July 26, 2014

Thy Kingdom Come - My Kingdom Treasures (Proper 17)

The readings for the past few weeks (Matthew 13) have been teaching us about the Kingdom of God. In the Parable of the Sower Jesus focuses on how people respond to the Word of God. In the Parable of the Weeds Jesus teaches us how to deal with evil. In the three parables for today Jesus is teaching us how important it is to be included in the Kingdom. He challenges us to be able to bring out treasures from our own experience of the Kingdom to share with others. Let me model this for you by bringing out three treasures from my study and experience of the Kingdom.

1. The treasure of the Bible as 'True truth' – is everyone really included?
My first kingdom treasure is a lesson learned long ago as I was reading the Bible. The Reading was about Isaiah - “setting his face like flint” in the face of opposition. Isaiah helped me understand what I was getting into in my preaching. Christian teachers often have to choose between either trying to please everyone; or confronting people with what the Bible actually says about self-sacrifice, loyalty, holiness and loving God. Biblical Christianity has been under attack for centuries by individuals who do not like this or that Biblical teaching. The supernatural Biblical worldview has often been compromised by academics and clergy who want to be ‘relevant to the modern scientific culture’. The Biblical teachings on sexual morality have also been compromised by clergy who wish to avoid conflict with various interest groups. This is a new thing. Historic Christianity proclaimed the Biblical teachings as a challenge to the culture of the time
The Parable of the division of the fish - specifically the idea that some are rejected by God and thrown into an eternal fire, is very counter-cultural to people in our time. Liberal culture values ‘inclusiveness’ very highly:
  • It is against the law to be discriminating – Jesus as the only Way
  • It is a ‘hate crime’ to warn people about sin and the ‘fires of hell’
  • Christians have to chose between going along to get along – and directly challenging the culture and facing opposition (like Jesus)
We have to be very careful because warning people of the consequences – the anguish of not being included in the Heavenly Kingdom, i.e. fear, does not work in the long run. You may get a person’s attention but then they need some good news. If the Kingdom of God is sown in our hearts by the Word of God, and that Word is that God loves us, we must reach out to people with love - not fear. We need to:
  • Encourage and support those who are seeking to grow in their spiritual lives by teaching the spiritual disciplines of holiness and self-sacrificial love that lead to a personal relationship with Jesus and joy
  • Stand with and support in works of love those in need of motional healing or practical help – particularly the sick and broken hearted
  • Tell other people our own story of seeking and finding the treasures of love, joy, peace and forgiveness.
2. The Treasure of the Holy Spirit growing invisibly inside you
The real treasure many people in our time are desperately trying to find is a personal spiritual life. Many have given up on religion and main-line churches. Many people have been hurt or disappointed by people in churches. In the movie “Eat, Pray Love” the countries chosen to be in for these activities are Italy, India and Bali. The (probably baptized Christian) seeker goes to India to experience of prayer. She, like many of us growing up in the Anglican Church; apparently reached adulthood without any real understanding or experience of the Holy Spirit in Christianity.

The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast are about invisible growth. The Mustard seed does not remain a tiny seed. It changes, grows and is transformed into a very large bush.
·         Something very tiny grows into something huge
·         Seeds of the Word of God, planted in us, seem small but can grow into something huge
·         Warning to not judge by size - what you see
·         Warning to listen to the Holy Spirit, speaking through the Bible
The Parable of the Yeast explains how our heart and soul can be changed and transformed us as we grow spiritually. Like yeast, the Holy Spirit can work its way through our whole being and change us from being empty and fearful into being filled with love for God and our neighbor. Like yeast the Holy Spirit needs the right environment:
·         Holy lifestyle free of violence, anger, guilt, lust and deceit
·         Lifestyle nurtured by daily Bible Study, prayer and works of love

 3. The Treasure of being included in the Kingdom
In the Parables the seeker sells everything they have to possess the Treasure or the Pearl.
·         We are challenged to give up all the things that may prevent us from being part of the Heavenly Kingdom
·         Our daily relationship of love and obedience must be our priority
·         Our job is to find out what the king wants us to do and then do it..
·         God is seen at the centre of the Kingdom as a great light. This light spreads outward and brings joy to the millions and millions of people all standing in the presence of God. In comparison all our worldly wealth and power has no value.

The Readings challenge us to think about our personal journey into the Kingdom of God and how our spiritual life grows and transforms our earthly life into treasures in Heaven.

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