Sunday, July 27, 2014

Seventh Sunday after the Pentecost Sermon- 7/27/14

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost-Sermon
7/27/14- Year A

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Have you understood all these things? [Yes.] Good, still jet lagged from my travels this past week I could use a Sunday off, especially when it comes to explicating and exegeting these numerous parables from our Lord this morning. For we’ve had in succession over the last weeks Gospel lesson after Gospel Lesson from chapter 13, the chapter of the Kingdom parables. It has been a trinity of Sundays for us hearing each week from Jesus “The Kingdom of heaven is like…”, but for the crowds and for the disciples it was likely a single day’s teaching from their rabbi. Parable after parable on the kingdom of heaven, that indescribable reality of God and His Christ, which we can only glimpse by illustration and analogy. If this was, as Matthew depicts it for us, a day of parables then this question put forward by our Lord–the question I put forward before you–and answered by the disciples takes a comedic twist. Having sat through many a college and seminary day’s lecture, let me just say that when the professor asks you if you’ve understood everything, you say YES. You do not hesitate in your response and you reply almost with the same haste as the disciples did this morning. Having taught many a confirmation class, let me also tell you that I’ve heard this rapid reply before from my confirmands. In my best guess the “Yes” of the disciples comes not because they’ve understood with Solomonic like wisdom, but rather because Jesus' words makes their brains hurt. They, not unlike me and perhaps even you, are mentally fatigued from wrapping their minds around seed, soil, wheat, weeds, pearls, treasure, mustard, yeast, the dragnet, and their explanations. Unfortunately, they could not be saved by the bell, but rather found an opening from Jesus and took it. Or at least that’s how my cynical mind reads the closing from today’s conclusion to this Thirteenth Chapter. But seeing as you are already here and I am already here let us, as St. Paul commends us, press onward and run with endurance the race that our Lord has set before us. 

It is helpful to us when we study the parables, especially these from Matthew’s gospel as they are all clustered together, to find the common themes and threads that link them all in a chain of parables. There are several books written that seek to do this, to find those red threads that hold the parables together and show commonality between them. This morning I’ve found one that my rural colored lenses have spotted. Is it just me, or has Jesus talked an awfully lot about fields? For it seems to me fields keep popping up throughout these weeks. Again I am aware how my culturally formed eyes might pick this up more quickly then some, because open fields were the very first thing I missed when I moved from Iowa to Southern California. I am also keenly aware that I might not be bringing anything new to your attention as well. You’ve probably already noticed this and are well ahead of me. For those who might not be or maybe weren’t here these last couple of weeks, a quick review might be needed. Today, we heard about the field in which treasure was hidden and mustard seed sown. Two weeks ago we heard about the various soils upon which the seed of God’s word fell, rocky, thorny, hard paths, and good ground. Now the word field was never mentioned, but if there’s good soil and you’re planting in it, well a field by another name would grow as well. Coming from Northeastern Iowa let me also tell you fields can be quite rocky as one of the pre-planting rituals of the northeastern Iowa farmer’s kids, and usually their friends, is rock-picking. Last week we heard of another field in which not only was good seed sown, but bad as well. It was a field filled to the brim with God’s good grain and the devil’s deceitful darnels and dandelions. We’ve heard much about this parabolic field, which Jesus himself finally defined for us and for the twelve as the world, oJ ko/smoß, the cosmos.  

The field, the world, the entirety of the cosmos is the place where the good seed of God’s word is scattered graciously and abundantly. The world is the place where that seed grows and bears fruit, showing itself as wheat and shining forth as the sun in the Father’s Kingdom. The world, the cosmos is the place where the mustard seed will grow and become the a tree, greater than any other shrubbery. Birds will come and make a nest in its branches and it will give relaxing shade to those underneath its leaves. It is this world where a treasure is hidden, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Normally we first interpret this parable in terms of us. The Kingdom of Heaven is like we who are the man who finds Jesus and then gives all and does all to purchase Jesus, the treasure, hidden in the world. Yet this seems a backwards interpretation of the parable or at least a secondary reading of our Lord’s word, because it seems to destroy the thread which hold all of these parables in order, that we are not the farmer, the sower, or the finder, but rather that we are the field, the soil, the seed, and the treasure. 

Reading the parable this way, do we not hear echoes of St. John’s famous gospel line, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him?"  

Do we not also hear the words of St. Paul, "you were bought with a price?"  

Or the words of the Catechism, "I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true?   

You my brothers and sisters are the priceless treasure of God, you are the pearl of great price that God has risked everything, sold everything, given everything to have forever and ever. In the parable of the treasure hidden in the field, we see the Kingdom of God not as our ascent to Him, but rather the joy and love with which our God looks upon the world, upon the field, upon His good soil and seed, upon His wheat and gives His all for, that He gives His son for. There we see the true treasure of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not that we have purchased or found or own God for ourselves, but rather that He has purchased, found, and welcomed with joy into His barn us sinners and saints. Jesus Christ is the man who has purchased and won us for God, through His cross and passion, through the forgiveness of our sins. He did so on calvary and He does so each week as we gather around this table and have his life giving body and blood placed in our hands. This is the Good news! This is the Gospel of our salvation! This is the seed of God’s word that has been planted in the world long before its creation. It is the mustard seed which grows ever taller and richer and fuller in our hearts as day by day we cling to nothing but Jesus by faith, holding His word, His life, in our hearts and minds. It is the yeast which permeates our entire lives, leaving no batch of flour, no lumpy parts of our world, our homes, our bodies, and selves unaffected. Rising and maturing in us and in the world by faith. It is that Gospel, the outstretched arms of Jesus upon the cross, crucified for us, which is the dragnet by which the church on earth humbly and faithfully proclaims drawing into its embrace the whole cosmos, fishing for men. 

It is only in knowing this, that God has loved you so very much that He would give His life for yours by faith that we can see that not only are we His treasure, but now He is ours. The Gospel of Jesus Christ received by faith, becomes our treasure in this world that we sinners stumble upon. Christ, together with the Father and Holy Spirit is by faith our pearl of great price whom we seek after in Word and Holy Sacrament to listen, to receive, and to then offer up our treasure, ourselves, our time and our possessions, the very signs of His gracious love to us. Faith in this very Gospel, moves us to continue to mine the Word of God each day to hear his word for us and to hear His Word proclaimed every Lord’s day. Faith moves us to spend our time with Him who moves mountains, forgives sins, and loves us to the end. It is faith alone by God’s grace alone that allows us—even when we struggle, confronted by conflict and pain, dealing with our own sins and brokenness, and even when our heads hurt seeking to wrap our minds around what is going on around us—to say, “Yes, Lord.” Yes, we understand, that at times we don’t understand, for our mind and our will is not yours. Yes, Lord, we understand, because we simply trust that your forgiveness will be always bigger than our sin, your mercy greater than our stinginess, your love more perfect than ours, your truth richer and deeper than we could ever fully comprehend this side of the grave. Yes, Lord, we understand that we can only see Kingdom in glimpses, parables, and shadows, but we know that despite our lack of sight you work all things for our good and at the last will reveal all for all for you love of all. Until that time we simply pray, “Yes, Lord”, your kingdom come, your will be done. Amen.   

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