Vicar Joel Hering – Pentecost 8 Sermon – July 30, 2017 – Matthew 13:44-52
I Am a Disciple of the Kingdom of Heaven
As my wife and I were packing up our apartment for our move back to Wisconsin, I was wondering what our most valuable possessions were. So I made a list. Number One, my wife’s engagement ring. It cost lots of money, and it has diamonds from my grandmother’s ring giving it sentimental value. Number two, our car. Again, we spent lots of money on it, and we need it to travel from place to place. Number three would be either our TV or bed. We spent some money and lots of time with both of them. It was fun to make my most valuable list, but when I was preparing for this sermon, it hit me. I did not put Jesus, my faith, the gospel, or anything like that on my list. I had to wonder, do I value being a disciple of the kingdom of heaven more than anything else. My actions would show that the answer would be, “Not all the time.”
- It is my most valuable treasure.
The time I spent with my things compared to my time with God is sometimes embarrassing. The money I spent on those things compared to the money I give to God was sometimes disproportionate. If someone would have looked at my life, the evidence would suggest that a times being a disciple of the kingdom of heaven was anything but the most valuable thing in my life. What about you? What takes priority in your life? What is the most valuable thing in your life? Today, in the Gospel, Jesus tells us using parables that being a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is your most valuable treasure because it distinguishes you. And that you want to bring out and enjoy this treasure for yourself and with others.
True or false? Being a part of a club or a group without knowing what you are getting into is a bad idea. True, right? You wouldn’t give me 500 bucks to join the PDWC without knowing what it is (Paint Drying Watchers Club). Or to join the PPA would you? (Polka Party Association). That would be ridiculous. So how can I tell you to value being a disciple of the kingdom of heaven if you are not sure what the kingdom of heaven is? The dictionary definition for the kingdom of heaven is God’s rule or reign on earth. But honestly, I still did not know what that meant. So we look to the Bible and what Jesus tells us in order to really understand what the kingdom of heaven is. Jesus used parables to tell people what the kingdom of heaven is. By getting the point of Jesus’ parables, we can better understand what the kingdom of heaven is, and then we can fully appreciate the value of being a disciple of the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus’ first parable about the kingdom of heaven went like this, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” So Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure. But not just any treasure, a treasure that is so valuable that when a man found it, he was willing to sell everything he had to joyfully go and buy the field with the treasure in it. So what we can learn from the parable is that the kingdom of heaven is a prized possession.
Jesus’ next parable was similar, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” So once again the kingdom of heaven is like a pearl of great value. When a merchant came across it, he gave up everything just to have that one pearl. So once again the conclusion would be that kingdom of heaven is a thing of supreme value.
- It distinguishes me.
Jesus gives us one more and yet different clue to what the kingdom of heaven is. He said that the kingdom of heaven is like a net that is let down and catches all kinds of fish, good and bad. And then the fishermen separate the good fish from the bad putting the good fish in containers and throwing the bad fish away. Jesus explains that separating is the end of the age and that the righteous will go to heaven and the wicked will go to hell. So the point that Jesus is making about the kingdom of heaven is that it applies to all people but it distinguishes righteous from the wicked.
Ok my fellow detectives, use the clues to solve the mystery of the kingdom of heaven. Let’s review. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is the most valuable thing and it applies to all people, but distinguishes the righteous from the wicked. So take these clues and use them with the dictionary definition for the kingdom of heaven which is God’s rule and you get…. Uhhhh… still not sure? What if I ask you this, what is the most valuable thing to you? I wish I could hear all of your answers, but I am guessing someone (probably one of the kids) would say Jesus. Yes! What about Jesus? The forgiveness of sins he won for you. His death and suffering he did for you. His resurrection from the dead giving you life. The grace of God and love he has given you even though you deserve none of it. The faith that the Holy Spirit creates and strengthens in you which receives the forgiveness of sins. The powerful and true words of God in the Bible. Your baptism washing away your sin, Holy Communion giving you Jesus’ body and blood. If one of these were your answer, you would be right. And now we are getting closer to understand what the kingdom of heaven really is.
