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 todayâs Gospel. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. Or, itâs like yeast. Or, itâs like a treasure hidden in a field. Or, itâs like a pearl of great value. Or, itâs like a net thrown into the sea.
We might well ask, âLord, which is it?â All of these descriptions are just metaphorsâthe kingdom of heaven, of course, is not a mustard seed. Itâs 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 weâre not.
So what is the kingdom of heaven really like? Apparently it is a state of being rather than a kind of âplace.â Actually, St. Paul is giving us a good picture in todayâs Epistle. Itâs the kingdom of heaven when we donât know how to pray but the Spirit does our praying for us. Itâs the kingdom of heaven when all things somehow work together for good for those who love God. Eugene Petersonâs interpretation of this in his paraphrase, âThe Message,â is an interesting one: âMeanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, Godâs Spirit is right alongside us, helping us along. If we donât know how or what to pray, it doesnât 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. Thatâs why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.â
But thatâs not the only way that what Paul says describes the kingdom of God. Itâs the kingdom of God when we know that there is absolutely nothingâin this world or out of itâthat can separate us from the love of Christ. Now, thatâs a treasure worth selling all that we have in order to possess.
Letâs look at that description of the kingdom of God. âThe 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.â
Once there was a little girl who was quite troubled by that little story. She thought it sounded like that person was cheating. Wouldnât 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, wasnât that person stealing from the owner? It just didnât 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: âThis little light of mine, Iâm going to let it shine.â And the verse, âHide it under a bushel? No! Iâm going to let it shine!â You have the greatest treasure on earth. Let it shine! Amen.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the Sermons That Work podcast to hear this sermon and more on your favorite podcasting app! Recordings are released the Thursday before each liturgical date.
This season of the Sermons That Work podcast is sponsored by Church Pension Group, a financial services organization providing employee benefits, property and casualty insurance, and publishing to The Episcopal Church. Follow Church Pension Group on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn to learn how it’s been a stable presence in the Church for more than 100 years.