Genesis 29: 15-28 Ps 105 1-11 Romans 8: 26-39 Matthew 13: 44-58
In the name of God, Source of all being, Eternal Word and Holy Spirit. Amen
Stories of the lives of people are important and often give us insight into the lives of people who have gone before us and especially the customs and history of the people of God. In the story of the Marriage of Leah and Rachel to Jacob, Jacob offers to work for Laban in lieu of the customary bridal price so he could have Rachel as his wife. But Laban was not going to depart from the local custom of having the older daughter married first and on the night of the wedding tricked Jacob, so he found himself married to Leah. He was also given Rachel a week later and agreed to work for another seven years to pay an additional marriage dowry. From the story of Jacob, we learn that all human actions and intentions, for good, or evil, are woven by God into his ongoing plan, God’s covenant relationship with Abraham and Isaac was offered to Jacob as well. But it was not enough to be Abraham’s grandson, Jacob had to establish his own personal relationship with God. God has no grandchildren, and each of us need to have a personal relationship with God. It is not enough to hear wonderful stories about Christians in your family. Every person in a family needs to become part of the story. People often wonder if working a long time for something they desire is worth it. Jacob worked many years for the love of his life. The most important goals and desires are worth working and waiting for as we will see, in the parables in this morning’s gospel stories.
Jacob was naturally enraged when he learned that Laban had tricked him. Jacob who had deceived Esau, was now deceived himself. How natural it is for us to become upset at an injustice done to us while closing our eyes to the injustices we do to others. Sin has a way of coming back to bite us. Although Jacob was tricked by Laban, he kept his part of the bargain. There was more at stake than Jacob’s hurt. There was Rachael to think about as well as God’s plan for his life. We can learn from this, that when we are tricked by others, keeping our part of the bargain may still be wise. Nursing our wounds or plotting revenge makes us unable to see from God’s perspective and the Psalm reminds us to be faithful, as God is faithful to the promises he had made to Abraham and the generations who follow.
Our vocation in life is outlined by Paul in his letter to the Romans. We are to be conformed to the image of Christ. God’s redemptive action on behalf of the believers has been in process before the beginning of the world. God has put a lot of thought and effort into the plan for our salvation. We know that all things work for good for those who love God. Humankind was originally created in God’s image, and it is through baptism into Christ the image of God that we are renewed according to the image of the Creator. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, who was present at the beginning of creation and is the power behind every Christian’s spiritual growth. The all-conquering power of God’s love has overcome every obstacle to Christians’ salvation and every threat to separate them from God. That power revealed itself fully when God’s own Son was delivered up to death for our salvation and rose victorious, and nothing can separate us from God’s love.
In the portion of Matthew’s gospel read this morning the first two parables have the same point. The person who finds a buried treasure and the merchant who finds a pearl of great price, sell all that they have, to acquire these finds. This means that the person who understands the supreme value of the kingdom of God, that it is more valuable than anything else we can have, is willing to give up everything to obtain it. The joy with which this is done is made explicit in the first parable, but it may be presumed in the other parables as well.
In the unsettled conditions of Palestine in Jesus’ time it was not unusual to guard valuables by burying them in the ground. The man who discovered the treasure in the field, stumbled upon it by accident, but knew its value when he found it. The merchant was earnestly searching for the pearl of great value, and, when he found it, he sold everything he had to purchase it.
The concluding parable of the fishing net resembles the explanation of the parable of the wheat and weeds. We are to obey God and tell others about his grace and goodness, but we cannot dictate who is part of the kingdom of heaven and who is not. This sorting will be done at the last judgment by those infinitely more qualified than we are.
Anyone who understands God’s real purpose in the law as revealed in the Old Testament has a real treasure. The Old Testament points the way to Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus always upheld its authority and relevance. But there is a double benefit to those who understand Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of heaven. This was a new treasure that Jesus was revealing. Both the old and new teaching give practical guidelines for faith and for living in the world. The religious leaders unfortunately were trapped in the old and blind to the new. They were looking for a future kingdom preceded by judgment. Jesus taught that the kingdom was now, and the judgment was future. The religious leaders were looking for a physical and temporal kingdom by way of military rebellion and physical rule, but they were blind to the spiritual significance of the kingdom that Christ brought.
After the sermon on the Mount the crowds are in admiring astonishment at Jesus’ teaching, but the astonishment is also of those who take offence at him. The residents of Jesus’s hometown had known Jesus since he was a young child and were acquainted with his family. They could not bring themselves to believe in his message. They were too close to the situation. Jesus had come to them as a prophet, one who challenged them to respond to unpopular spiritual truth. They did not listen to the timeless message because they could not see beyond the man. Familiarity with his background and family leads them to regard Jesus as pretentious.
Let us remember that we are living in the kingdom of God now, we are kingdom people and as we look forward to the beginning of a new opportunity for ministry in this place let us not be found sleeping. Let us be found to be faithfully working, making disciples for Christ and ready to give all that we have, to ensure that others are able to share in the treasure of the kingdom of God with us here.
The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF Canon Pastor, Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton