The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
July 30, 2017
Sermon Text: Matthew 13:44-52
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
Three parables in a row. Three different scenarios, but one in the same message… one point… one key fact or factor that our dear Savior would have us know about the kingdom of heaven.
Out of love He shares this… that which is before us in our Gospel text… that we may understand what we have… all that we have… what has been graciously given to us… the kingdom that is not of this world and yet is ours now, while we are in this world… while we live and work with the dying and decaying kingdom of the world… the kingdom of darkness… that is all around us.
Could it be that some of you are already drifting off into other thought because you think you already have a good enough idea and understanding of the priceless treasure that is yours… that “one pearl of great value” which our Lord speaks about? (Matthew 13:46)
Well, if that were the case, my friends, your life and mine… how we live it… what we do and say… what is important and what is not… would be quite different than what it is now. Our life in this mortal flesh only shows we still have much to learn… much to understand and truly grasp… and this all by the Spirit’s power as He works mightily in us through Word and Sacrament.
And so it is that we ask for His divine guidance and enlightenment to what our dear Lord shares with us this morning all about the kingdom which we literally pray to the Lord over and over again saying… pleading… “Thy kingdom come.”
I should share with you that I was actually going to go in a somewhat different direction with this message today until two events occurred less than 24 hours apart to change things.
A few days ago, I had the blessed opportunity to comfort and counsel a dear man (we will call him “Bill”) who was quite despondent and, up to that point, inconsolable. You see, Bill lost a dear family member very suddenly… someone who he really looked up to and admired… who he wishes now that he had spent more time with.
His loved one’s name was Gary Rehm. He was 37… a fire controlman 1st class aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald which, on June 17, collided with a Philippine cargo ship.
Bill told me that Gary was one of the seven sailors who died in that collision, but apparently not before he helped get quite a few of his fellow shipmates to safety and then, going back to rescue six others, perished when the order was given to seal the bulkheads because the ship was taking on water. Heart wrenching. A tragic loss of life… Gary’s and the other six sailors. What heartache and grief Bill wrestled with… what a great weight he was carrying around… he, and so many other family members and friends who lost loved ones in this incident.
So… get this… soon after counseling Bill, I found out that Donna and I, along with Comfort Dog Samuel, will have the opportunity (this afternoon in fact) to help comfort not just one individual, but an entire community that is hurting and grieving… a whole community that is still numb over the deaths of a young mother, her unborn baby, and three young children who died due to injuries sustained in a terrible car crash in Beecher, Illinois. You may have heard that they were on their way to Vacation Bible School at their Wisconsin Synod Lutheran church when their car was hit broadside.
And now a husband and father is about to lay his entire family to rest, while a whole town mourns. And that is why LCMS Pastor Ron Rock, who has preached here at St. Paul’s, is coordinating this afternoon’s gathering… for the people… the people of this community including those who know this family and those who may have never met them, but nevertheless are upset… deeply affected by what took place and not knowing what to do about it… but feeling that they need to do something, because it is all so unsettling… all so overwhelming.
The accident itself is unsettling, but something also far deeper and far more personal because even though many will not acknowledge it and do not want to hear about it, think about or speak about it… they nevertheless realize it could have been them. It could BE them some day! That on any given day… any given hour or moment… this could happen to them… it could happen to us… it could happen to our loved ones… that death could come knocking… tragedy could come knocking.
Dear brothers and sisters, I share all of this because all of this fits perfectly into the message that our dear Lord lovingly conveys this morning… that which He so wants us to understand, come to grips with and rejoice in. And we certainly have every reason to rejoice in what is ours… even in the midst of tragedy.
In both instances, that of Bill grieving the loss of his heroic loved one as well as the father, family and community mourning the loss of a wife and mother and four precious children… one thing counts… one thing matters… one thing can bring them and all of us comfort, peace and solace now and always.
You know, in meeting with Bill, I had no “pearls of worldly wisdom” to share with him…. Not that I would have if I could have. And this will hold true in talking with the people we will meet later today. Why? Well, let me ask you this:
How many times have you said “I don’t know what to say” in regard to meeting, greeting people who have just suffered a great loss or tragedy? Probably a lot. Do you know why that is? It is because you know deep inside that whatever you were thinking of saying, including pearls of worldly wisdom and standard worldly phrases (even though heartfelt and well meant), that it will all fall short… that it will not cut it… that it will not amount to much… it will not help very much.
And really, why share, why hold on to such poor quality “pearls” when there is most certainly that one… ONE… perfect pearl of priceless worth that can and will make all of the difference in your life and that of others, especially those who are hurting?
The pearl that is yours to enjoy. The pearl that is yours to freely share. The pearl that is worth more than life itself… more than this mortal life of ours… yours and mine… more than the mortal life of Bill, Gary and the other sailors who perished… more than the mortal life of Lindsey, her husband Edward, their unborn child as well as their sons, Kaleb, Weston, and Owen.
In our Gospel text, the treasure above all treasures which our Lord speaks about… the treasure that is worth selling, losing, forgoing, relinquishing all other things for… is the kingdom of heaven and He… Jesus… is its King… our King.
He who is the Lord of life. He in whom we have life, not mere mortal life, but eternal life… yes, lived out for a little while here on earth, but soon lived forever and ever in heaven… in the kingdom of heaven that is ours… purchased and won for us… opened to us… by Christ on the cross at Calvary.
All this is what we point people to… to their King and His Kingdom! People who are hurting, grieving, struggling while in this worldly kingdom. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we lift their eyes, their hearts and minds above this world… above the darkness of this world to the light shining oh-so pure and bright… so warm and inviting.
We point them to the heavenly Kingdom and to the King, Christ Jesus, who loves them so much… who loves us so much… and this, again, as seen by what He did for us and all mankind on the cross through His innocent suffering and death in full payment for our sins and that of the world.
We simply point people to Jesus and to His Kingdom, both of which are ours, thankfully ours, at no cost but His. We simply share the great “pearl” of it all as we ourselves, now… this hour and every hour… rejoice in it all and consider it more and more… learn of it more and more… and in the process, have more and more, the peace that truly “surpasses all worldly understanding.”
Behold, the pearl, my friends. It is Christ and His Kingdom. Thanks be to God and to Him alone the glory. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“The Pearl” 7/30/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL