Grace to you and peace from God Our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Melvin Dick

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

In a college history course, we studied how several wealthy American families made their money.  The Vanderbilts, Carnegies, and Rockefellers were in very different businesses, but the way they became rich was the same:  someone took an all-in financial gamble.  Some visionary person risked everything he had in a single investment, the value of which no one else had seen.  The timid, the hesitant, and the near-sighted did not achieve great riches. 

But you will.

Jesus' preaching announced that in him the Kingdom of God was drawing near.  He meant that we are less than God called us to be, and that the world is less than he created it to be.  But the time is coming when Godís will and only Godís will--not ours--shall be perfectly done.  On that future day, human sin shall not oppose and frustrate God's will, but rather we and all things shall be as God intends  This perfection of Godís will, Jesus called "the Kingdom of God. "It is Godís promise of a new heaven and new earth.  The coming of the Kingdom is strictly Godís work.  We cannot build it with our own hands. We can neither speed nor delay its coming, we cannot predict the day of its arrival.  We can only pray in hope, ďYour Kingdom come, your will be done.Ē 

A way to evoke an unseen future is to speak about it.  And so, in a series of parables, Jesus gave brief descriptions of what the Kingdom is and will be like.

He taught that the Kingdom of God is like a great treasure which a day-laborer accidently unearthed while digging in field.  Or it is like a fine pearl which a wealthy merchant found as a result of a long and determined search.  One man was poor, the other rich.  By chance, one stumbled across his treasure, the other systematically tracked down his pearl.  But neither the men's status nor their method of discovery mattered.  What counted was that both recognized a valuable thing when they saw it.  Both were resolved to possess it at any cost to themselves.  Both were willing to commit everything they had to make it theirs.

The point of both parables is that we too should be ready, willing, and able to do the same.  In our lives, the Lord's rule is not one important thing among many others--it is the only thing.  Christian faith calls for radical obedience, commitment, and faithfulness which push all our other loyalties, aspirations, and desires into the background.  God and his will are the treasure and pearl of our lives.  To possess them, it must be all or nothing-at-all with us.  Our commitments cannot be divided, balanced, and compromised between the rule of God and all our other interests.  For us, it is the pearl and the treasure of God's rule, or it is nothing.

Either/or commitments are always difficult to make:  there is no room in which to maneuver   Perhaps we might more readily commit ourselves to an all-or-nothing-at-all choice if the "pearl" and its value were unmistakably obvious.  We might be willing to risk everything if there were no mistaking what is treasure, and what is not.  But in this world, the true treasure of God is not so obvious as we should like it to be.  It is not that easy to recognize.  This is what the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven in the loaf are about.

Jesus said, the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds.  To look at it, one could never imagine that it will become something great in the future, in its fullness.  From the tiny seed, easily overlooked and dismissed as insignificant, will come the largest shrub in the garden, a plant so large, so strong, so substantial, that it will provide a home for nesting birds.  Who would have thought so, judging from the small size of the seed?  In the same way, a small pinch of yeast, almost nothing in comparison to the mass of dough into which it is kneaded, is enough to leaven the entire batch.  A few grains of yeast will cause the whole loaf to rise, an effect more vast and far-reaching than one might have expected from such a tiny cause.  Who would have thought so, judging from the small size of the pinch of yeast?

You might say that these two parables are the Biblical versions of our saying, "Mighty oaks from little acorns grow."  With God, great ends do come from humble beginnings.  And in this world, God always works from small and inauspicious beginnings.  In this world, God's treasure does not look like treasure.  In this world, his pearls do not look like pearls.  This is why we overlook that which is truly of value.  This is why we are not willing to sacrifice everything in order to possess the things of God.  We do not recognize true treasure of God when we see it because it appears too weak, too small, too insignificant to come to anything.

In our world, self-expression is more valued than self-control, gaining more valued than giving, hubris more than humility, posturing more than piety, resentment more than righteousness, fulfillment more than faithfulness, gratification more than gratitude, satisfaction more than sacrifice.  Yet these latter thingsare the seeds which will flower in the Kingdom.  In our world, comfort, notoriety, success, and power are the treasures which we seek.  Yet prayer, worship, forgiveness, generosity, acts of mercy, repentance, and Godly behavior are the leaven which shall rise in the future Kingdom. What that means for us now is that Christian morality is nothing more than the struggle to live today as we will live when the Kingdom comes.

Moreover, the parables Jesus told about the coming reign of God and its impact on the world were about himself.  The Body of a radical rabbi, nailed to a cross, executed for treason, is a contemptible and insignificant thing in the eyes of the world.  But to the eyes which recognize something of value when they see it, the Body of Jesus is a mustard seed.  When it is sprouted in the Resurrection, it is the greatest of God's shrubs.  The Risen Lord is a tree, so strong and substantial that you may nest in the branches of his arms, and make your homes there.  The crucified and risen Lord is the pinch of yeast.  When he is mixed with your life, he will cause you to rise with him.

Finally, Jesusís parables are about you, too.  To God, you are the treasure in the field;  you are the pearl of great value.  You are worth so much to God that he was willing to invest in you everything he had.  And what he had to invest, was his Son. He would and did give everything to possess you.

In your own eyes, in one another's eyes, and in the eyes of the unbelieving world, you may appear to be as insignificant as mustard seeds or as pinches of yeast.  But God sees you for what you will be when his will is perfectly done.  And that is why you so rare and valuable to him.

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.