I feel as though all that there is to write about these days is division. I’m not going to list the ways. I’ll let you do that for yourselves. We all know that division is hurting this world. Division is hurting us individually whether we are willing to recognize it or not. The way to describe what is going on might be considered archaic but it is the best we have available. Human sin is seen in our division. Sin is our rebellion against the reign of God and we are paying a heavy price for it.
Jesus is telling about the kingdom of heaven as present and working within the world around us. He tells that it is like a mustard seed which starts small but grows large enough to provide a home for the birds…like yeast that infuses throughout the flour to make the dough…like a valuable surprise that catches us off guard bringing joy…like a treasure that is worth everything we have. Jesus also described the kingdom of heaven like a fishing net that catches all the fish which are later separated much like what will happen at the end of this age when what is wicked is divided from what is righteous. Notice, the angels are the ones doing the sorting not us. This serves as a reminder to us too confident in our divisions and not taking an honest look at ourselves. Is the kingdom of heaven truly a place of joy where all may find a home in its branches?
Looking at the reign of God (kingdom of heaven), the Scriptures tell us of God calling a formless void into an amazing creation where life can multiply and flourish. A creation described as being very good. We are told of a God taking an enslaved group of people and bringing them through an exodus into freedom. Prophets spoke with boldness to the injustice of the leaders against the poor and weak of society. We are told of God in the person of Jesus willing to die on a cross so this good creation could be made new through the resurrection. This is an old story but a treasure because of the love it expresses. Unfortunately, Scripture often gets tossed around haphazardly to support our divisions, our sin. However, if like a well trained teacher about the kingdom of heaven, the Scripture can be used for the treasure that it is to inspire hope in a future redeemed in Christ under the kingdom of heaven’s umbrella.
We all are under the oppressive weight of division and the hurt it causes. Yet Jesus calls our attention to the kingdom of heaven. The reign of God where chaos gives way to life granting creation…the domination of slavery gives way to freedom…death surrenders to the resurrection of Christ through whom all things are being made new. The kingdom of heaven really is a treasure that is both old and new.
This last week has been a tough week. There were the shootings in El Paso and Dayton. Cries are going up to bring an end to this senseless loss of life that is becoming too ordinary. The month of July was the warmest recorded. Some deny that our activity is having any affect on climate while scientists are warning that this is only the start with much worse to come in the future. The hate-filled words that divide this country will not grow silent. This last week has been rough.
The message from the Scripture reading is really filled with hope with Jesus saying, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” It is God’s good pleasure to give us his rule. Note that it is not God’s good pleasure to support our bias, our prejudice, our hate, our violence, our greed, our self-serving nature, etc. God’s good pleasure is to bring about his rule which will allow life and all of creation to flourish. It may be God’s good pleasure to bring his kingdom but Jesus on the cross is our opinion regarding God’s kingdom. However, Jesus’ resurrection is God’s relentless work to bring life instead. So the hope-filled message is to not be afraid. The invitation is to invest ourselves in the kingdom which does bring life.
Jesus gives this message of hope with a couple points. He does this with the statement to sell our possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. The result is to have a treasure in heaven that won’t be taken away. He is inviting us to divest ourselves from the ways of the world that create poverty in the first place. We are to invest ourselves in the ways of God’s rule which bring life. This won’t be taken away from us.
The second point is one that we get backwards. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What we want to say is, “Where my heart is, there my treasure will go.” The problem is that our heart is not focused on God’s kingdom. Jesus was correct: the heart follows where the treasure is invested. If we invest what we treasure to alleviate poverty, that is where our heart will be. If we invest what we treasure in caring for creation, that is where our heart will be. If we invest what we treasure in reducing the hate, that is where our heart will be. If we invest what we treasure in these things of the kingdom, then our hearts will be focused on God’s kingdom of life which is God’s good pleasure to give.
The rest of the Scripture reading is about being watchful and ready for Christ’s return to bring the fullness of God’s kingdom. How will we be ready? Invest the things we treasure in the reign of God now and our hearts will be ready.
This has been a rough week. Remember Jesus words of hope, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”