Sunday, 24 July 2011

HIdden Treasure

The sermon preached today, the seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary time, by Fr Ian:

The Kingdom is treasure hidden in a field

When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom, He is not talking about how His disciples are to organise themselves. Jesus is talking about something that is much more mysterious and elusive – God's Kingdom.

The phrase sums up our deepest longings and desires for human blessedness (happiness). It is the answer to every deep question in the human heart. It is the fulfilment of divine promise. At the very beginning of His preaching, Christ declares that the Kingdom of God is at hand. In His most important sermon Christ teaches what it is to be in the Kingdom of God, turning on its head what people normally think of that brings happiness.

As soon as we talk about God's Kingdom we have to immediately scrub out human ways of thinking. God's Kingdom is not like any human kingdom. The only similarity with a human kingdom is that there is a king and that king reigns in that kingdom. But in the Kingdom of God the King is unlike any other human king, and reigns in a way that is utterly different to the way any other human king has ever or could ever reign. (This should be good news to us.)

And Jesus taught about this Kingdom through parables. And parables are very demanding things. We do not immediately understand what they mean, and how they could refer to this reign of God. The parables demand much from us. We must reflect, ponder, and search our hearts.

This is the very characteristic of the Kingdom itself, it is hidden treasure. We must search for it, because God's Kingdom is a hidden kingdom. It is not “in your face”. So if over the last few weeks you have been struggling with the parables as you have heard them in the gospel – that is a very good thing! Because the Kingdom of God is hidden treasure and we need to be people that have the tenacity to be seekers of that treasure.

We need to face up to the fact that God wants us to have the treasure but He has hidden it away! He wants us to seek, to search, to turn over stone after stone, and never be satisfied until the treasure is found.

Do not think that you have become part of the Ordinariate for an easy life. Do not think that you have left the difficulties you knew in the Church of England to have it easy now. Do not come to me to have easy answers, or be presented with an easy way. You have become part of the Ordinariate because you are searching for the truth, and you must not stop doing that – searching and seeking.

Like Solomon we could ask for “long life...or riches or the lives of [our] enemies”. As we begin the Ordinariate we could ask God that it be long-lasting – but the truth is we do not know how long it is for. We could ask God for great wealth for the Ordinariate. Or we could ask God for victory over our adversaries. But the ordinariate needs the wisdom that Solomon sought – first and foremost. We need to be seekers of the Kingdom of God before anything else. It might be that God will give us long life. It might be that God will give us wealth. It might be God will give us victory over our enemies. But that is His business and not ours. We must seek the Kingdom of God first and foremost. It is hidden, but we search for it with diligence, with patience and with complete confidence in God.

Part of this need for tenacity and patience is expressed differently by St Paul in his letter to the Romans. Can indeed all things work for good, for those that love God and are called according to His purposes? It is of course very easy to see God at work when things are good and working well. It is easy to see God at work when we know peace. It is something altogether different to see God at work when things are not good but downright bad. It is something altogether different to see God at work when we feel in turmoil and everything is going wrong. But nothing happens by chance. Part of the tenacity we need as seekers of the hidden treasure of the kingdom, is to be able to see that indeed God is making things work for the good when it seems the very opposite is happening.

When we face sickness, when we face persecution, when we struggle with despair, when life just seems to be going wrong it is easy to give up and forget the hidden treasure. Of course finding God's goodness in the adverse things of life is not at all easy – it is not at all obvious. It is hidden. And we are likely to have to struggle with it over and over again. Yet if we are to be seekers of the hidden treasure, we must continue to struggle.

We follow in the King's way. We follow Him who walked the path that revealed the greatness of the Kingdom of God by subjecting Himself to death on the cross. The cross was the Kingdom's victory over death and sin. As we face adversity, suffering and even our own mortality let us persevere as seekers of the hidden treasure. Let us hold on to the cross of our King, and let us pray that in our adversity we may share in part of the victory of Kingdom, and find that treasure that was hidden – that for which we have given everything in order that we might have it for eternity.

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