Matthew 13:44-50

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:44-50

These three little gems come to us rapid fire from Jesus so let’s listen to them all together this morning. But before we do…take a moment to think quickly back through your own faith journey.

Where did it begin for you? Are you a “cradle Christian”, born into a family that valued Christian community and the Christian faith? Baptized as a child, raised up in church, still hanging in there today? Or have you drifted away, lost a bit of your enthusiasm, tasted the disillusionment that causes us to stumble?

Are you more of a late bloomer? What happened along the way that pointed you back to God or brought you toward God? Do you see the faces of those who helped you, challenged you, cared about you?

Maybe you are one of the many who seldom think very deeply about such matters. You have been so busy so long with so many things that your arms are tired of juggling. Yet you hang in there with God and the church because you know, like the old joke says, “there is a pony in there somewhere!”

It is with our own stories in mind that we best hear these parables.

Of the person minding his own business, maybe taking a short cut home through the field, when he suddenly stubs his toe on what turns out to be a treasure chest. An unclaimed treasure chest that he could now claim to be his own. Maybe he tried to dig it up but it was too heavy to move. You can picture him now, breathing heavily, mind racing, as he covers it up and goes and scrambles to buy the whole field. Sometimes the faith comes to us as utter beautiful surprise. We didn’t see it coming. It is worth everything to us now.

Of the person who knew exactly what she was searching for. Like an expert who spends her life buying and selling. She buys what she loves at times but usually just buys what she knows will sell. You do have to keep the doors open. Until that day when in her search she comes across the perfect jewel. The jewel that she imagined she might find one day. The jewel that launched the passion that launched her career. Coming upon it changed everything. She had to have it. Sometimes the faith feels like finally coming home. Like finally discovering the only golden thread that can possibly explain the circuitous route that life has taken us to this point. Knowing the faith that makes sense of our lives is invaluable. We spend our lives seeking it only to discover that it was the seeking all along the way that was the point of the whole journey.

Of the fisherman. One more night on the water. One more long, hard, grueling night of doing the same thing you always do. Over and over again. Throw out the nets. Haul them in. Back to shore. Separate the catch if there is a catch to separate. Mindless. Numbing. Laborious. And as you sort the catch you find yourself reflecting on your life. Who am I? What am I? Am I a keeper like this fish or a piece of trash like that? Maybe I’ll never know until the Great Net comes for me and I find myself in the hands of the angels? And you realize that these are questions not easily answered. And certainly not answered by yourself. So then you remember what you are about.

You fish to feed your family. You fish to feed other families. You fish because it is what you know how to do, what you were shaped to do, what you are best at doing. The world needs fresh fish and God has put you in position to provide it. Nets don’t ask questions, they just catch whatever they can snag. And in this we are reminded that the faith helps us see that we live in the hands and care of God, who uses our hands to care for the world. We’ll leave the sorting up to him.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, however you come to us, in whatever surprising fashion, we thank and praise you for those moments when the depth of your love and the truth of your being cuts through into our consciousness. Those clarity moments when you come out of hiding. Those precious moments when we know you are love and that your love has caught us up. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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