Seek with all our heart, mind, soul and strength
Sermon by the Reverend Doctor Brutus Green
Readings: Exodus 34.29-end, Mattew 13:44-46
What does the kingdom of God cost?
Today’s Gospel makes it clear that it is in fact everything. The kingdom of God requires you to sell everything in order to purchase it – this field of treasure, this pearl of great price.
This is a tall order, a leap of faith – Should we stake everything on the Gospel? Can we let it dictate all our actions, become the defining force in our lives? If a friend, an acquaintance were to describe you, would they say first of all – oh, yes, she is a Christian? Is that dear purchase visible? Or is it visible in good works and care? Or is it like the treasure in the field, buried. Rooted deep down perhaps but not paraded to the world.
But not only this; the kingdom of God requires a lifetime of effort. A beginner would not on seeing it, have understood the value of the pearl; that it is in fact worth such an investment. But furthermore they would not have built up the capital, the resources required to meet the cost of the field, the pearl.
So the kingdom of heaven is not presented to you on a plate. You will not comprehend it’s value if you suddenly have some experience, accept some doctrine. There is no fast way to gain the kingdom of God, and while certain preachers and church services may make it seem, feel, like it is the work of a moment, it takes a great deal longer to afford and perceive the pearl of great price.
Because what this parable is saying is that we should refuse to be satisfied with anything that isn’t wholly satisfying.
It’s like how when you’re young, it feels like alcohol and parties open up a whole new world. You can feel like you’re really getting to know people for the first time, and being known; that you’re finally getting what it means to be an adult; or when you fall in love, and think the only thing that matters in the whole world is winning and pleasing this one person.
But the morning after, the night seems less magical; the cold light of day, the fatigue, reveal the bright colours as dazzle and charm; you realise you were not as witty as you thought; the people were less interesting and at times unpleasant; you fall out of love and see the flaws in this seemingly perfect person; that it was all a trick of the hormones;
At this stage of life it’s fortunate you’ve not accrued a lifetime of wealth because to squander it all on such trifles would be a shame.
But even if our joys are spiritual, a sudden illumination, finding the perfect church, a good preacher, to know the pearl of great price takes time, investment, to think I have it, I will stop seeking, is to lose it altogether.
Christianity teaches that absolute value is demonstrated only in a man being crucified. A person giving everything to show people they are loved. In this sense the point of the parable, is less the pearl but in the loose handed way in which these merchants are prepared to relinquish everything; that when they’ve found what matters; what is of most value; they are willing to give everything up for its sake.
That in itself is the pearl of great price – the sacrificial act of love, of caring enough to make the purchase.
And here the parable turns on its head. Because we tend to read this assuming we are the merchant; we are seeking the kingdom of God.
But we’re told, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant selling all he has to buy this pearl of great price.
It is God, who is the merchant. we are the pearl, purchased at great price. It is heaven that has sold all that it has to make this purchase. So, yes, the kingdom of God has cost everything – it’s just that the cost is not paid by us.
But we are called to be imitators of Christ, and as we grow in understanding of the kingdom of heaven, we might find that inspiration to seek it with all our heart, our mind, our soul, our strength.
It doesn’t take much to see that if Christianity is true, eternity is the one thing of great value, which we should pursue with everything we have. What Christianity teaches, however, in the grace of God, the love revealed in Christ, is that to God we are the thing of great value, made so by the love he has for us. Amen.