Bible Text: Matthew 13:31-33, and 44-52 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes | When I was about 12 I took a book out of the library called, Unsolved Mysteries for Kids and for an entire summer I obsessed with the content which included stories about the Bermuda Triangle, the Loch Ness Monster and Crop circles in the US. But the mystery that captivated me the most was the buried treasure on Oak Island, Nova Scotia. Apparently treasure hunters have been coming to this island since the 1700s because it was rumoured that Captain Kidd buried treasure there. In fact, some even think that Marie Antoinette’s jewels were hidden there. There is indeed a large pit on the island that seems to be booby trapped and floods occur on a regular basis and there is even a reality TV show called The Curse of Oak Island on the History Channel. But as of yet, aside from a few random artifacts like a coin, brooch and coconut fibres no real “pirate treasure” has ever been found on Oak Island. That did not stop me from at least going to the island when visiting family just a few years ago- but it was a wet and blustery day and I’m a fair weather treasure hunter so I didn’t stay long. Whether it is the classic movie The Goonies or the more recent block buster franchise Pirates of the Caribbean we seem to have some fascination with the notion of buried treasure. Which is why I find the reference to it in the Gospel lesson for this morning so strange. It used to be that “x” marked the spot for treasure on a map, now “x” marks the 2 meter distance we are to maintain between people outside our bubble.
The parable of the treasure is just one of five parables that we hear this morning. What is perhaps essential to understanding all five is that while these images help us get an idea of Jesus’ analogies it is important that we don’t focus so much on the item that Jesus is using to compare it to the kingdom but rather what the item does. Jesus does not say, “the kingdom of heaven is like such and such” and leave it at that. Rather Jesus says, “the kingdom of heaven is like such and such, which does such and such”. Meaning, it is of the utmost importance that we realize it is not the object itself that is like the kingdom but rather what that object does that is like the kingdom.
For example, the first two parables, the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the yeast explain that the kingdom is like something small that grows and becomes great over time. I will point out that the idea that a mustard seed turns into a great shrub or tree is a little incorrect. In fact, the mustard plant is considered a weed by many- yet, if you recall from last week’s theme not all weeds are bad. And, the plant is not meant to grow into some massive cedar tree- in fact, by using the mustard seed Jesus is pointing out that God’s kingdom is not meant to stand so high above us that we can not appreciate it’s beauty. Rather, God’s kingdom is to be accessible and subtle. I will also point out something curious about Jesus’ second parable when he compares the kingdom of God to yeast in bread. Throughout the Old Testament, following the Passover, unleavened bread was sacred while leavened bread was for the everyday. Which means Jesus is telling his listeners that the Kingdom of Heaven is found in the everyday, not just in the ritual gatherings or symbolic liturgies but in everyday actions.
Both the parable of the treasure and the pearl point to the fact that once we have caught sight of the kingdom of heaven we should give up everything else and focus our attention upon living as subjects of this kingdom or living under God’s reign. Since these parables touch on the idea of selling all of one’s possessions to obtain the items I want to use some of that same language. We are to invest in our lives together as a congregation. Things are pretty strange right now but that should not change our commitment to being the church. Gathering in this building is only one piece to a much larger truth. We are the church as we connect with one another, as we provide for one another, as we pray for one another, as we care for one another and truthfully, some of that costs money. I’m not asking you to sell all of your possessions but I am reminding you that investing all that we are, our time, talents and treasures is what makes us a church.
Then we have the parable of the net. Like the mustard seed, this actually links well with last week’s theme. Notice that the net does not discriminate between catching the good fish or the bad fish- it simply catches all the fish and then God discerns the difference. We are to cast our nets and share our faith but it is not up to us to determine who is in and who is out. In fact, I think we are the net in this parable.
This brings me back to the parable of the treasure in a field. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. As a former archaeologist I can tell you that most of our fields have treasures of some kind in them you just have to know what you are looking for. All of these parables allude that while the kingdom of heaven is everywhere it is often hidden from our sight, like buried treasure. The mustard seed is buried in the ground before it can grow. Yeast is hidden in the flour, yet it is the agent that makes the bread grow. A pearl is just a piece of shell that grows into a precious stone. A net works below the surface, unseen it catches all the fish. The kingdom of heaven is so abundant that it is actually part of our everyday yet because it is here, now, we often do not see it. This reminds me of the many people who quietly do little things for their church family. Whether it is sharing the devotional over the phone with a friend, putting touches on the banners or floral arrangements, calling and checking in because it’s been awhile since you’ve seen someone. Those things are our hidden treasures- and there are so many more. The kingdom of heaven is like a church who isn’t meeting in a building but is gathered as a congregation- unseen by the minister but mighty in their faith. Amen