Saturday, August 22, 2009

Buried Treasure

What's your greatest treasure? What is it you value above all else?

Treasure brings to mind the image of pirates and gold coins. In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus talks about buried treasure, treasure hidden in a field. A man is digging, and comes across the treasure lying hidden. There were no banks or safes then. Valuable things were buried as it was the safest place for them. But without a treasure map where X marks the spot, sometimes the treasure could be forgotten.

So when the man finds the treasure, he knows what he has found. He sees the value of the treasure and knows he wants it! He quickly hides the treasure again and goes to buy the field. An unexpected find which brings joy.

This week, the Arctic Monkeys released a new record, being sold through Oxfam stores in the UK. Within two of the records, there are golden tickets- free tickets for the Reading and Leeds Festival. Another 40 are signed by the band. An unexpected find which would bring great joy to fans of the band.

Or consider the joy of Charlie Bucket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Four of the five tickets have been found that gain entry for a guided tour of the factory. From a poor family, he finds some money and buys a bar of candy which contains the final ticket. He quickly runs home to tell his parents and grandparents, and one of his grandfathers, who has been in bed permanently for the past ten or more years, leaps out of bed and begins to dance around - joy at the finding of a great treasure!

The treasure is more precious, more valuable than all he has, so he goes to sell everything he has to buy the field and gain the treasure.

While the treasure was found unexpectedly, the second story Jesus tells is of a pearl merchant, a man who knows what he is after. On finding the pearl of great price, the perfect, exquisite, loveliest pearl in all the world, he sells all he has (including his other pearls in the collection) in order to have this perfect pearl. Nothing else matters; nothing else compares to this one.

But we're not talking about pearls and treasures. Jesus didn't just tell these stories for the sake of warning us that you might find buried treasure. So what are they all about? Well, each story begins 'The Kingdom of Heaven is like...' The stories are all about Jesus and his Kingdom.

Whether we are searching earnestly for the pearl of great price, by sampling lots of other pearls first before finding that Jesus is beyond compare when set beside other religions and other ways to find satisfaction; or if we are not expecting to encounter Jesus at all - he finds us rather than us finding him - when we do encounter Jesus, we realise that he is the pearl, Jesus is the treasure.

Why? Because he loved us, gave himself for us, died for us. That's why he is beyond compare, and that's why we know that Jesus is so precious, that nothing else matters compared to knowing him.

This is an abbreviated version of a talk given at Oxigen in St Elizabeth's Halls on Friday 21st August. Matthew 13: 44-46

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