Sermons That Work

Finding Our Heart’s Treasure, Proper 12 (A) – 2002

July 28, 2002

What is your treasure? Where is your treasure?

It would be a good thing to take an actual survey on these questions. We would continue by asking: “Is your treasure an accumulation of money? A beautiful house? An heirloom?”

“Is your treasure a loved one, a spouse, a child, a grandchild?” “What is your treasure?”

These may sound like casual questions, but they are vital according to today’s lessons. In a world where bigger is better, where materialism reignsand fear has gripped so many of the comfortable people, these questions matter enormously.

The Old Testament lesson tells us that for Solomon the supreme good was a wise and discerning mind. It is indeed a great gift, one that we wish forevery one who is in a position of leadership anywhere in the world and who has a responsibility for other human beings upon his or her shoulders. The”wisdom of Solomon” was so respected that it entered into the mythology of the ancient Hebrew people.

But marvelous as the gift of wisdom is, it is not enough, the New Testament tells us. In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus continues histeaching on the kingdom of heaven. Matthew collected all these sayings and they unfold before us, one after the other like freshly discovered treasures: the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. . . Who among us has not known the mystery and wonder of planting a tiny seed to see it sprout and grow and be adorned with leaves and flowers? Such a great deal is hidden in something as tiny as a seed! One person knowing of the love of God can spread that knowledge to hundreds of others. One person giving love instead of hate can produce results that are similar to those of the tiny mustard seed that becomes a huge bush.

How many of you have baked your own bread? Very few activities are as reminiscent of the power of birth and regeneration. To put a very smallamount of yeast in water and flour and to see it rise and expand and fill the tub is one of life’s tender, nourishing pleasures. “This is what the kingdom of heaven is like,” the Christian who bakes thinks and rejoices. There are times when we who strive to do the will of God, who dare to be different and not be swayed by all the fads and fears and follies of our society, feel very much alone. Listen to the voices for justice and peace. How many do you hear? Listen to the voices of those who say obedience to God is more important than all other allegiances-how many of these voices have you heard lately?

Jesus tells us that such voices — voices that belong to the people of the kingdom of God-are like the yeast in the flour. Don’t lose heart: the kingdom rises and spreads and leavens everything it touches, even though the yeast is hidden, even though mercy and justice cannot be seen — their work is done.

The next two verses given to us in today’s Gospel are even more emphatic; they leave us breathless in their totality. The kingdom of heaven is like a pearl, like a treasure, like a net full of fish — and the fishermen who heard Jesus, whose very life depended on the catch in their net, understood this value. Everything but everything is as nothing before the great treasure of possessing or belonging to this kingdom. To know the love of God, to know that our God is a God of mercy and justice who cares for the poor and the hungry and the dispossessed is to belong to the kingdom Jesus was proclaiming to those poor Galileans. This is the greatest treasure, he tells them and us. This knowledge of God is so life giving, that in order to possess it, we must be willing to give everything else up — everything! “He went and sold all that he had and bought it. . .”

These stories based on the experience of the rural Galileans, of the people who thronged to hear Jesus, made sense to them. The disciplesunderstood these stories, Matthew tells us. When St. Paul writes to the Romans, the same treasure is again brought before another group of listenersand readers. It now takes on the sophistication of an urban mind writing to urban Christians who are already are aware that they are despised and who soon will be persecuted as scapegoats under the rule of the Emperor Nero.

We feel weak, we feel afraid. Sometimes, we are so burdened, or so sick and frightened that we are unable to pray, or rather to utter the words. Do not let this stop you, St. Paul tells the Romans and us. It is the Spirit that helps us in our weakness; it is the Spirit that prays for us and with us “with sighs too deep for words.”

This is the season of Pentecost and St. Paul understood the power and centrality of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian with a clarity and conviction that leave us in awe. It is the Holy Spirit who points us to our treasure and helps us in our desire and search for it. It is the Holy Spirit that intercedes for us. And only through the Holy Spirit are we able to understand the depths and height and power of our treasure — the love of God in Christ. The assurance of St. Paul the great missionary who had found his treasure and never turned aside from it rings through the ages: Be of good cheer, nothing but nothing “can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


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Christopher Sikkema


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