GIVING AND RECEIVING
What’s more fun? Receiving things or giving things away? They’re both good, right. You can enjoy both. It’s fun to get stuff. I like presents. I like surprises. I like opening gifts on Christmas morning and on my birthday. Who doesn’t like that? Receiving things is fun especially when it’s something that you actually like.
It’s fun to get things. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s even more fun to give things. I really like giving things to others. In fact, if I was told that this Christmas I had to make a choice, I could either get things or I could give things, I’m pretty sure that I’d choose to give things. I don’t think I’m alone in that. And I think that as we get older, the more likely we are to think that way.
My rationale is that generally, as we get more years behind us, we don’t get as excited about receiving things because, quite frankly, there isn’t a lot that we actually need. So when our children ask us what we want for Christmas and we say something like, “All I really want is for the family to be together,” and the kids roll their eyes and think that we’re just a little bit nuts, what they don’t always appreciate is that we actually mean it. All I really want for Christmas is for the entire family to be together even if it’s just for one meal. As long as that happens, it’s mission accomplished and I couldn’t be happier.
Having said that, I truly do enjoy watching the kids – and their assorted wives and girlfriends and boyfriends – opening their gifts. There’s that distinct sound of wrapping paper being torn off the presents. There’s the laughter when someone opens a gift but loses the card and sheepishly has to ask who gave it so appropriate thanks can be offered. I love the pile of colourful wrapping that’s left in the middle of the living room floor. I always sort through the paper before tossing it in the trash because almost inevitably one of the gifts gets mixed in and if it weren’t for due diligence, someone’s gift would get thrown away. And, yes, we learned that the hard way.
I think it’s way more fun to give than to receive. I think God thinks that way too. Maybe that’s why he gives us so much and yet expects so little in return.
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
In today’s Scripture reading from Matthew 13:44-46, Jesus tells two short parables about giving and receiving. That parable teaches us something about the way God wants things to be. To begin with, however, I want to say that Jesus’ parables almost always started off the same way; with words that say something like, “The kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God is like this…”
Let’s start off by looking at what Jesus meant when he talked about the “kingdom of heaven.” Note that Jesus never said, “Heaven is like this…” He always referred to the kingdom of heaven. That’s because heaven and the kingdom of heaven are two different places. This is one of the most misunderstood parts of Christian theology. Heaven is the dwelling place of God. It’s where God sits on his throne.
The kingdom of heaven, however, is something quite different. It represents the way things will be at the end of the age when Jesus returns to complete the kingdom that he inaugurated during his earthly ministry. It represents the way that God always intended things to be on earth before Adam and Eve disobeyed God, ate the forbidden fruit and caused sin to come into the world. It’s the way things are supposed to be, the way things were in the Garden of Eden when God first breathed life into creation. That’s the kingdom of heaven.
Here’s something else that Christians often get wrong. At the end of time, when we all stand before God’s judgment, through faith in Jesus Christ we will enter the kingdom of heaven. But it won’t be in a place somewhere up beyond the clouds. Our destiny is to spend eternity right here on earth. But it won’t be the same earth. It will be a new earth, a transformed and renewed earth. It’s the one that John foresaw in Revelation 21:1-3 (NIV) when he wrote:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. And I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
The kingdom of heaven, or the New Jerusalem as it is referred to in Revelation, will be the place where we will once again walk with God in the garden as he intended it to be at the very dawn of creation. The new heaven and the new earth. That’s what God has promised to give to all who put their faith in Jesus Christ.
THE VALUE OF THE KINGDOM
With that preamble in mind, let’s read this morning’s parable – actually two very sort parables – from Matthew 13:44-46 (NIV). This is what it says:
The kingdom of heaven is like a 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 the field. 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 a bought it.
In this parable, Jesus tells us something significant about the kingdom of heaven. He says that it is like a man who finds a treasure in a field and sells all that he has in order to buy the field and take the treasure. It is also like a merchant looking for fine pearls. And when he finds one he sells everything he has so that he can purchase it.
Both of these short parables say the same thing. So why does Jesus tell two parables and not just one? It’s for emphasis. By saying the same thing twice in two different ways, Jesus is saying that this is really important. Don’t miss the point. It’s crucial. Let’s find out why. To do that, since both parables say the same thing, we are going to concentrate on one of them just to make it more simple. The one we are going to focus on is the parable of the merchant who sold all he had to buy that one pearl of great price.
I want to point out three things about these parable. The first thing Jesus says is that the kingdom of heaven is very valuable. How valuable was it? It’s so valuable that the merchant sold everything he had in order to get it. That’s very valuable.