All of those things mentioned above can be summarized with, the Gospel or the good news of God. If we use the dictionary definition for the kingdom of heaven, “God’s reign and rule”, and then add “with the gospel”, we can grasp what the kingdom of heaven is. God rules and reigns over this world and over your life, but not as an angry and judging God, he rules and reigns as a loving God with the good news of the gospel. And when God’s reign with the Gospel and all the benefits are yours, it becomes like a priceless treasure or a perfect pearl that is worth giving up everything else just to have that treasure.
God’s reign with the gospel is a priceless treasure because it covers all people but distinguishes the righteous from the wicked. All people are in the net of the reign of God with the gospel because God rules over all things. Each person under God’s reign will either reject his gospel reign thus are wicked, or will by God’s grace embrace the gospel and all its benefits and will be gathered into heaven as righteous. God’s reign with the gospel is what makes you a righteous fish. It is what distinguishes you from the wicked people. The kingdom of heaven is what will take you into heaven. I don’t know about you, but for me, that makes the kingdom of heaven my most valuable treasure.
- It is enjoyed with others.
Now that you know what the kingdom of heaven is, you realize what a blessing it is to be a disciple of it. But now you need to know what you are supposed to do as a disciple of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus tells you another parable to answer this question. He said to his disciples, “Have you understood all these things?” (talking about the three parables he just told about the kingdom of heaven) “Yes,” they replied. He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” Did you get it? Jesus said that a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like an owner of a house who brings out new treasures as well as old.
Let’s break down what Jesus said. Disciples in the kingdom of heaven BRING OUT treasures from the storeroom. Why would an owner bring out his treasures from a store room? I can think of two reasons; either to enjoy them himself or to share them with guests. When do you bring out the best wine or whiskey, the fine china, and your best smoked brisket? When do you admire your signed baseball or your dazzling jewelry? Either you are enjoying them yourself or you are sharing them with guests. That is what disciples in the kingdom of God do. They enjoy their treasure themselves and also share it.
And you my fellow disciples in the kingdom of heaven, have the most valuable and precious treasure of all which is to be brought out and shared. You have God’s reign with the gospel and the blessings that come with it. Jesus said a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like an owner who has new treasures as well as old. You have the treasures of the gospel which has new treasures as well as old. You have the old treasure of your baptism making you a child of God ever since you were baptized, but you also have the new treasures of Holy Communion where you receive the forgiveness of sins every two weeks. You have the old treasure of the Bible passages you have known since you were a kid like John 3:16, but you also have new treasures of the passages you come across for the first time in your devotional Bible reading. You have the old treasure of God’s love for you, the forgiveness of sins given to you from Jesus, and the care of the Holy Spirit, and you have the new treasure of heaven waiting for you on the last day.
These are treasures you don’t just leave in the store room to collect dust. These are the old and new treasures you bring out for yourself and for others. Remember your baptism and partake of communion. Remember your favorite passages and discover new ones. Come to church, worship the triune God, and hear about the heaven waiting for you. And share these wonderful treasures with anyone you can. Share these treasures with your family members, your friends, your coworkers, your neighbors, the grocery store cashier, your mail man, the list can go on and on. If you don’t and you leave those treasures in the store room, think about who you are hurting. You are not just putting yourself in danger, you are keeping the treasures of God away from those people. The kingdom of God distinguishes the righteous from the wicked. Don’t be the one responsible for a person’s separation into the fires of hell. Instead, be the one who brings out the wonderful treasures. Be the one who shares the good news about Jesus and the forgiveness of sins he has given. Share God’s word, God’s Grace, God’s rule. Share your treasures and give the Holy Spirit and opportunity to work miracles in that person’s heart. Be the one who shares the treasure that will distinguish that person to be taken with the other righteous people into heaven.
Jesus used parables to remind us of the incredible privilege we have being disciples in the kingdom of heaven. It is our most precious treasure that distinguishes us from the wicked people in this world. And this treasure we bring out of the store room for all to see and enjoy. What is the most valuable you thing you have? For me, it is being a disciple in the kingdom of heaven. Amen