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Worship Theme: Christians live by faith, valuing spiritual wealth
Sermon Theme: My Glorious Treasure
Would you like to have a Yeezy? No, that’s not a symptom of the Coronavirus. I said Yeezy, not wheezy. If you are an average teen today, you might love to have some Yeezys. That’s a pair of shoes. The Yeezy brand is a type of Adidas athletic sneaker created by Kanye West (yes, that Kanye who claims to be running for president). If you’re really cool, you might get the new Yeezy Boost 700 Bone. Not to worry, they’ll only set you back $800. Maybe you’re a more budget-conscious teen. Perhaps you would settle for the Yeezy Boost 380 Mist shoes. Those are only $250. I wish I was joking!
It’s a fascinating thing to watch image-conscious teenagers and see the things that they value and treasure. At any given time, not all, but the average teen might be wearing a pair of shoes that cost several hundred dollars, a pair of jeans that look like Swiss cheese because of all the holes and rips (yet cost over $50), a $300 Apple Watch, and $200 Air pods to go with their $1,000 iPhone. At any given time, they might have $2,000 worth of merchandise on their person. So, given the right circumstance you might witness catastrophe strike, should anything happen to those glorious treasures. I’ve seen Air Jordan shoes get muddy and creased, iPhones stepped on and shattered, and Air Pods get lost, and instantly the tears start flowing. “Ugh! My life is over!” It’s almost as bad as when teens can’t connect to Wi-Fi.
Surely, we would never be so foolish! . . . Right? Wrong! In our capitalist, consumerist America it would only take a few moments to walk through our garages or kitchens or man caves or closets to see the things that we treasure in life. The valuable handbags, the quartz countertops and flatscreen TVs, the new set of irons, the John Deere zero-turn, cars, boats—all of us have something that we view as treasure.
Yet no matter what we have or treasure, there always seems to be something more, doesn’t there? A bathroom that needs a remodel, a phone that needs an upgrade, clothes that need to be more stylish. This is why so many of us find ourselves fantasizing with “the lottery game.” Have you ever done that before? “If only . . . If only I won all that money! I would do so many good things with it (OK, and buy myself tons of things)!”
Today in the Gospel we heard from Jesus two brief parables about people who essentially won the lottery. The first man happened to stumble upon a treasure hidden in a field. We don’t know if he was out there with his metal detector looking for treasure, but the impression seems to be that he just sort of stumbled upon this hidden treasure. The second man was a bit different. He was a merchant of fine pearls and he was looking for more. But he too found something unexpected—a pearl of great value, more valuable than any he had ever found.
Now I want you to think for a moment about what a different telling of these stories might have been like. What if these men had acted differently?
What if the first man happened to stumble upon this glorious treasure in the field and thought to himself, “Meh. It’s alright, I guess. I’m glad to find it. But I’m just going to leave it here. Maybe I’ll come back to it a different day. Yeah, someone else might take it away from me. But, oh well, you win some, you lose some.”
Or what if the second man, the pearl merchant, finally found that dream pearl and thought, “That’s nice . . . but . . . there has to be something better. I’ve never in my whole life found a pearl like this, but I’m sure there’s a bigger one somewhere. I’m sure there’s a more valuable treasure out there. I’m just gonna leave this pearl of great value here and keep looking for something else.”
That would be cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Are you kidding me? How could you win the lottery, how could you hit the treasure junkie jackpot, how could you find this glorious treasure and treat it like that? How could they be so foolish? Surely, we would never be so foolish! . . . Right?
Suddenly we snap back to reality and the crux of the parables. With both short stories Jesus started by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like . . .” We’re not really talking about the lottery or buried treasure or how much the next stimulus check is going to be today. We’re talking about the kingdom of heaven—being a part of Jesus’ kingdom, his gracious rule and work and activity in our hearts and in this world. Being a believer and a Christian and having Jesus—that’s My Glorious Treasure.
Or is it? Might it be that spiritually speaking, we always seem to be playing that fantasy lottery game in our minds? Might it be that your heart is happy to have found the treasure, but secretly wants something a little bit more?
This is part of the sinful nature, the discontent DNA that has been passed down to us. We can trace it back to Adam and Eve. Every treasure of heaven and earth was theirs—a perfect paradise to enjoy and explore and rule over, a perfect relationship with God forever. But it wasn’t enough. It was so tempting to think about more. They wanted more knowledge, more power, to somehow be more like God. We humans have never been the same.
My sinful heart wants more, too. The kingdom of heaven just doesn’t quite seem to be enough when I might lose my job during the COVID catastrophe. The kingdom doesn’t cut it when my retirement assets disappeared like Houdini. The treasure seems like trash when I flick on the TV and see dream homes and cars and lifestyles. Why can’t I have stuff like that?
Here we sit with this pearl of great value, this treasure beyond comprehension of the kingdom of heaven, but sinful hearts want more. It’s not enough. So, some look for treasures of money. Some look for treasures of pleasures. Some look for treasures in science or knowledge or position or power. There’s got to be a bigger pearl out there! Right?
