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Pentecost VIII


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Pentecost VIII Gospel Matthew 13.44 - 58

The kingdom of heaven is like a hidden treasure found and bought at the cost of everything.

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls and on finding that precious one pearl sells everything to possess.

The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea which caught fish of every kind.

The kingdom of heaven is like a found treasure, a searching merchant, and thrown net.

‘Have you understood all this?’ asks Jesus.

And the disciples easily give their answer - yet perhaps not truthfully.  
Yes they say. How do you answer? Have you understood all this?
What I enjoy muchly in this Gospel is that the existence of the kingdom of heaven is not questioned. The kingdom of heaven is fact, demonstrated as being more an attitude than any place to be described or anything to own.  Everything is worth less because the kingdom is worth everything.

Our Gospel of this morning tells us that the business of the angels is to separate the good fish from the bad fish. The good - the righteous - from the bad - the evil.

The good placed into God’s basket. The evil tossed into fire.  And we hear Jesus say that it is our business to sort through our stuff - all our stuff - the old and the new. There is training for the kingdom of heaven ... this life, our life, is our training ground. We are to enter into the work of the angels in sorting. Sorting as to what is to be kept and what is to be tossed. We are to develop a discerning heart - knowing what is worthy and what is not. Whether it be a memory, relationship, a possession, a dream.
This kingdom training empowers us, you and me, to be able to discover the treasure which is us, which is you … which is me.
That once hidden treasure, now found.

That precious pearl.  That net - full of fish.

A ton of fish doesn’t have the same ring to it as the first two, does it? Yet the good Lord gives it to us to consider. Us discovering we are more than we could have imagined, hoped for, when we give ourselves permission to touch places and peoples beyond our comfort and supposedly reach we will receive the many and varied blessings of God.

How’s your training going? Have you formed good training habits - regularly attending and sorting, or are you more intermittent in your training - when you have the time or inclination, or is it more difficult in these dark cold days to train at all? I refer not only to the weather when I use the phrase in these dark, cold days.
Life is about our discovering our preciousness, our value.

Whether we trip over it, whether we search it out, whether through the very grit of our life - the pearl of us becomes - whether our preciousness overflows with God’s blessings, this is why we train … why we give of our selves and of our resources of time, money, love, hope, why we are here on Sunday mornings, why we commit ourselves to God, and to us.
Life is about our discovering our preciousness, our value.

Jesus had parables, I have a story based in Thailand.

Over three hundred years ago, the Burmese army planned an attack to invade Thailand. The monks were in possession of the most amazing Buddha statue.  The statue is over 10 feet tall [just over 3 meters] and weighs in excess of 2 1/2 tons [2500 kilograms]. It is made of solid gold and is valued today in excess $200 million dollars. The monks were determined to protect the shrine that meant so much to them.

While it was priceless to them for reasons that transcend money; they knew that the Burmese would stop at nothing to steal the statue because of its tremendous monetary value.
They covered the Golden Buddha with a thick layer of clay knowing that the warriors would totally ignore it and think it worthless. Sadly, the monks were slaughtered in the invasion and the secret of the Golden Buddha stayed secret.  The Buddha itself though, remained safe.

In the mid 50’s, the monastery was to be relocated to make room for a new highway. The monks arranged for a crane to come and move the “Clay” Buddha to its new location. When the crane started to lift the statue, it was much heavier than expected and it began to crack.  Wanting to protect the priceless shrine, the monks lowered it back down and decided to wait until the next day to bring more powerful equipment.  To add insult to injury, the rains came so the monks lovingly covered the statue with tarps to keep the moisture away.
In the dark of night, the head monk took his flashlight and went out to make sure the Buddha was adequately covered. When the light of the flashlight shone into the crack of the clay, he saw a glimmer … a reflection of something underneath that shroud of clay. He carefully began to chisel away the clay to find that the glimmer grew brighter. Hours later, and with all the clay removed … he was in the presence of a Buddha made of solid gold.

It now resides in The Temple of the Golden Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand.  Every year, millions of people go there to see this magnificent work of art and to worship at his feet. And it may never have been found …

We are like the clay Buddha covered with a shell of hardness created out of fear, and yet within each of us is a golden essence which is our real self. Somewhere along the way, we began to cover up our golden essence, our natural self, our preciousness.

Much like the monk with the hammer and chisel, our task now is to discover our true essence once again. 
And that is our yes as Jesus asks, ‘Have you understood?’


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