Is there anything in your life that’s that valuable? You’d probably say your family or your children are. That’s fair. Most of us would give anything for our children, even our very lives. What about our things? What things are valuable to you? For most of us, our houses are our most valuable assets. Our cars can be pretty valuable. Pension plans are very valuable if you can even get one anymore. But Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is even more valuable than that. In fact, it’s more valuable than our families and all of our possessions put together. It is like a pearl of great price that a merchant found and when he found it he sold everything else that that he had in order to purchase the pearl.
But why is it so valuable? There’s a simple reason for this. It’s because the kingdom of heaven is eternal. All of the things of this world will pass away. Our families are made up of people and as much as we love them, every one of them is mortal and will someday die. That the reality that we live with every day. Our houses will eventually be torn down and replaced by something else. Our cars will rust out and our pension plans will end when we do. Everything in this world is transitory and temporary. But the kingdom of heaven is not temporary. It will last forever because it is eternal. That’s why it is so valuable.
Remember that he began his parable by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like [this]…” It is like a valuable treasure or a pearl of great price more precious than silver, more costly than gold, more valuable than anything else in all creation. What is the kingdom of heaven? It is a treasure. It is a pearl of great price more valuable than everything else put together in our lives.
SHARING THE KINGDOM
The kingdom of heaven is like a pearl of great price worth all that we have and more. In fact is worth everything we have because it is eternal and lasts forever. That’s the first thing the parable teaches us. The second thing that this parable teaches us is that we are not supposed to keep the kingdom of heaven to ourselves. It’s meant to be shared.
I want to now look at who purchased the pearl of great price. What is he? In Matthew 13:45 (NIV) it says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls…” He is a merchant, a buyer and seller of goods. Merchants purchase things for one reason and one reason only, so that they can then sell them to someone else. What he isn’t is a collector. The difference between a merchant and a collector is that a collector often obtains things to keep for himself. But merchants don’t do that. Merchants buy something and then they sell it, hoping to turn a profit. A merchant passes things around so that others can enjoy and appreciate what he has to offer. What that says to me is that the merchant who sold all that he had in order to purchase the pearl of great price has no intention of hanging on to the pearl. He is not a collector. He is a merchant.
We might be a bit uncomfortable with thinking about the kingdom of God as something that can be bought and sold. It fact, it can’t be. But the notion of buying and selling is not the important image in this parable. The important thing is that we are not to keep the kingdom message to ourselves. We are called to pass it on to others just as a merchant would.
The Victoria Cross is, of course, the highest honour for bravery that can be bestowed in the British Commonwealth on a military member in times of combat. Since its introduction by Queen Victoria in 1856, only 1,357 Victoria Crosses have been awarded. 96 of those were awarded to Canadians. That means that Victoria Crosses are very rare. They have been sold for as much as $500,000. The largest collection of Victoria Crosses in the world belongs to Lord Ashcroft who owns one hundred and eighty-three of them. That’s roughly 15% of all of the Victoria Crosses ever awarded. That makes him a merchant of sorts with lots of valuable pearls. But what do you suppose he does with this amazing collection? He could keep all of his Victoria Crosses to himself. He could stash them away in a vault. He could stick them in his den and show them to his friends. But he doesn’t do that. Lord Ashcroft has lent most of his collection to the Imperial War Museum in London where they are on display for all to see. In doing this Lord Ashcroft is sharing his prized possessions with others. And one day, either he will sell them or his estate will and they will go into other hands for a very great price. The point is that things as valuable as this should not be hoarded and tucked away. They should be shared and appreciated by as many people as possible. The same thing goes with the merchant’s pearl of great price. It should not be stowed away. It needs to be shared.
Let’s go back to that merchant with his pearl. When he finally goes to sell it, what do you suppose the asking price might be? Undoubtedly it would be more than a Victoria Cross. In fact, the merchant would sell his pearl for the same amount he paid for it. What did he pay for it? He sold everything he had in order to buy it. Why? Because the kingdom of heaven is worth everything we have in this life and more. That means that if we want to have the kingdom of heaven in our lives, we need to be prepared to given everything for it. That’s because it’s priceless. It’s worth everything. The kingdom of heaven is yours if you are willing to give everything you have for it. That’s how much it cost. That’s how much it’s worth. Everything.
As believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, as inheritors of his promise of eternal life, we must be willing to give all that we have for the kingdom of heaven. And once we have it, like the merchant in the parable, we are called to pass it on to others.
THE MERCHANT OF THE KINGDOM
The first point of this parable is that the kingdom of heaven is like a pearl of great price or a treasure in a field and it is worth everything we have. The second point is that like the merchant passing on the pearl, we are called not to keep the kingdom of heaven to ourselves but rather it is to be shared with others. The third point has to do with the identity of the merchant. Who is he? Who is this merchant who gave everything he had for the pearl of great price? It is, of course, Jesus.
