What do you pant for?

Matthew 13:31-52
31He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32it 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.” 33He 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.” 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. 45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. 47“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52And 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.”

Pent6 / John Stiles / Holy Cross Lutheran Church / 7-24-11

Children’s Time: bring out things that make me salivate and pant – like Zebra Cakes, Beef Jerky, and Pringles. What are you hungry for? What makes you pant? Show the Bible. In our Psalm (119) we read together: “When your Word is opened, it gives light / it gives understanding / I open my mouth and pant – because I long for your commandments.” Of all the things we love to eat… let’s make sure we’re getting a daily dose of God’s Word – through prayer, reading the Bible and singing songs of praise. And, let’s also remember those who are truly hungry in our world. God’s Word is worth more than all the riches in the world. Let’s thank God for this gift and share it with others.

Intro: Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The last couple weeks, we’ve heard parables told by Jesus – little stories about a sower scattering seeds – or about weeds growing up among the wheat, and what to do about them. But in our gospel text today Jesus is firing off parables left and right about the kingdom of God and what God’s rule is really all about. I mean, he’s really on a roll.

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.
The kingdom of heaven is like yeast in the dough.
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.
The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls.
The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, catching fish of all kinds.

I like how Jesus ends this whole string of parables, by inviting his listeners to become scribes – to write about and share their treasure with others: “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.” We have the privilege of sharing this treasure (old and new) with others! But what does that treasure look like? What if I’m not sure about what it looks like?

You might start with what it is you pant for in life. Fine jewelry, fancy clothes, cute shoes, a new truck? I mean, what really gets your juices flowing? When was the last time music made you cry? When did a word from someone else / or from God / make your day? When was the last time your stomach jumped inside you because of an injustice in the world?

Through prayer, we begin to sort out all the things that we pant for – and God reveals that which is treasure in the field – that pearl of great price – that yeast in the dough. When we find it, says Jesus, we ought to bring it out, both old and new treasure, and share it with others.

I brought with me today a “Message of Hope” card from Amnesty International. As a member, I received one of these every couple of months (along with an appeal to give money, of course). Amnesty International is an organization that works for human rights around the world – especially with regards to people who are tortured in prison – or held for speaking out against their government.

The “Message of Hope” card simply says: “Do not be discouraged. You are not forgotten.” It’s written in five languages, and there’s a place to sign your name. That’s all. A simple note, slipped to a guard, and on to a prisoner who will read it and just maybe cling to hope as a precious jewel – or a treasure in field.

In our Psalm (119) today, we read together: “When your Word is opened, it gives light / it gives understanding / I open my mouth and pant – because I long for your commandments.”

This is what the boy king, Solomon, about – when God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon made his choice: “Give me understanding to govern your people – the wisdom to know the difference between good and evil.” It pleased God that he didn’t ask for long life, riches or the lives of his enemies.

And interestingly enough, this is the sin that did Adam and Eve in. They, too, saw the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil – and ate it. So, it’s okay for Solomon, but not for Adam and Eve? I know, they disobeyed God and all that… So maybe, it’s more important what Solomon didn’t ask for: the lives of his enemies, a long life, or riches.

So, is that what the treasure is? Is it wisdom? The knowledge of good and evil? I mean, if we’re going to bring it out and share it with others… how will we know what it looks like? We, who live in American society – envying those who have riches, we joke about winning the lottery. Envying the young and the beautiful, we expect our health care to help us live longer. And we desire the lives of our enemies when we are provoked or attacked – and even when we’re not attacked… sometimes.

How can Paul be so convinced? In his letter to the Romans, he penned some of the most comforting words in all scripture – words you’re very likely to hear at a funeral, or at other times of deep grief and despair: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” And the answer is a definitive “No one.” “No one,” says Paul, “and no thing in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” “I am convinced,” he says.

Are you convinced? Is this what you pant for as you journey through life each day?
As you look at the world around you – where terrorist attacks kill dozens in Norway… are you convinced – that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?

As satellite images reveal secret concentration camps in North Korea where 200,000 residents are kept as slaves in horrific conditions – sometimes held in tiny cells – so small you can neither sit up or lie down – are you convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?

As you hear news of the famine in Ethiopia & Somalia – where the UN estimates that 10 million people are at risk, including 2 million malnourished children – where it hasn’t rained in 2 years, causing the worst drought since 1951 – are you convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus? Not famine, not nakedness, not peril, not sword?

Are you convinced?

Do you find yourself panting for this Word of Life that comes from God alone? Or are you dreaming for long life, riches and the lives of your enemies? Are you convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor rulers nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God?

If you aren’t convinced then none of this matters. We’re done here.
The saying is true:
“If Jesus is among us, nothing else matters.
And, if Jesus is not among us, then nothing else matters.”

Now, I’m sure some of you noticed that Paul, when he wrote this to the Romans, wasn’t convinced either, at first. Did you catch it? How does he start this text? “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know how to pray.” Paul begins in his own weakness – not knowing even how to pray.

Sometimes, the only prayer that matters… (take a deep breath. Hold it. Let it out slowly)… is a sigh too deep for words. Let us pray:

O Lord, our God, when we in awesome wonder,
consider all the worlds thy hands have made.
When we look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
thy power throughout the universe displayed
Then sings our souls, our Savior God – to Thee.
How great Thou art.
How great Thou art.
Amen.

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