It seems so American, so natural to think like that, and yet it’s so very dangerous. Did you note today how Jesus followed the two treasure parables with another short one? The kingdom of heaven is also like a net, he said. It’s like a net that catches fish and the good ones are kept while the bad fish are thrown away. It’s in that same way that on the Last Day the Lord Jesus and his angels will separate the wicked from the righteous. Those who treated the treasure of the kingdom like trash, those who wanted a better treasure or ignored the treasure or didn’t even believe the treasure was real will be thrown “into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” My sinful heart with all its desires is not just concerning—it’s condemning!
How thankful we are to have Jesus! He’s more than just a wise teacher with some perplexing parables about treasure to chew on. He’s the one who gives us the treasure in the first place.
For Jesus, the kingdom of heaven was his glorious treasure. The work and the will of his Father was not some second rate, after thought of a treasure. It was Jesus’ greatest joy and pleasure to put the kingdom first. We don’t have many options, we come into this world with nothing and we leave with nothing. But Jesus, he had everything—literally. All the riches of heaven and power and glory were already his. What more could he ask for? What more could he gain? What more could he want? The astounding answer of grace is this—you. He wanted you.
Listen to the apostle Paul, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” This is the undeserved love of our God. We have treated his treasures as trash, we have earned or are entitled to nothing but weeping and gnashing of teeth. Yet Jesus came to change the story.
Though rich, he became poor. He took on human flesh. He faced the trials and temptations of this world, including the allure of worldly treasures. But none of them was so great as the treasure of his kingdom. None of them was so great as his Father’s perfect will. And no earthly treasure would distract him from saying, “You. You are My Glorious Treasure.”
So, Jesus became poor, so poor that he had no worldly treasure to his name. The only thing he possessed was the mammoth mountain of our sins, our faulty worldly treasures we pursued. Those he owned and took with him to the poverty of the cross and the deprivation of the grave.
Yet there in those rude, bare, and poor places—a cross and a tomb— the riches of the kingdom became ours. The treasure chest of God’s grace opened wide and it overflowed with riches of forgiveness and new life and eternal life.
But the riches of grace didn’t stop there. Even how the treasure became ours is grace. Not one of us was born with the treasure, or earned the treasure, or even followed the map where X marks the spot like Pirates of the Caribbean. Rather, some of us were like the first man in the parable. We just stumbled upon the treasure in the field of life and found it. Maybe it was a friend who witnessed or invited you to church, or a parent who taught you, or a pastor who preached to you or baptized you. You weren’t looking for treasure, but you found the kingdom of heaven by faith.
Maybe some of you were like the second man. You were looking for pearls, and you were looking hard. You tried all kinds of answers—things, experiences, possessions, substances—but none of the pearls were really satisfying. But then you stumbled upon the pearl of great value—the good news of Jesus and his kingdom.
No matter your story, God worked through his will and his Word and his Spirit so that you have found the treasure. You have it! You have the glorious treasure of the kingdom of heaven—now and forever.
So now what? Well did you note the reactions of the two in the parable? They were all in! The first man knew that nothing was more valuable and no possession could compare to the treasure he found. Jesus said that in joy—in joy—he sold everything he had and bought the field with the treasure. He was going to guard and protect and keep that treasure with everything he had.
The second man knew that he would never find a better pearl. He fought off the temptation to keep looking for a better pearl. He knew that was the most precious pearl ever, so he too went all in. He sold everything he had and bought it. Why bother looking for pearls when you already have the best pearl ever?
You have a glorious treasure, and that joy can lead you to an “all in” attitude as well. Why worry about income and job security and stimulus checks and economy and retirement? We shouldn’t be foolish or naive with our lives, but we need not stress or worry. We already have the greatest treasure! Why chase after other things in this world, as if we can’t remodel, upgrade, or super size fast enough? We’ll never find a pearl of greater worth than the one we already have. Jesus said it this way: Why worry about what you will eat or drink or what to wear? The pagans—unbelievers— run after those kinds of things. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Your heavenly Father who already gave you a glorious treasure will be happy to cushion your treasure chest with other worldly blessings too.
Thus, Jesus concluded with one last one-liner of a parable. He said anyone who is his disciples and follows him is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom treasures old and new. What a privilege, that each day and each week in worship we can pull out the treasures of grace of old—a cradle, a cross, a tomb—my baptism, my faith received, my kingdom adoption. And yet each day and each week in worship we can pull out treasures new—daily forgiveness, daily blessings, daily outpourings of grace upon grace.
Brothers and sisters, look no further. Your storehouse is already full. The treasure chest has been found, opened, and is now spilling over. You can sing each day with all joy as you just did:
Your kingdom, O God, is my glorious treasure,
My pearl of incomparable worth.
Its value exceeds every standard of measure,
Surpassing the wealth of the earth.
Lord, give me your grace and the power of your Spirit
To value this treasure aright.
That, never allured by the world, I inherit
Your kingdom of glory and light. Amen
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