Monday, July 28, 2014

The true treasure. . .

Sermon for Pentecost 7, Proper 12A, preached on Sunday, July 27, 2014.

   Everyone knows the best place to hide things – the most obvious places, wide open, where it is seen but easily overlooked.  We search our homes for lost keys, cell phone, and notes and they are nearly always right where we laid them.  So it is for the Kingdom of Heaven and the treasure of God’s grace.  These are obvious but so easily overlooked.  The riches of God are obvious to the eyes of faith but hidden before the world. 
    Jesus began His parable talking about those who long to see but do not.  They do not see because they have no faith.  They long to hear but without the ears of faith they are deaf to grace, to the working of God, and to the miracle treasure of the cross.
    What faith bestows most of all are the eyes and ears to see and here the treasure.  The pearl of great price is grace – a treasure too costly and valuable for anyone to afford and yet freely given by our loving and merciful Father.  This pearl of great price called grace is hidden in plain sight – hidden in the sufferings of Christ for you and in His death for you.  Without faith it is only the pain of a man.  Without faith it is only a brutal instrument of death.  Faith sees what God has hidden there – the sufferings that pay the terrible price of sin and the death that sanctifies our graves and bestows upon us the life death cannot overcome.
    Where are these hidden treasures today?  They are right here in your midst.  They are hidden in the ordinary of water with the Word of God that becomes a grave to kill our sinful selves and a womb to give us new birth to eternal life.  They are hidden in the voice of absolution that speaks to us sinners week after week: I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  And in that speaking the chains of sin and its shame of guilt fall away.
    Where are these hidden treasures today?  They are hidden in bread that is Christ’s body and in the cup that is His blood.  We feast upon these hidden treasures and they become heaven’s food, the foretaste of the feast to come, as well as that which nourishes and strengthens us to everlasting life.  They are hidden in the Word of God which is far more than a book of truth.  This Word delivers what it says, does what it promises, and bestows the gift of which it speaks.  This efficacious Word is not mere facts from history but the living voice of God addressing the world with His Son and the Gospel that gives life to dead sinners.
    Faith sells everything else.  Faith gives up every other possible treasure to have Christ and Him only.  Faith sees that every other joy in life is fleeting but the joy of the Lord.  Faith sees that every other treasure moth destroys, rust consumes, and inflation devalues EXCEPT this treasure of the cross and the Christ who died there for you.  Faith sees that your salvation is far too important to be left to feelings or sentiment.  We need more than memories to console our grief, more than earthly ease to make us happy, and more than earthly triumph to win the day.  We need Christ and Him only.  We need baptismal water that does not fail, the Word that does not lie, and the food that satisfies hunger and quenches thirst.
    Unless you are prepared to sell everything else to hold onto this treasure of grace, you are unworthy of the Kingdom of God.  It cannot be both/and.  It is always either/or.  Either this is our one and only or we are like the one who plows looking backward.  You cannot live your life with regret over what you could have, might have, should have done.  You need a treasure that releases you from this sorrow and anxiety.  You need Christ alone.
    Do you get it? Asks Jesus.  I am not so sure we do.  We have heard the words from His mouth but I am not at all sure we get it.  We straddle the fence with one foot in the kingdom of God and one foot squarely planted in this mortal life.  If we get what Jesus is saying, we can’t go home from Church on Sunday morning empty and lament we got nothing.  Where His Word and Sacraments are there are the pearls of great price, the grace of life and the mercy of forgiveness.  If we get it then we cannot value property, land, and money so highly that it is a struggle to give tithes and offerings and to help the neighbor in need.  If we get it, then we cannot let it fall to somebody else to witness the cross to the stranger or to another to teach our children of Jesus.  If we get it, then we have to give up being so full of ourselves that we have no room left for Jesus, priceless treasure.
    If Jesus is our treasure and this treasure is our joy, then we cannot go through life in search of another happiness or pleasure.  Christ is our treasure.  If Jesus is our treasure and this treasure is our joy, then we cannot go through life complaining about everything that is wrong.  Christ is our treasure.  If Christ is our treasure and this treasure is our joy, then we cannot go through life bedazzled by the world and treat the things of God as if they were ordinary and common.
    You are here in God’s House.  Christ has spoken to you through His Word.  Christ has addressed you with forgiveness in the absolution spoken by the Pastor.  Christ has laid upon you His clothing of righteousness because you are baptized. These are the pearls of great price in the grace of God too pricey for us to afford and yet lovingly given to us without cost, paid for by Christ’s holy and precious body and blood.  Are you willing to let go of everything else in order to possess this treasure of Grace?  Christ refuses to be one of your many treasures.  He is jealous for you and for your salvation.  He has earned this right to be jealous because He died that you might life.  He insists that He reign alone in your heart.  Today we simply pray... “Make it so, Lord Jesus.... make it so.”  Amen

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