Seeds of Faith: Worth the Wait
Sermon from Sunday, July 26th on Matthew 13: 44-50
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Sometimes life moves so quickly, that I like to do things which take extra time.
Making Pour Over Coffee
Making Old fashioned Macaroni and cheese (I’ve got a great dairy-free and gluten free recipe--I'll post it later.)
Slow roasted pork
Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
Growing a tree
In fact, that’s the whole reason I took up Watercolor. I was looking for a hobby that was slow. I needed to lower my blood pressure and I had already put together 7 or 8 fancy puzzles. I bought a little journal and a travel pallet so that I could take it with me. I’d sketch a little and paint a little. It’s amazing how enjoyable it can be to just stare at a page, or enjoy your surroundings as you watch and wait for the paint to dry. The colors change, the texture changes and as you look deeper at your subject or even just your page, the picture changes. There are moments when you have to keep moving in watercolor, to keep a spot wet and move the colors, but then there are times when you can’t rush and skip the drying process, because you don’t want the colors to run together.
Having a slow hobby can be helpful when life is fast and when life is slow. When life becomes so fast and moves completely out of our control, a slower hobby can help bring us into the moment and bring us through to the next. Over the last several months I feel like it’s been a bit of a whirlwind, where sometimes everything is changing so fast that I can’t keep up or it’s been exactly the opposite, where nothing seems to change and find myself doing some of these hobbies to fill the time when there seems to be too much of it.
I wonder how the people who were first listening to these parables experienced time. Did they feel like life was moving to fast or did they feel stuck, like nothing was moving forward in their lives. Without the technology we have, I would expect their lives to move much slower than the pace we keep, but I can imagine that Jesus and his movement seemed like great change and almost too fast for some, while at the same time, Jesus wasn’t quite moving fast enough for those who wanted the kingdom of heaven to take control over the Roman government right there and then.
These parables emphasize the kingdom of heaven as something that does not happen over night, but something that grows or is revealed overtime, possibly over a period of years.
The kingdom of heaven or the coming reign of God here on earth is like a treasure that has been hidden long ago and waiting to be discovered. Finally, a person does discover that it is there, but he leaves it hidden. Then he excitedly sells all of his personal possessions so that he can purchase not just the treasure but the whole field containing the treasure.
The kingdom of heaven or the realm of God’s love and presence is like a merchant who has dedicated her life to the purchase and sell of fine pearls, and when she suddenly finds one pearl in particular that appears so very precious and valuable to her that she sells her entire stock and all of her belongings to have this one, special pearl.
And at the same time, the kingdom is like a net, tossed out into deep waters, (I can imagine those fishermen disciples to be like, finally, he talks about fish! Has he been saving this one all day?). The net brought up all sorts of fish and what not, and so the fishermen drew it ashore, sat down and began the long task of sorting their treasure into baskets with edible items and burning the waste to the side.
In each case the price was worth the wait, or maybe you could say the prize was worth the wait, the toil, and the sacrifices that were made to gain the treasure.
One of the things I love to do with parables is play with the character and mix everything up a little. Maybe Jesus is the pearl, maybe Jesus is the merchant, maybe Jesus is the fisherman, maybe Jesus is the net. The treasure and the pearl are purchased with a price, and when the cost has been paid, the joy abounds.
But I have to wonder since these parables are sandwiched between the explanation of the weeds and the wheat from last week and the explanation of the fisherman’s separation of the fish from the waste, could all of these parables be about building the kingdom in the midst of evil, or maybe even growing in faith before we reach the judgement day?
It’s kind of ironic to use these earthly items as examples when earlier Jesus warned the disciples not to store up their treasures here on earth.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 6:19-21 NIV
Then he gets to these parables and he says that the kingdom is literally like a man who buried his treasure in the earth.
But the kingdom of heaven, you can’t buy it at the market, you can’t expect the delivery man to bring it to your door, you have to go out and find it, you have to make a time and financial commitment, and you might even have to endure the fires of persecution. But take heart and have faith, the joy comes in the mourning, after all of the waiting and toil, there is joy. There is peace, there is rest. So, until then, watch like a men in the tower, a the woman in labor, like a child on Christmas Eve. Watch with expectation and be ready to seek what God reveals to you.
This kind of waiting is holy waiting. We listen and watch for signs of God’s activity, we rest in the knowledge that God has planted or buried the kingdom here on earth, and we work to assist in revealing it in our every day lives.
Like the rings growing from the center of a tree or wet paint drying on a page, things are happening, just very slowly, so slowly that you can’t see the results, but you can notice slow changes.
But these parables are so vague, I also wonder if maybe we are not any of these characters at all.
What if Jesus wasn’t giving them a new task list or direction for how to live their life to the best use of their ability. What if he was describing God’s activity in the world that these parables are stories about what God has done and is doing and will do for their lives so that they can live in Hope and follow in the ways of Jesus with the faith that God is present in at work in the world even if we can’t see it.
These parables help us change our expectations for God, expectations for one another and for ourselves.
Daily we demand that others do things right now for us, we demand that God solves our problems right now, and we demand that we might be able to solve the problems in front of us right now.
But Jesus reminds us that we are in the long game. The treasures that God has planted are available and ready for us, but they will be discovered in God’s time rather than our time. The gifts of God are worth the wait and they take time: time for us to learn, time for us to grow, and time for us to heal.
Whether you are in a season when everything is changing too fast, or whether you are in a season that everything seems to be moving slower than you want it to you, Jesus invites you to rest in the knowledge that God is at work, building the kingdom, preparing treasures for you that will satisfy the desires of your heart and bring you joy.
May your waiting be filled with beauty,
May your hustle be calmed with peace,
May your questions be answered with grace,
May your sadness be accompanied with joy, and
May your fear be quenched with love.