Sermon 30th July 2017

ST COLUMBA’S CHURCH OF SCOTLAND

SUNDAY 30TH JULY 2017

PREACHER: REVD ANDREA PRICE

Listen here: https://youtu.be/ufpXzZYxTBk

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, our Lord and Redeemer. Amen

 

Treasure – take a moment now and picture in your mind’s eye your own treasure….

If you had a treasure box to fill what would you put inside? Would it be some jewellery, coins or artwork?

Or is your treasure something less tangible like your health or your skills, wisdom, your family or your friends?

 

The Old Testament reading today follows the story of Jacob, a rascal to say the least. Jacob fleeing his brother Esau, found his way to his mother’s family and penniless works himself up from nothing at the side of his uncle Laban.

Jacob becomes the image of a self-made man. God, who as we heard last week promised his presence and support, blesses him and Jacob becomes a successful herdsman.

Jacob we hear today falls in love with the younger of Laban’s two daughters, Rachel. Her older sister Lea has something to do with her eyes. The text is not clear to us anymore. Some translations go with her having weak eyes, which might explain Jacob’s preference of Rachel. Our translation reads that Lea has lovely eyes. Love will fall where it will. Maybe Lea had fallen in love with Jacob and was making eyes at him – but he did not feel the same for her. An unhappy love triangle in the making.

For then Jacob the cheater becomes the cheated, the one who tricked his brother out of a blessing and inheritance, receives his come-uppance in being cheated by Laban into being married to Lea instead of Rachel, whom he only receives for another 7 years work. A high price.

But is love not worth any price? The first seven years, we are told in Verse 20, seemed to him but a few days, for love made time fly …and we may add there was only trouble for him where he had come from.

So Jacob gathered his treasure with perseverance and was blessed by God.

Treasure – If you had a treasure box, what would you like to place into it?

 

Matthew gathered a treasury of stories in the 13th chapter of his gospel. They are all stories describing the most intangible of things, the kingdom of God – not of this world, as Jesus said in John 18:36.

Yet Jesus uses the most ordinary things to try and make us understand and invite us to become its citizens.

There will be small beginnings, very small beginnings the size of a tiny mustard seed.

When we look at the problems we and those around us are facing, it can be overwhelming. Can we do anything to make a difference? Can we change anything given our resources?

But then look at the change one tiny seed can bring about when it grows into a huge tree sheltering many creatures.

 

There will be small beginnings as a small lump of yeast placed into a large vat of flour, kneaded and pummelled to be mixed in entirely and disbursed by the baker.

In Jesus’ time they did not have teabags or else Jesus may have used them as an example too: Christians are like tea bags – they show their strength when they get into hot water!

The small lump of yeast transforms the flour to rise and double in size and to feed many with delicious bread or cake.

 

Treasure – do we remember to place that which motivates and directs our actions, which makes us grow and rise into our treasure box?

 

Jesus then tells the story of a farmer or ploughman finding a hidden treasure in a field….and of the merchant of pearls looking for the one exceptional pearl. And both men, though of such different backgrounds, strike it lucky and turn their world upside down to make sure they get hold of their treasure.

 

What would it take for us to give up everything or sell everything to be able to invest in the treasure found!

Is this possible for ordinary people?  Or is this stuff only for saints?

 

In September the Christian world will remember the 100th birthday of Oscar Romero, an innicially conservative priest and later Archbishop of his country El Salvador in troubled times. Rich and poor were deeply antagonised. Political parties were vying with each other. The government tried to keep control by sending death squads after opposition leaders resulting in abductions, torture and killings. There came a point when Oscar Romero could not stay silent any longer and claim to be a follower of Christ.

In his sermon on 23 March 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero ordered the army of El Salvador to stop killing people: “In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people, whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I beg you, I implore you, I order you, in the name of God, stop the repression!”

The next day, a shot killed Romero as he said Mass. The gunman was never found. A UN report later found that Major Roberto D’Aubuisson, had ordered Romero’s death.

Thousands came to the funeral. The army fired into the crowd. 30 people died and hundreds were injured. The civil war in El Salvador continued until 1992 – for another 12 years, killing many.

But then peace was made between the government and the five guerrilla groups.  The treasure of peace took time to grow but the seed bore fruit, the yeast had worked its way through the batch and although many problems remain, Oscar Romero’s gift of being the “voice for the voiceless” has born fruit.

 

Thank God for the times of peace and security we have been able to enjoy in the past decades in this part of the world thanks to the sacrifice of many as the mud sculpture reminds us this week on Trafalgar Square. May God give us the strength and courage to give all when we find the treasure of love, truth and justice needs us to defend it.

 

Treasure – what do you feel needs to be put urgently into the treasure box?

 

Jesus tells of a heavenly fishing trip, which catches all kinds. Only when the net is landed will the good fish be gathered and the rubbish thrown away.

Gathering treasure is urgent business, Jesus tells us! The angels will weed out the tares, the evil and burn them. And only God knows when that will be!

As we hear more and more of climate change destroying our ecosystem what do we contribute to changing the ways we live on this earth?

Do we for example commit to buying local food where possible to help reduce food miles?

Can we reduce CO2 levels by using less fossil fuel and switching to green energy production?

Are we planting bee friendly plants in our gardens and encourage hedgehogs to come and go through small holes in our fences and provide some water for them and other creatures?

 

Treasure – the kingdom of God, starting tiny, growing large, lifting the ordinary to be special, worth every penny and all riches, urgently expected and needed.

 

“Have you understood all this?”, Jesus asks his listeners.

And they answer with confidence: YES!

Really? Subsequently in the gospel of Matthew Jesus’ friends sometimes get it and often misunderstand. And his enemies try to get rid of him by putting him to the cross. God’s messenger is just too uncomfortable to be borne.

But this is how it should be: any householder has old and new things in their possession to furnish living. And so it is with those who are trained to know of the kingdom of God: there are God’s old promises and the good news of Jesus entering history and living the treasure of God’s love.

And nothing but nothing can separate us from that love of God. So treasure it and live it, with confidence, optimism and discipline.

Amen