Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Eureka!

[A sermon based on Matthew 13:44-46 for July 21, 2013)

Are we aware enough of what we have found and are finding in Christ? Are we aware enough of what we have in him?

While it is most likely a legend, it is a legend that has endured for over two thousand years, so it is at least an enduring legend. The story goes that the third century BCE mathematician Archimedes was challenged by his king to solve a problem. It seems that an artisan who made golden wreaths for the gods was suspected of diluting the gold with silver but the suspicions could not be confirmed; Archimedes was commissioned to figure out a way to determine the truth.

While struggling with the problem, Archimedes went to the public baths. Noticing that the deeper he went in the tub the more water was displaced, he realized that the amount of water he displaced was equal to the volume of his body. It occurred to him that, since gold weighs more than silver, it would take more silver to give the wreath the desired bulk and so, he could solve his problem by comparing the displacement of a known pure gold wreath with a suspected silvered-down one. He leapt out of the bath and went running home naked shouting “I found it! I found it!” which in Greek is “Eureka! Eureka!”

So even now we talk about having a “eureka moment” when we find something vital or realize something important.

It’s a legend that reminds us of a truth: discovering something that is valuable because it is life-changing is exciting!

In the two parables of Jesus that we read today, he talks about people finding a treasure. The first person is likely a peasant who, while plowing someone else’s field, finds a treasure—perhaps a jar of coins buried there by a previous owner unbeknownst to the present owner—and goes and sells everything he has to buy the field. The second person is likely a merchant who would know the value of pearls and would have some means who, when he found a pearl of great value, goes and sells all he has to purchase that one pearl. [cf. Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), pp. 391-392.]

Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like that.

But what is the kingdom of heaven? Simply put, the kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of God and the kingdom of God is the reign of God; so the kingdom of God is where God rules. That raises the question of where God rules, the answer to which is “everywhere.” So where does God not rule? The answer is “nowhere.” Still, these two parables as well as other parables and teachings of Jesus make the points that in some way the kingdom of heaven is hidden from view and that there are few that find it.

God will not force God’s rule upon you.

How then do you come upon the kingdom? There’s no one way. After all, in the first parable the man came upon the treasure accidentally, probably just in the course of minding his own business; the treasure he found was something he didn’t expect and probably something for which he wasn’t even looking. On the other hand, the merchant in the second parable was looking for fine pearls when he found the finest pearl of all. One person was looking while one was not—but they both found the treasure.

In the film “Pretty Woman,” Edward (played by Richard Gere) takes Vivian (Julia Roberts)to the opera. He is a man of the world—educated, privileged, and refined—who frequents, understands, and appreciates opera. She is a woman of the world—but in a very different sense; she is not educated, privileged, or refined and she has never even seen an opera. By the end of the performance, though, Vivian is mesmerized and moved to tears; she liked it even more than “The Pirates of Penzance”! He enjoyed the opera because he knew what he was looking for; she enjoyed it because she stumbled across something unexpected and beautiful.

The kingdom is like that.

So you might find the kingdom if you’re not looking for it and you might find it if you are. It is, either way, a gift of God.

To find the kingdom, you see, is to find God; it is to find God who is quite obviously there but is also quite obviously sometimes hard for us to detect. To find the kingdom is to find your life caught up in the life of God and to have God’s life poured into your life. Over time, you will grow more and more in being with God and having God be with you—and it will be a wonderful, challenging, and adventurous life.

When you find it—or when you realize you have found it—or when you realize you have been finding it all along—“Eureka” is an appropriate response.

And when you realize the value of what you have found, you will go all in. The two men in the two parables sold everything they had in order to buy the valuable treasure they had found; we will give everything up and everything over in order to acquire the kingdom that we have found—and we will find great joy in doing so because we know that there is nothing greater than what we have found.

I do wonder what the two men in the two parables did with their treasure once they had acquired. Chances are that they handled it less than perfectly because that’s what people do; for some reason we tend to break and soil even wonderful and valuable things. Recently, a man renovating an old house was pulling out the newspaper that a long-ago owner had used to insulate the walls. As he pulled out the newspapers he found a comic book, but not just any comic book—he found a DC #1, which is the issue that introduced Superman to the world. It sold at auction for $175,000, but it would have sold for even more had the owner and his mother-in-law not gotten into an argument during which the back cover was ripped!

Still, being aware of and alert to and involved in what God is doing is worth anything and everything because to find the kingdom is to find God and to find God is to discover your own life. And even though we will handle the treasure imperfectly, it’s amazing what God will do with us even when we drop it and tear it …

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