Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 Romans 8:26-39

July 27, 2014 by Ken Dale

How would you respond if someone asked you about your belief – what you believe or maybe how your life is different because you believe? Or how about if someone asked you about your faith? How would you describe the difference between belief and faith? Would you have the words? Would they capture the truth or the rightness or be big enough. Chances are good we would not want to sound like ?one of them? (whoever them is) ? we don?t want to sound too pious or religious ? but then, how can we speak of that God we believe in? How would we describe our life of faith? Jesus knows what a challenge that is ? and I think that?s why he speaks as he does.

Today Jesus tells one more parable about seeds and plants followed by stories of baking bread and plowing in a field and fishing. And let?s not forget that one about the guy who sells everything to buy the field.

I wonder sometimes if there isn?t as much hidden in those parables as is revealed, that question of whether we are seeing or hearing or not is with us. Do we ?get it?? ?In one commentary I saw the question posed: I wonder if the crowds were disappointed ? perhaps some of the disciples too?

Jesus is speaking about God and the kingdom of God, the realm of God – about the sacred and the holy and the ways of God ? heavenly things!! But he is so down to earth about it all ? literally! Common stories about seeds and plants, and ordinary people ? a tenant farmer, a housewife, a fisherman and they?re all doing everyday things. Yet he speaks of the divine: The kingdom of heaven is like? But isn?t that what it?s all about? Isn?t that at least in part why we are here on Sunday morning ? to hear and to hear so that we continue to believe ? live a life of faith?

There is that hidden nature about God. Isn?t that a great challenge in believing ? talking about God??? And it?s that incarnation thing again! As Christians we believe in the incarnation ? that mystery that is captured in the life of Jesus where the divine and the human meet and are one. Two weeks ago Kathy and I attended the Downeast Spiritual Life Conference which featured John Philip Newell ? internationally known with a focus on Celtic Christianity. One quote he shared from Julian of Norwich that has become a seed in my heart and mind was that not only are we made by God, we are also made of God. That thought was deemed heresy way back as Christian doctrine states that God created out of nothing ? ?ex nihilo?. But the thought was that in the beginning there was only God – and so God created out of God. Do we think on such things? Just something to ponder, not only are we made by God, we are made out of God. So there is the divine within us ? and we do believe that we are created in the image of God.?? Anyway – Jesus the Incarnate One puts the focus not on himself but on that very world around him and even the people around him. In the world around us the holy meets the human, the divine meets the human, – but only if we have eyes to see.

Do we take time to see or are we just so busy in life that we don?t hear and we don?t see ? and yet it?s right in front of us. Henri Nouwen says there is a transformation when we see through the eyes of faith. Nature can be seen as something we can use according to our real or fabricated needs. But think: When a tree is nothing but a potential chair, it ceases to tell us much about growth; when a river is only a dumping place for industrial wastes, it can no longer speak to us about movement; and when a flower is nothing more than a model for a plastic decoration, it has little to say about the simple beauty of life. (from Spiritual Formation)But if we see nature as gift of God, God does speak to us in and through it in many ways and reveals something to us about life and even the nature of God and so our life of faith. And the same is true of how we look at each other.

Through the eyes of faith with open eyes and listening ears people are transformed in the same way and we can see and experience in each other ? even a great beauty and a deep love, even a sense of awe at how much there really is to another person. We might even get to a point where we say You are a much more loving person than you realize. If we are willing to look at our lives in the same way we may actually come to realize that There is something more happening in your life than you might think, or be able to see right now.

Our lesson from Romans this morning is one of my favorite and without question one of the greatest passages of Scripture. Just glancing at it we see so much assurance and hope and strength ? FAITH for our journey, that is gift of God ? that is grace. We don?t know how to pray ? but Paul assures us that God?s Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. All things work together for good for those who love God. Through the eyes of faith looking at our lives we are assured that God can work with whatever is happening or has happened or will happen in our journeys ? life as individuals, family, church, community – even world! And doesn?t Paul hit the nail on the head when he writes What then shall we say to this? Remember just a moment ago when we pondered how difficult it is to speak of our belief, to speak of our God. Paul says, What then shall we say to this ? what then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? If we but take time to stop and contemplate, to think and really open ourselves to hearing and seeing the reality and presence of God in our lives ? within us and around us ? we come to know ever more deeply that God is not against us, but for us.

If we stop working so hard at making a life, and be still long enough to listen and look, like Paul we can proclaim, ?in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am 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.

That?s a good passage for funerals ? but these are words that empower us to live the gift of life to the very fullest. And again ? it points to God, it points to that Sower, and that God is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. It is a treasure that is right there ?hidden? – but so often we miss it ? because we are so busy out there, looking for it and trying to find it and trying to get it.

My hope and prayer for us each and all is that we open ourselves to receive this gift called faith. May we have eyes to see divine treasures that may be closer than we think.?? The point is made in a fable from India about a rich man who is traveling far from home. A poor man notices his fine clothes and bulging money-bag. He decides to travel with him and look out for a way to steal his treasure. Every night, in the humble inns along the roadside, the poor man unrolls his bedroll early and pretends to sleep. Then, as the rich man leaves the room to get washed up, the thief rummages through his belongings in search of the treasure sack. He can never find it. As soon as he hears the rich man?s footsteps, he leaps back into his bedroll, always certain he?s just moments away from finding the treasure.

Every morning, the poor man once again pretends to sleep, until the rich man goes down for breakfast. Yet, morning is the same as evening: The thief never can find the money bag. Day after day this goes on, until the two men finally reach their destination. As they are parting ways, the thief?s curiosity gets the better of him. He admits to the rich man what he?s been up to. ?How have you eluded me for long?? he asks. ?Did you guess that I was out to rob you??

?Yes,? says the rich man. ?I guessed that the very first night.? ?Then where did you hide the treasure?? ?It was very simple. Every night, while you went to clean up before bed, I slipped into the room and put my treasure in your pillow. Every morning, after you had rifled through my belongings, I got it back.?

I love the story and I wonder for us all – is there a treasure hidden right there in our pillow cases?