A sermon preached
The kingdom of heaven is
like treasure hidden in a field
Imagine you had been in
at the height of the troubles there –
enemy forces are heading for your village
intent on so called ethnic cleansing.
You flee for your life.
I wonder, what would you do with your valuables?
I wonder how many when they fled quickly
hid valuables under floorboards, in holes in the ground?
Many must by now have returned to unearth their treasures.
Others of course, victims of the Serbian killing fields,
will never return.
I wonder how many unregarded
unknown caches of gold and silver
there are in the fields and yards
of those who died before they returned?
One day of course someone else will be ploughing a field,
digging some foundations, or demolishing an outhouse,
and they will stumble on the hurriedly secreted riches of the dead.
1st C Palestine was in
many ways like the modern Balkans –
for 2000 yrs it had been a battleground,
and time and again inhabitants were forced to flee.
In days before banks how often treasure must have been buried –
how often the owners never lived to tell the tale
or recover their property.
So this cameo parable of Jesus
would have rung true for his hearers –
a farmer is ploughing and comes across a treasure –
perhaps an earthenware pot of gold coins – buried in his field.
Jesus uses the image of the
treasure to represent the
God’s rule in our lives -
I think this simple story has a number of things to say to us:
The gifts of God are in the ordinary world,
there for all to find.
The treasure was not in a bank
vault or under Herod’s palace treasury –
it was in a field.
I remember like yesterday a day when I was 7 yrs old –
I could take you to the spot
where I was walking home from Sunday School one Sun afternoon –
It was the right hand side of the road about 20 yards from Queens Rd –
there as I was walking along I found 2/6d in the gutter.
That was a fortune for me – on 4d a week pocket money.
I rushed home clutching my prize.
God doesn’t lock his treasure away
it is not to be found only in the realms
of the rich, the clever, the famous or the powerful.
It is there for anyone who happens
upon it –
a farmer in his field or a 7 yr old in the gutter.
We don’t know when the treasures of God’s grace
will appear in our life.
Note this: the farmer wasn’t
looking for treasure –
he was ploughing a field.
Some people- like the man
collecting fine jewels –
spend their life searching for God,
others like the farmer, seem to do the opposite.
But God in his generosity offers himself in his own good time to all.
Maybe you would like to think
which you are –
the searcher after truth, or someone unconcerned with the religious quest.
The point of this story is this –
Whichever you are –
even if you are purely concerned with ploughing your furrow in the world –
God may suddenly appear in your life,
Like a coin in the dirt of the gutter, when you least expect it.
And maybe that says something about patience and attentiveness –
The saints often speak of the need to wait patiently on God –
That is not a passive sleepy
it is the waiting of the watchman or the sentinel –
but is nonetheless a calm waiting for God’s moment.
The treasure of God’s presence often appears
precisely at the point of our greatest suffering and pain.
I wonder what the farmer thought when his plough hit the treasure?
I imagine him cursing and saying –
yet another so and so boulder in this field –
and he rams the plough forward and curses at it jams again
and jars his shoulder and threatens to buckle the blade.
Then he looks down
and sees it is not a stone but a treasure trove.
How often is it precisely
when we seem to be most weighed down with the troubles of life,
when the road seems rocky and bare,
that our head is most bowed,
that we find God there –
the one who stumbled carrying his cross,
there in the gutter beside us?
Some days are fine –
everything seems to be coming up roses –
the city has won the Olympic bid and all is smiles.
And how often on such days we do not see –
or choose not to bother to see – God’s signals to us.
But when the bomb goes off,
and the city is suddenly battling through the mud,
then there he is.
You know the story of the Jewish boy
ordered to clear out the latrines in the concentration camp –
up to his armpits in excrement.
And the Nazi guard looks down on him and says
“And where is your God now?”
And the lad replies – “He is right here beside me”.
These are hard times we live in
and maybe we should remember
that the treasure was deep in the mud,
and maybe the treasure is nearest and easiest to find
when we are lowest and dirtiest.
4. When you find the
don’t be afraid to give up everything to gain it
The man goes off and sells everything to buy the field –
We can see people thinking he has
gone mad –
what good will the field be to him –
he’s sold his plough and his seed to buy it –
but the man is determined.
Lots of people think they can
enjoy the riches of Christ
by storing them safely in one corner of their lives
alongside other competing priorities.
But with the really big things in
life, if you really want them,
you’ve got to be prepared to put them first.
If we really want the Kingdom,
when we see it we will sell up and grab it with joy.
And note: the story does not say
that the farmer
with tears in his eye begrudgingly got rid of things
so as to buy the field –
no, with joy he did it.
The farmer went to his friends and
Oh please buy this from me –
He’s like a little boy who has grown out of train sets
and taken up golf –
please please give me some money for my trainset.
And when he gets it,
he is so excited he runs all the way
to chose the next club for the set.
But this is about more than children’s games:
This world of ours is in a mess –
We are ploughing a rough and stony field right now.
But in the midst of the mud and
the treasure chest can still be seen.
Amidst the senseless killing of
God still vouchsafes us a glimpse of the Kingdom –
the Kingdom of his rule of love and justice and peace -
a Kingdom in which nations and individuals
speak with love not bombs.
Let’s not be half hearted –
let’s give our lives to gain that treasure
and heave it out of the mud
for such a treasure is worth our all.