Monday, July 25, 2011

Jesus Spares No Expense

+ 6th Sunday after Pentecost +
In the Name of Jesus + Amen.

            When you think about it, parables are a lot like dreams. After reading them you frequently ask yourself: now, what just happened? I remember something about treasure, pearls and fish, wheat and weeds, sowers and seeds. But what it’s all about?
            Jesus’ parables seem just familiar enough to give us Biblical a sense of déjà vu throughout the day and bizarre enough to keep us searching for meaning. We’re frustrated at their hiddenness and overjoyed when Jesus’ point comes crashing in upon us. That’s the trick: either we don’t take Jesus’ parables seriously enough or we read too much into them.

            And when it comes to dreams, there are two basic dreams we have in life. The first is quite common. This is the dream of “making it”, working hard, earning that degree, or even becoming well known, respected and successful. Dreams like these drive us, drum up our ambitions and stir our creativity. Everything becomes ordered, scheduled, expected – or at least we try to make it so. And that’s not altogether bad, it’s often very good.
            But dreams like this have a wild tendency about them. We begin to think it leads to God – that we can “make it” with Him; that we can work enough, believe enough, give our lives and hearts to Him. This turns out to be nothing more than the nightmare that was whispered to our first parents: “You shall not die, you shall be as gods. You can make it.” And then we are had. All is lost and dead. The kingdom of heaven is not like that kind of dream.
But there is a second kind of dream. A peculiar one and if we’re honest, a little embarrassing. You know the kind of dream that seem too good to be true. “Nevermind that I don’t play the lottery but maybe I’ll wake up in the morning to a bazillion dollars. Or maybe there’s a rich uncle who’ll die and leave me all he owns or maybe I’ll stumble upon hidden treasure buried in my backyard or in my attic.” It’s similar to the dream at the ending of all good fairy tales: the happily ever after, the ending of the story that is only the beginning of a better one. Something that you just stumbled upon…or better yet that finds you even though you weren’t looking.

            Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like these, silly, rather embarrassing little dreams of ours, only better. For kingdom of heaven is not a dream world or a fantasy.  The Kingdom of heaven is not an it, but a who. That that merchant, that sower, that fisherman is none other than Christ, the Kingdom of heaven in human flesh. You don’t have to wish upon a star, hoping to stumble upon the Kingdom of heaven; Jesus comes to you.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden the wilderness. That’s where Yahweh found his people of treasured possession – lost, puny, wandering, like sheep without a shepherd. Yahweh declared Israel to be a holy people – not because they were great in number or status – but because he was great in holiness and love; faithful in his oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He loved Israel when they loved him not; He sought Israel when they sought him not. Holy people through whom Yahweh would make an oath to all people equally as puny, lost, wandering and in need of rescue as Israel.  We’re no different. Our appraisal is dreadful: Treasure? Hardly. Pearls? Not even close to fake. Good fish? More like dead and rotten.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
“The man sold all he had.” It’s so important, Jesus repeats it: the man sold all that had and bought it. Selling, buying, purchasing. That’s marketplace language; redemption language.
            And there’s the key to the parables: The kingdom of heaven is all about Jesus, the Son of Man who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28).
            Sure, these parables could be all about you earning, searching and purchasing the kingdom of heaven like a pearl - many have read them that way. But that is fool’s gold and rotten fish. Try as we might to set up some kind of plan for the kingdom of heaven; it cannot be domesticated. You can’t do business with the Kingdom of heaven that way. It is sheer unexpected, undeserved, free gift.
            Jesus comes for you as a sower with seed, as a man who buys the field, as a merchant who purchases a pearl of great price with an even greater price: purchased and won not with gold or silver but with his innocent suffering and death. And the blood that pours from His head, side, hands, and feet – creates, enlivens & speaks - a better word than the blood of Able, a living Word into our rotten sinful lives. Fool’s gold becomes precious treasure, fake pearls become rare and precious; bad fish become good fish.
            That’s who you are in Christ: a treasured people of his own possession, a pearl of great price, a good fish. For His treasure, for His pearl, for His fish, Jesus endures all – beating, bruising, mocking, stripped naked, rejection, abandonment by God Himself, even death itself.
            And if God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who is to condemn? No one. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Christ was condemned in your place. He exchanges, sells, sacrifices all he has to purchase, buy back, redeem you.
            That is love: death defying; hell destroying, Satan crushing, sin forgiving, new creation making, conquering in the blood of the Lamb, love. You didn’t earn it, expect it or plan it, but there it is: the kingdom of heaven is yours; He has found you; you are Christ’s. Wondrous love, oh wondrous thought; sought me when I sought Him not.

            Jesus finds you when you least expect Him, when you are lost in all your sins and clammed up by distractions. “What a pearl! I want this all for Myself!” He says. And He goes and gives up His whole life for you. Jesus treasures you above all else – even when life around us appears to be anything but riches and splendor – family difficulties, overwhelmed with life and work, health problems, sick loved ones, bad economy, hopeless need – Christ’s love finds you no matter what kind of field you are buried in. Christ takes everything He has – his very own life – and he gives it up so that you may have his.
            That’s how the kingdom of heaven continues to find people; how Jesus continues to send his church as merchants in search of pearls hidden and buried in the fields around Redeemer. Christ finds his pearls and treasure and fish in the most unlikely, unexpected places: college campuses and conversations with our co-workers, friends or neighbors; preschoolers or musicians young and old, our neighbors in need of mercy.
            I can’t give you a plan, set you up with a schedule or send you on a treasure hunt for the kingdom of heaven. That’s not how it works. The treasure, finally, can only be given. Here it is! Today. Now. Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. Your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. Isn’t that a story worth repeating?
            The Kingdom of heaven is found in Jesus, who for the joy set before Him sold all he had, humbled Himself in obedient death for you. His tribulation, distress and persecution to secure your freedom, peace and eternal mercy. His famine for your daily bread; His nakedness to cover your shame; His wounds for your sin; His death for your death; His life for your life.

            It’s like a dream, seemingly too good to be true; a happily ever after ending that we think only happens in stories; but this is the turn of real events – Jesus spares no expense for your ransom: your ship has come in, it’s a truly endless summer, the joyous catastrophe that you, are his treasure, his pearl, his good fish. Holy people of Christ’s own possession. Holy in Christ’s holiness. You didn’t plan it, expect it, earn it or search for it. But here Jesus comes to you all the same.

            His kingdom comes to holy you in Baptism, feed you in His body and blood, to shout into your ears time and time again His promise: “You are My treasure. My pearl. My good fish; how I love this little fish; I’ll never throw you back. I’m not interested in catch and release; I fish for keeps and you will never be snatched out of my nets.”             

In the Name of Jesus + Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment