Romans 8: 24-30 Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III
Matthew 13: 44-46 September 27, 2015
“Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Prayer: Please touch our hearts, O God, that we might celebrate the treasure we have and find ways to share it with all others generously. In Christ we pray, Amen.
Never have I seen so much joy, excitement, and energy about a pontiff coming to America. Have you? Yes, other Popes have come in our lifetimes, but this one… the “Peoples Pope,” Pope Francis has stirred incredible energy. While in Virginia last weekend, electronic highway signs warned of road closures because of his expected arrival in Washington D.C. Someone told me that as far west as Ohio signs on the Turnpike advised motorists to beware of traffic jams and to choose alternative routes. It’s amazing!
And some curious things were occurring, too. I giggled when I saw the “Pope Bobble Head.” I also was amused when the famed newspaper “The Washington Post” changed its name for a day— calling it “The Washington Pope.” But, I cracked up laughing because while the Pope was driving around in the “Pope-mobile” for real in Washington D.C., Madam Tussauds decided to make a life-like wax figure of the Pope and drove it around New York City! Apparently NYPD Blue was not in on the joke and was none too pleased!
But, a little more seriously, though, while in Washington D.C., Speaker of the House John Boehner pushed to have the Pope address Congress, which he did, but after that, the Pope turned down an invitation dine with Boehner, McConnell, Pelosi, and Reed in favor of visiting and eating with the homeless. And, in a related story John Boehner announced his upcoming retirement! Now, I’m just teasing!
While all the exuberance is going on about the Pope’s visit to America, I think there should be at least a little bit of warning and care given by all Christians everywhere. The Pope is not be worshiped. The Pope is not our modern day Savior, He is not our source of deep joy, nor is he the one who comes to lift humanity out of its malaise. The Pope is not the treasure. He is not the one pearl of great price and value..
The Pope is an ordinary man whose life, whose actions, whose humility, whose words of hope and challenge all cast a bright light on the real treasure for humanity. The real treasure is God, especially God found in Jesus Christ.
With God in your heart and in your life, you can know the power of Christ’s love, grace, forgiveness, and generous compassion. That’s what takes the Pope away from a swanky politician’s meal to a meal with the homeless and the needy—God’s love, grace, forgiveness and compassion. That’s what moves us to serve over 175 meals at the 1st Reformed Church last week—Christ’s generous love, grace, forgiveness and compassion.
With God in Christ as our treasure, each of us can experience the joy of living a reconciled life to God, which means, from God’s viewpoint, all of our mistakes and bungles can never get in the way of our relationship with God. In fact, our relationship with God is made new by God’s forgiving grace, and life becomes richer, more meaningful and deeply fulfilling. This is exactly what Jesus taught—God IS the widespread treasure. Every person of the human race can come to know God, and enjoy God, and live a new life with God in the center of it.
And, Jesus teaches that when we do find God, it’s like we’re besides ourselves with over loaded joy! We’ve found the greatest thing in life ever! And in our joy, we’ll do anything to ensure that we have God, our greatest treasure, forever.
It’s kind of like the cute story about a woman named Maria Ahaz, a nurse from New Jersey. When she purchased a pair of blue jeans on Ebay, she liked the jeans so much she decided to write to the seller and ask him about other items. The two struck up a friendship online. Maria, knowing she stumbled upon a great treasure, a pearl of great value, began pursuing the friendship more deliberately, even though risky. Eventually through more email, followed by phone conversations, the two finally decided to meet, and they fell in love. They’ve now been married for 12 years (http://www.homileticsonline.com/subscriber/btl_display.asp?installment_id=93040616, retrieved September 26, 2015).
That’s what it’s like to find God… to find Christ… you find the
most valuable thing in all of life. And you’re filled with joy. And you stretch, sometimes over the top, sometimes risky; you stretch to give more, to be more generous, so you can have and keep this treasure forever. And the possibilities take off because of your generosity.
But, that’s not all that happens. God does something much more amazing—God’s Holy Spirit starts to live in you, and you become more Christ-like. Paul says you become conformed to the image of Christ. Your words, actions, attitudes, lifestyle, ethics, morals, etc. all start to shift reflecting the holiness of Christ that is living in you. God generously sends the transformative Holy Spirit. You get changed within. Your mind gets renewed.
And everyone sees God in you. They see humility. Compassion. Grace. Generous love. If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, then God has gifted you generously with these gifts, but mostly with the Holy Spirit that lives within you.
I’m convinced that’s what makes Pope Francis special… people are seeing not a Pope who is really a politician in white church clothing, they’re not watching an ‘out-of-touch’ pontiff, they’re not keeping their eyes on an aloof theologian caught up in church matters, and church doctrine; but in Pope Francis they are seeing reflections of God in Christ, a man whose words and actions, whose humility and compassion are reflecting and pointing to the priceless gift of God - widespread treasure. Make no mistake, God is reaching people through Pope Francis. He is the “People’s Pope.”
And it’s not just Pope Francis. You and I are called to reach people reflecting God’s generous, priceless gifts. Yes, you and I with all of our past mistakes and present problems. You and I are the “field” filled with the widespread treasure of God for the wanderer stumbling through life to come upon. This is true for us as individuals… someone may never know of God’s great treasure for life unless we say something about God’s love and acceptance to that person . You know the old saying, “You may be the only Bible a person reads.”
This is also true for us as a church. As the church, we facilitate for others to find God. Who among us is searching and looking? How can we as a church help seekers and wanderers discoverGod in Christ, all that God has in store for each ofus?
Yes, there’s a sea of places where “pearls” are offered in our world. Many so-called pearls have no intrinsic value whatsoever. But here at church, we’re the one place where a seeker can come and can find the pearl of great value for life—where a wanderer can experience the widespread treasure of God, of Christ, of forgiveness, love and grace.
As a community of faith, we strive to share these widespread treasures of God. As a church, we know that God’s Holy Spirit understands our hearts and knows where we desire to be a blessing to others. As a congregation, we see the possibilities in our ministry because God has so generously blessed us with these gifts. Let us keep this going. Let us in joy, make every effort, maybe over the top effort, maybe risky effort, maybe giving up something effort, but let us give generously supporting our efforts to share God and God’s widespread treasure, and God’s wonderful gifts with others. Amen.