St. Matthew’s Sermon 07-30-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 07-30-2017

Unearthing Treasures New and Old

Genesis 29:15-28, Psalm 128, Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

Today’s Gospel reading brings us to the end of a long string of Jesus’ parables about the “Kingdom of Heaven”, each one with a surprising, even shocking message that is easy for us, in our time, to miss.

In the first story of the sower who scatters seed on the path, on rocky ground, among thorns, as well as on “good soil” we are surprised by his carelessness which leads us to being shocked when his crop yields “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty”; the least number still being a miraculous harvest.

In the second story of the sower whose enemy contaminates his field with weed seed, we are both surprised by the low-down act of the enemy and shocked by the command to let the weeds grow with the wheat until harvest time.

In Christ’s time, agriculture was the most important factor in living well. Failed crops not only affected the farmer’s prosperity, but everyone else’s along with him. And, lacking the ability to transport large amounts of produce over great distances, farming was almost always a local scene in every town. So when Jesus spoke to the people of his time, he related in terms very near to them; terms they could easily envision and understand.

Today, however, when most of our wheat comes from farms hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away. And when we no longer grind our own grain to make bread, but pick up all we need in a supermarket, we aren’t as close to the process as those Jesus first spoke to, leaving us to imagine things about his message that people of his time would see directly.

But now, in today’s reading, Jesus gives a twist to his images that would have even the people of his time scratching their heads.

First is the parable of the mustard seed that, as he says “…becomes a tree”. But Mustard is an annual, it may grow, at best, ten feet tall and isn’t a tree at all. Plus, it would be grown as a garden plant with other herbs, not in a field.

Then he speaks of yeast that a woman mixed into 3 measures of flour as being like the Kingdom of Heaven. But people of that time were used to “yeast” as being a metaphor for evil that, once getting into a society, contaminates everything and everyone.

Next Jesus speaks of a treasure found in a field that doesn’t belong to the finder, bringing up issues of rightful ownership and the deceitful actions of the one who hides it again until he can buy the field at market value.

The fourth Parable is of a merchant who finds a precious pearl and spends all he has to own it, presumably to resell it for a prophet. This is also equated to the Kingdom of Heaven.

And, finally, Jesus equates the Kingdom of Heaven to a net that catches all kinds of fish; the good are kept and the bad are thrown away much like the earlier parable of the weeds among the grain that are sorted out at the time of harvest.

Now, that last one we can see as being a reasonable metaphor for the coming Kingdom when, at the end of the age the evil will be sorted out from the good, but what about the other four? The tree that isn’t really a tree; the yeast that doesn’t represent the growth of good; the treasure in the field, the pearl of great value that only has value if it is sold, how do they convey the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven?

Again, we are not as close to the ways of the time of Jesus as people of his time. And we are not as close to the Old Testament scriptures and their application as were the people of that time. Even though the original hearers of Jesus’ words might question his reasoning at first, they would have recognized his subliminal reference to Old Testament writings and traditions.

They would quickly connect the small seed growing into a tree to the symbolism of empires growing large and mighty as in the story of King Nebuchadnezzar whose dream of a tree growing into heaven and then being cut down was interpreted by Daniel as the warning of the destruction of his empire.

They would connect the yeast as a symbol of evil as it was used then.

They would make the connection between the hidden treasure found in the field and the ancient law found in Deuteronomy 22 that insists that lost property be returned to the rightful owner.

And they would think of Job 28 and the words found there that tell us…

“But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?… Gold and glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal; the price of wisdom is above pearls”.

They would have had these thoughts; they would have made these connections; but they would still be perplexed at how they connect to the Kingdom of Heaven as Jesus used them. Jesus used them in a way that countered their understanding; their preconceived notions of the word of God.

This is okay, this is good, for this is exactly what Jesus wanted to do. Jesus uses images that conflict human perceptions to let them know that just as he didn’t conform to their image of what the Messiah was supposed to be, likewise the Kingdom of Heaven is not formed to what they think it should be; what we think it should be. Jesus brings in the Old Testament Scriptures with a twist; not rendering them null and void, but bringing them into a new light for a fresh new look. He brings out the old to be seen under his light!

We have our Old Testament treasure, the ancient Word of God. We also have our Gospel treasure, the Word of the living God to prepare us as Scribes of the Kingdom of Heaven. Uncover, bring out your treasures, what is new and what is old; then understand!



Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
13:31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;
13:32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
13:33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
13:45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls;
13:46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
13:47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind;
13:48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad.
13:49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous
13:50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
13:51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.”
13:52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”


Genesis 29:15-28
29:15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?”
29:16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.
29:17 Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful.
29:18 Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”
29:19 Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.”
29:20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.
29:21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.”
29:22 So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast.
29:23 But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her.
29:24 (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.)
29:25 When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?”
29:26 Laban said, “This is not done in our country–giving the younger before the firstborn.
29:27 Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.”
29:28 Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.


Romans 8:26-39
8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
8:27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
8:28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.
8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
8:31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
8:32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?
8:33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
8:34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
8:35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
8:36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.