kingdom of heaven. Perhaps that is because human language is inadequate to describe the kingdom of heaven, in the same way our various concepts of God can never really describe God. We think of God as a loving father, as a shepherd, as the Creator, as the ground of our being, as a persistent lover. All of those things are true, but they still fail to describe God. That is because God is infinite, and we’re not.

So what is the kingdom of heaven really like? Apparently it is a state of being rather than a kind of “place.” Actually, St. Paul is giving us a good picture in today’s Epistle. It’s the kingdom of heaven when we don’t know how to pray but the Spirit does our praying for us. It’s the kingdom of heaven when all things somehow work together for good for those who love God. Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of this in his paraphrase, “The Message,” is an interesting one: “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside us, helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”

But that’s not the only way that what Paul says describes the kingdom of God. It’s the kingdom of God when we know that there is absolutely nothing—in this world or out of it—that can separate us from the love of Christ. Now, that’s a treasure worth selling all that we have in order to possess.

Let’s look at that description of the kingdom of God. “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

Once there was a little girl who was quite troubled by that little story. She thought it sounded like that person was cheating. Wouldn’t it be the honest thing to tell the owner of the field about the treasure? If the person hid the treasure, and then bought the field so he could get the treasure, wasn’t that person stealing from the owner? It just didn’t seem right!

Of course the little girl was missing the point of the story. The point is that the kingdom of God is of such great value that anything else we may own pales in comparison. It would be easy to give up everything else in order to have it. But unlike the treasure hidden in the field, everyone can have it! God offers this treasure to each and every one of us. The love of Christ from which no one and nothing can separate us, is a treasure everyone is invited to possess.

Just one word of warning: when you find that treasure, do not, whatever else you may do, go and bury it again. The kingdom of heaven is not meant to be hidden. The kingdom of heaven is meant to be shared, to be shouted from the housetops!

Many of us probably remember a song we may have sung in our childhood: “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” And the verse, “Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m going to let it shine!” You have the greatest treasure on earth. Let it shine! Amen.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Christopher Sikkema