Eighth Sunday after Pentecost — July 30, 2017
The Kingdom of Grace
Treasure stories are common in every culture, and were very popular in Jesus’ day. The rabbis frequently told treasure parables: “A man buys a field and works the land. His plow hits something hard, and behold, there’s a great treasure, making the man rich.” The classic formula recurs in all treasure stories: first, you buy the field; second, you work hard; third, you find a treasure.
Religion claims to have the map, the secret formula, or the method for finding life’s treasure. Here, Jesus changes the story: “The kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field. A person comes along and finds it, and then covers it up. Then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Jesus says that, first, the person finds the treasure and covers it up; then, he uses every penny he has, even his savings, to buy the field; and thirdly . . . there is no mention of work! What happens to religious piety, rituals, and church membership? The treasure is not the reward of some spiritual journey, or observance of the spiritual disciplines, at least good church attendance! Rather, here in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus has given us God’s new formula: God has said to us, “I give you myself; come live with me.”
The essentials of faith begin with grace. God gives us the treasure first. Those who understand this, accept this; those who live their lives in this grace will experience love and peace like yeast giving rise to bread dough. These parables in Matthew tell us we can find salvation first, allowing religion’s rituals to remind us of God’s grace.
This passage ends with Jesus saying that all who are trained for the kingdom of heaven share this treasure!
Barry Foster, pastor, Unity Moravian Church, Lewisville, North Carolina