Jesus made it possible for us to enter the kingdom of heaven because he gave everything he had for us. As he hung on the cross, he was not only stripped of his clothing. He was also stripped of his dignity, his family, his friends and his humanity. He was even stripped of that which was more valuable to him than anything else, his relationship with his Heavenly Father. We see this in the moments before his death in Matthew 27:46 where he uttered, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” All that he had, all that he was, all that he ever hoped to be hung with him there on the cross as he died alone and destitute.
Because of his sacrifice, we have access to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus paid the price for the pearl that is worth more than anything else in all creation. He gave all that he had for us. But now the question has to be asked: are you willing to give all that have for him? That’s not an easy question to answer because we are all very rich compared to the rest of the world.
Still Jesus asks of us only that which he asked of himself. Because he gave everything he wants us to give everything. That might seem like a lot but it is a small price to pay for eternity in the kingdom of heaven. The beauty of giving all to Jesus is that when we give it all – when we give our time, our talents, our resources and our relationships – they become even more valuable. That’s because those things that are now dedicated to the kingdom work to draw others into God’s loving arms.
We have a
wonderful gift to share with the world. What God has so graciously shared to us
is ours to share with others. What Jesus has so mercifully given to us, we are
called to give to others. This pearl of great price, the kingdom of heaven,
must not be kept hidden away because it defines how each of us will spend
eternity. That is our message to the world. That is the good news were are
called to pass on to others.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Loving God, your creativity extends from the heavens and covers the earth with good things. Your majesty is experience in the cool evening breezes and song of the birds in the morning sunrise. The butterflies and grasshoppers remind us that you care about all things from the greatest to the least. Your goodness is in the kind acts of your children. We give the glory to you.
Remind us that we are called to live holy lives guided by your Spirit, inspired by your love. In Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, you gave us the gift of eternal life. In him we are born again as creatures of a new creation, washed in his blood and cleansed by your love. We give all of the glory to you.
We also lift our thanks that the Roy and Faye have been granted the final adoption of Sierra, a little girl they have been raising for the past two years. That you, O God, for this incredible blessing. We also offer a prayer for the birth parents who had to give up this precious child for whatever reason. May they also find peace and joy in knowing that their little girl is in good hands.
We lift up in prayer those who will be travelling the roads on vacation. Grant them your safety and grant them the wisdom to drive safely. May they be refreshed during this season of good weather.
We remember those places in the world where you tender touch is so needed. There is still such turmoil and violence in the world. We pray for those who mourn and we pray for wisdom on behalf of those who are making decisions for many.
We remember those of our own congregation and community who need your healing touch their lives. Grant them your Healing and Holy Spirit. We also pray for those who live with broken relationships and loss of security… We pray for those who live with the memories of abuse and victimization… We pray for those who live with doubt and fear… We pray for those who have lost their way and their purpose… God of Life, bring your healing and holy touch into each and every situation.
hear our prayers and the prayers of the countless millions who call upon your
name for healing, comfort, hope and peace. We raise these prayers in Jesus’
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
July 30, 2017 / Pentecost 7 / Proper 12
Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11, 45b or Psalm 128; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52; Romans 8:26-39
CALL TO WORSHIP
ONE: Let us give thanks to God
ALL: as we call upon God’s name.
ONE: We will sing songs of praise
ALL: and tell of the wonders of the Most High.
ONE: For the Lord is good.
ALL: Let us seek God with joyful hearts.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
You, O God, are eternal. Your Love is everlasting. Your Mercy extends from the bottom of the deepest oceans to the tops of mountains peaks. Your Justice reaches every corner of the earth. You uphold your Covenant through every age and place. Praise to you, Holy God. Glory to you, our Gracious Creator. Enter our worship and enable us to taste the joy of the inheritance that is ours in Jesus Christ. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
The longings of our hearts are placed before you. Forgive us when we fail to live up to your standards. Forgive us for doubting and failing to trust in your sure and certain promises. In times of affliction, we have forgotten you. In times of celebration, we have ignored you. Forgive us, God of Hope, and enable us to see more clearly the vision of your way. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
The Spirit helps us in our weakness, interceding for us with sighs too deep for words. Jesus points us to the path of forgiveness and healing. Believe the Good News. In Christ, we are forgiven and set free from the bondage of sin and death.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
Thank you, God, for drawing us into your covenant of love. Thank you for providing for us each day. Our abilities, our inabilities, our gifts and our concerns are all in your hands. We dedicate ourselves to you again, confident that your Spirit will guide us into the way of peace. Amen.
God sends us forth into our life journeys with
the promise of the Spirit’s presence. It is the Spirit who lives within and
amongst us. Let us leave with enthusiasm, confident in the treasures that God,
in love, has provided.