Faithlife Sermons

10th Sunday After Pentecost

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What's your most prized possession? What would you do to get/keep it? Listen to this week's sermon to see how Jesus would answer those questions.

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Matthew 13:44-52 Pentecost 10 The Kingdom of Heaven is Your Prized Possession 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. 47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “Yes,” they replied. 52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (NIV 2011) Dear friends in Christ, For years, wherever Ian Naismith went, he carried a golden metal briefcase. Inside that shiny briefcase was the prized possession of his family, a two-page document typed by his grandpa in the 1890s. The document wasn’t impressive, but was extremely valuable. You see, Ian’s grandpa was James Naismith, the man who at the end of the 19th century invented the game of basketball. On that document in that golden briefcase were the original thirteen rules of the game. Ian Naismith held onto that piece of American history wherever he went until the family decided to sell the document. In 2010 the thirteen rules, once pinned to the wall of a YMCA, were auctioned off for $4.3 million. Today you can see them permanently displayed at the University of Kansas. What is your prized possession? Is it something you inherited from Grandpa or Grandma? Is it a piece of property? A house? A vehicle? A bike? Is it something you received on your wedding day? A piece of jewelry? Is it something that you bought when you were younger? What is your prized possession? When asked that question our minds might move swiftly to the kinds of things I just mentioned. But none of them are nearly as valuable as the kingdom of heaven. I. Treasure It Above Everything What is the kingdom of heaven? The phrase can be used to describe where we will be after we die. But Jesus often used the phrase to describe more of an activity than a place. God’s kingdom is his gracious rule in the hearts of people. And that activity happens even as people live out their days on earth. So as we read these parables of Jesus today, when you hear that phrase, “the kingdom of heaven,” think about God’s gracious rule in the hearts of people. Think about God’s gracious rule which comes to people and which is sustained in people through the Gospel of Jesus. The parable that Jesus tells us this morning is about a treasure hidden in a field. Since there weren’t many places to safely store one’s wealth, it was not uncommon for a person to hide a portion of his money in the ground, with the intention that he would return to that place and retrieve the money when he needed it. But in Jesus’ story, for whatever reason, the owner of this treasure had not returned for it. Another man walking through the field stumbles upon the abandoned treasure and immediately recognizes the value of what he has found. Without hesitation, and with great joy, he sells everything he has in order to buy that field. He gladly and willingly gives up everything else to secure that treasure for himself. That’s what the kingdom of heaven is like. God’s gracious rule through the Gospel of Jesus is the most valuable possession that a person could ever own. Jesus’ second story is similar to the first. The second story is about a merchant, a wholesale dealer of precious pearls. He searches high and low for the finest pearls which he buys then sells to others. He has run thousands of pearls through his fingers to determine their luster, color, shape and size. Then, one day in the marketplace, he spots one perfect pearl and immediately knows that it is far more valuable than any others he has ever handled. He has to have it. So he goes back home and sells everything he has. Then he returns to purchase that one magnificent pearl. That’s what the kingdom of heaven in like. God’s gracious rule through the Gospel of Jesus is the most valuable possession that a person could ever own. Like the man walking in the field, some people go about the routine of life somewhat aimlessly. They go to school and graduate. They go to work and make a living. They get married and have children. They travel and return home. They grow up, then they grow old. But along the way, even though they might not be looking for it, they stumble upon the unexpected treasure of God’s kingdom. Or, like the merchant in the marketplace, people spend their years with a specific aim. They search high and low for the most valuable things that this world has to offer and that can give life its meaning. They might travel throughout the world to experience different cultures and religions. They might read various theologians and the philosophers honored throughout the centuries. They run all these different pearls through their fingers, admiring the luster, color, shape and size. But then they experience the pearl that is set apart from all others. Maybe something happens in a person’s life. Maybe it’s a discussion with a Christian friend. Maybe they attend the Christian funeral of a neighbor. And they catch a glimpse of the glorious Gospel: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). They see the breath-taking beauty of baptism: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…” (Titus 3:5). They rejoice in the treasure-trove of Christ’s promises in the Lord’s Supper: “This is my body given for you… This is my blood poured out for you… For the forgiveness of your sins” (Cf. Luke 22:19,20; Matthew 26:26-28). Brothers and sisters, God has given this treasure to you! Not because you have been good, but because he is overwhelmingly gracious. In baptism God covered you with Christ and gave you the blessings of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He has deleted your sins from the record. He has pardoned your guilt. He has set you free from all condemnation, free from every one of Satan’s accusations, free from the slavery of your sin. Your God has set you free to live in peace and joy with him. Connected to Christ, you are free to serve as a royal priest in his kingdom, “in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness” (Luther’s Small Catechism). Too often we take this treasure for granted. Too often we act as if other kinds of treasures are more valuable: our work schedules, our house payments, our recreation, our relationship with friends, our time with family… Please don’t misunderstand. All these things are valuable gifts from God. We can and we should thank God for all these treasures. But you and I have nothing more valuable than the kingdom of heaven. Nothing is more precious than your relationship with your Savior. Don’t take your prized possession for granted. But treasure it above everything. And share it with everyone. II. Share It with Everyone The third story that Jesus uses to describe the kingdom of heaven is the parable of the net. After fishermen let down their net into the sea and caught all kinds of fish they separated the fish. The good they kept in baskets; the bad they threw away. Then Jesus explained: This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Just as there were skeptics in Noah’s day, and just as there were skeptics in Jesus’ day, and so there are skeptics in our day. They say, “The world keeps turning as it has for thousands of years. So where is this judgment that is supposed to be coming?” But Jesus clearly talks about his return and the judgment that he will bring with him. No one will be outside the net. Those who are counted righteous through faith in Jesus will live with God in heaven. Those whose guilt still clings to them because of their unbelief will be thrown into hell. The picture of hell isn’t pretty. It’s horrible: the wicked being thrown into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Some question how God could ever send anyone there. Remember that he is a perfectly just and holy God. He does not leave the guilty unpunished. Perfect justice doesn’t allow it. At the same time, however, the LORD is also the God of complete mercy and amazing grace. In his love which knows no bounds, he found a way to rescue the wicked and guilty, including you and me, without violating his own perfect standards of justice. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7). God wants all people in his kingdom. He wants all people to enjoy this treasure. And he has given you and me the privilege of sharing it with them. When Jesus first spoke these parables to his disciples, he was training them to be evangelists and apostles. Soon he would send them out to share the treasures of God’s kingdom. At this time, the disciples thought they knew well the lessons that Jesus wanted them to teach. But their understanding was far from perfect. They needed to continue to grow in their understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures that they had learned since they were little. And they needed to grow in their understanding of how Jesus was the fulfilling those Old Testament Scriptures. The same applies to each of us. Many of us grew up with the Bible. We learned the basic teachings of God’s Word in Sunday School, Catechism Classes and Bible Information Classes. Treasure that blessing! But how often don’t we let ourselves imagine that we’ve learned all there is to learn of God’s Word, or that there are no more treasures to be found in Scripture? All of us need to continue to grow in our knowledge and understanding of what our Lord would have us believe and do. As we grow, God’s Spirit will also equip us to share the treasures of his kingdom, to bring out from the storehouse new treasures as well as the old. Take some time today to consider the treasures that your heavenly Father has poured into your life. Start a list today and add to it each day of the week. Ask yourself “What has God given me?” And thank him for those blessings. But at the top of the list, write down that one possession which is far more valuable than anything else you own. The kingdom of heaven is your prized possession. Treasure it above everything, and share it with everyone. Amen. Pastor Karl M Schultz August 13, 2017
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