Sermon

St Andrew’s Burnley

1 Kings 3.5, 7-12; Romans 8.28-30; Matthew 13.44-52

 

As a famous song by the Spice Girls put it, ‘What do you want? What do you really, really want?’

If you could have one wish granted in the world, what would it be?

Discuss in twos…

[anecdote of Chris Smith, former culture secretary….in the week before Christmas he was rung up by a journalist writing a seasonal story for the paper…]

That is the amazing opportunity which God gave to Solomon in our first reading. Solomon was a new king, one whom we read in v3 loved the Lord and walked in the statutes of his father David

He could have asked for long life, or riches, or the life of his enemies, but what in fact he asked for was wisdom, an understanding mind to govern God’s people, and the ability to distinguish between good and evil.

Jesus tells us two stories about what we should want most of all, what it is worth giving up everything in life in order to attain. What Jesus said should be our one overriding wish, is for the kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of Heaven (=of God) is like treasure hidden in a field – whose discovery brings joy, and is worth selling everything to possess

What is so priceless about God’s kingdom?

  • If we belong to God’s kingdom our life has purpose, has significance, unlike the worthless fish in Jesus’ parable of the dragnet. There will be a separation at the end of time, between that which is kept and that which is thrown away and destroyed…; belonging to God’s kingdom gives our lives eternal value, enabling us to be with Christ for ever…

The Kingdom of God is like a pearl of great value – so beautiful that we want to give up everything we have just to own it

What is so beautiful about the Kingdom of God?

  • Imagine a world where children can grow up without fear, where adults do not learn to fight, where every life is of value and poor people and refugees live in safe buildings without fear of being burnt alive in a fire, where everyone has fulfilling work and is able to enjoy the fruits of the labours, where old people can live out their years feeling safe in the streets and with dignity, where those who face death do so knowing that it is the gate to everlasting life with Christ

What have we given up for the sake of gaining the kingdom?

  • Many of those who become Christians today face huge costs – if you are a Muslim in Burnley or Blackburn who becomes a Christian…; if you are a Christian in Pakistan or Malaysia or Egypt…
  • But what about you and me? What have we really given up? Indeed is our lifestyle or standard of living noticeably different from those around us? Today we are joined by a young friend who has grown up in Kenya, where his parents are missionaries, and one of the things he struggles with is….

These two parables remind us that we have a choice, that we can choose to gain the treasure hidden in a field, to buy the pearl of great price,

The third parable, of the dragnet, isn’t about choosing to follow Jesus, but about being scooped up in a net and sorted, rather a passive activity

  • Perhaps there are many today who think of themselves as powerless over their own lives, who find themselves being sifted and sorted and judged by others, who fear that others do not find their lives to have value. This parable reminds us that there is only one judgement that matters, which will occur on the last day. And the good news is that God’s judgement will not be based on how valuable we are in economic terms, or what qualifications we have, or what kind of house we live in. It will simply be on whether we have embraced what Christ has done for us on the cross – whether we have been justified by his grace.

The Romans passage reminds us that we who have turned to Christ have also been chosen by him, and that he gave up everything (even his life) to possess us – ‘He decided beforehand those who were destined to be moulded according to the pattern of his Son’, and that those God called he has also justified, and called into glory.

Today’s readings remind us not only that God’s kingdom is a pearl of great price, worth giving up everything for, but also that we are a pearl of great price, for which Jesus was willing to give up everything…

How can we live this week in the light of these great truths…

How can I live in such a way that demonstrates that the kingdom of God matters more to me that any earthly possession? Is there some human possession that we have got just a bit too attached to? If so, is there someone we could give it away to, who might be able to use it and enjoy it? Or might we review what we give to God and to church and to charity, so that God gets the first and best tenth of everything, not just what we think we can afford. And as we do so, we might say to God, to coin a phrase from the cosmetics advert.

And how can I live in such a way that demonstrates that in Jesus’ sight I am a pearl of great price, for which he was willing to give up everything, and suffer even death on the cross? To coin a phrase from the cosmetics advert, perhaps we can look up to Jesus on the cross and hear him whisper, with his dying breath, ‘Because you’re worth it’.

 

 

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