Jesus said, “God’s Realm is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic—what a find!—and proceeds to sell everything he owns to raise money and buy that field. “Or, God’s Realm is like a jewel merchant on the hunt for excellent pearls. Finding one that is flawless, he immediately sells everything and buys it.” – Matthew 13:44-46
Has there been something in your life that you came upon that was so precious that it opened you to a deeper relationship with nothing less than the Divine? Has there been something, big or little, that has caused you to discover something amazing about God and about yourself? Have there been things in your life that have had this precious influence on you? For many people it seems this kind of things comes through a relationship with someone. Many people share about how the birth of a child is such a precious experience it causes them to wake up to the fact that there is an astonishing sacred power present in the universe, a Higher Power that calls us to the deepest reverence and the deepest responsibility. Or it often can be another relationship in someone’s life, a partnership or friendship or mentorship or community that leads us to discover something of the reality that people refer to with this “G” word, “God”, or that leads us to discover the power that so many have found through the “J” word, “Jesus,” who can be a channel for a deeper and restored relationship with God. This kind of precious discovery can sometimes come to folks through a spontaneous spiritual experience, which can come to us, by the Grace of God, through all kinds of circumstances – often times when we’re not expecting it. Sometimes it even happens during worship in a church! At best what we do here is a kind of technology of the sacred, where we do the kinds of things that creates the kinds of conditions that can make us more open to the experience of connection with the Holy. Prayers, blessings, scripture, music, singing, silence. But even if we’re doing religious kinds of things, whenever we make the kind of precious discovery I’m talking about, it is a surprise, it comes by Grace. Jesus said, “God’s Realm is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser.” It was a surprise. God tends to surprise us. Part of the surprise, of course, is stumbling on the precious treasure itself. But the other part of the surprise is who it is that finds it. In this parable it’s a trespasser. Someone we may not think deserves it. You know, Jesus was all about scrambling our prejudices about who deserves the Realm of Heaven. And in my experience and in being privileged to hear what so many people have to share about their own experiences of stumbling into precious gifts from God, a common theme is a feeling of profound humility and gratitude. We can feel like we’re trespassers in the holy realm. The sublime can be astonishing in its power, even when it comes through the eyes of a newborn child. What did I do to deserve this? Nothing – it doesn’t have to do with deserving or not deserving. It comes by Grace. As Jesus teaches in the parable, it’s important what we chose to do next. A good response to this Grace is profound gratitude, of course. But in the parable, Jesus teaches it’s also important to not leave it behind, but to go for broke to claim it and keep it close. This is how the trespasser comes to get the treasure through legitimate means. He doesn’t steal it. He recognizes just how precious it is, it moved and transformed by it. So he goes for broke and buys the land. Our relationship with God is worth committing our whole selves to, dedicating our whole lives to, allowing our whole lives to be changed. This is worth going for broke – in fact we gotta go for broke.
It’s that response to the discovery that’s so important.
Jesus also makes that clear with the second parable. Because that second parable is not about someone who just stumbles on this precious gift. This is a merchant who has dedicated himself to the search. He’s a religious seeker, we could say. Or he’s someone dedicated to a religious path and spiritual practice who has yet to experience the fuller revelation of the Holy One, for which he hopes, for which he hungers.
And when, by the grace of God, he finds what he has been seeking, he has the same response as the accidental trespasser – he sells everything he owns for the sake of that precious pearl.
My friends, spiritual experiences come and go. What is most important is our response, and the commitment we make because of what has been revealed to us.
For so many folks, this community of faith, our church here, the relationships here, the experiences here, have all helped us to find that precious pearl. That precious pearl is present here. God is present in and through the church, and always beyond. God is at work in our lives and through our lives together, whether we feel like we’re trespassers (and the United Church of Christ is full of blessed trespasser), or whether this is what we’ve set out to do all along.
So, my friends, let’s keep going for it. Let’s just double down on this commitment to Be The church! There is no reason to hide a gift this precious. There’s nothing to lose. And there is only the Realm of God to gain and share.