A sermon preached on July 26, 2020, by the Rev. Dr. Robert Brown on Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52…
All of us are familiar with the Hubble Space Telescope, that wonderful instrument that has allowed us to see more of the spectacular creation of God. But in the beginning, it was considered a failure. During the grinding process of the large reflective mirror, Perkin Elmer, the contracting firm, had made a very small error in calculation. The edge of the mirror was off by about 1/11,000 of an inch! That is a fraction of the width of a human hair, and the resulting image from space was not as clear as anticipated. What a disappointment!
Some feared that Hubble would have to be abandoned, because it was not possible to bring it back to earth for servicing. But after much deliberation, an optical fix was devised which would have to be installed by astronauts via a spacewalk! This would cost several billion dollars, even after the initial cost of the telescope had run into the billions.
NASA determined that the Hubble telescope was so unique, so much had been invested, and the results for exploration of the universe were so promising, that the effort and money would be worth it.
The promise of the results from the Hubble were so wonderful that any sacrifice would be worth making to achieve those results.
And we are grateful today that that decision was made!
Gospel literally means good news, and we will try to get that good news from the reading we just heard!
Our Gospel lesson today consists of several parables of Jesus, but unlike other such parables, there follows no interpretation or explanation. The reader is left, on their own, to figure out the meaning. We will attempt to sort through these sayings of our Lord.
It is the usual practice to concentrate on the parable of the mustard seed, or the parable of the yeast hidden in the flour. Anyone who has attended church for any amount of time has heard many sermons cast around these parables. They are referred to in the other Gospels, that is, if one has faith as large as a tiny mustard seed, etc. Or, the miracle of the leavening of the yeast, etc.
These parables have their own meaning, but they are secondary to the meaning of the last three—that is, the Kingdom of God is of such supreme value, that it is to be cherished and sought after above all other things, much more valuable than power, or riches or long life, or even family!
At the time that Matthew wrote his Gospel, the small band of Christians that formed the early church were under several threats. The first was persecution. While we no longer face this threat in our country, it is a reality for some Christians in other parts of the world. The second was antinomianism, or the abandonment of moral principles. Remarkably, we still fact that difficulty in our present time. And the third was heresy, or false teaching, which is still a danger today.
This gives us an insight into the situation and the view of Matthew, and how he saw his task. Now, it is the responsibility of those who proclaim the Gospel of the Lord, not merely to repeat what was handed down to us, but to apply the old message to a new and varied situation. That is what Matthew attempts to do in recounting the lesson that Jesus gave us. Indeed, this has been the job of the church throughout all of the ages.
Our Psalm reading, and the reading from Genesis, emphasize and show that God is faithful, and that we should seek his favor in all things.
The parable of the treasure in the field is meant to show that the Kingdom of God is of such supreme value, that one would go to any lengths to obtain it.
Interesting, though, Jesus tells of a person who finds the treasure, buries it in the ground, and then goes and buys the filed where it was buried. This, of course, is not an honorable way of doing things. Certainly, the man in the parable has an obligation to tell the owner of the field what he has found, but he conceals his finding. Such is his desire to obtain the treasure.
Jesus seems to make it a practice to use the actions of persons of questionable morality in his examples. We see this in the Gospel of Luke, concerning the unjust master, and the unjust judge.
In our reading from the Old Testament, we see that Laban deceives Jacob into first marrying Leah, while the love of his heart is Rachael. But the love that he has for Rachael is so strong, that his is willing to endure more years of toil to make her his wife. Such should be our love of the kingdom!
All of this says that the Holy Scriptures are not merely morality plays, and they are definitely not intended as such. We must guard against such interpretations. But the scriptures, and most importantly, the intentions of Jesus, are meant to serve a much larger, and much greater purpose.
The parable of the pearl takes on slightly different cast. In this case, there is no impropriety, but the merchant finds the pearl of such spender, that he is willing to go to extreme lengths to obtain it. Even to the point of selling all that he has, merely to possess that spectacular and flawless gem!
And what does this say to us, in our present time? How are we to act on these teachings of Jesus?
Are we to go to any lengths to obtain the Kingdom? Even though this is much more important, are we to act as the inventors of the Hubble telescope, in which drastic action is called for? Are we to act as the merchant to obtain the beautiful pearl?
Jesus is telling us that above all else we must seek the Kingdom, and we must go to any length to obtain that ultimate prize—the Kingdom of God!
Here is the good news! And who couldn’t use some good news these days?
Jesus freely offers us a path, a roadmap, a route and a guide to obtain that Kingdom.
Our way to the Kingdom is through faith in Jesus, and in obedience to His word and teachings.
If we do these things, we will inherit eternal life in Jesus, and that eternity will begin for us in this present life, in our time. Good news indeed!
Thanks be to God!