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Tell us about the Kingdom

 A man was stumbling through the bush, totally drunk, when he came upon a preacher baptising people in the river. He proceeded to walk into the water and ended up bumping into the preacher. The preacher turned around and was almost knocked over by the smell of alcohol. Being a man who was ready to take on a challenge he asked the drunk, ‘Are you ready to find Jesus?’ 

The drunk answered, ‘Yes, I am. ’ So the preacher grabbed him and dunked him in the water. He pulled him up and asked him, ‘Brother, have you found Jesus?’ The drunk replied, ‘Nuh, I haven’t found Jesus. ’ 

The preacher was shocked at the answer, but being a man who was not easily put off, he dunked him into the water again, for a little longer this time. He again pulled him out and asked, ‘Have you found Jesus?’ 

The drunk again answered, ‘No, I haven’t found Jesus. ’ 

By this time the preacher was at his wits end, but he persevered and dunked the man again, but this time holding him down even longer until he began kicking his legs and flailing his arms. Having pulled him out, the preacher again asked him, ‘For the love of God, my brother, have you found Jesus?’ 

The drunk wiped his eyes and fought for breath as he gasped out, ‘Are you sure this is where he fell in?’ 

Finding Jesus, discovering the pearl of great price, entering the kingdom of Heaven is not always as easy as we would like. Two of the parables we read today illustrate this very clearly. The first man in the story about the treasure hidden in the field found the treasure by good fortune. Rather like what we call “a lucky strike.” By some chance he happened to be at the right place and the right time. Maybe he tripped over something on the ground and found the cause was the half exposed handle of a silver bowl. Maybe his dog had been digging and partly uncovered something which seemed to show the glint of gold. 

He was lucky. This was not some prospector being rewarded for years of hard experience. He was just plain lucky. 

Applying this parable to the Gospel message, then, we don’t have here a story about a person who has been searching through the long years for faith. For some people, out of the blue something happens. The light shines. Divine truth becomes an enlivening, pulsing reality. To their own surprise they are able to make that remarkable statement “I believe.” 2 

The second man in the parable of the pearl of great price brings years of skill and knowledge to the quest. There is no surprise that he should come across such a jewel. In truth, if you would expect a person to make a great find, it would be a seasoned merchant like this one. He brings years of experience into the market place. He had been searching for such good fortune for much of his life. 

Looking for pearls is his business. One could almost be tempted to say: “This man deserved to find his hearts desire. ” He made his great find after devoting his life to the business. If he did not deserve it, then who did? 

But we need to be careful at this point. Did he really deserve it? Yes, he was a searcher, that is true. But no doubt there were many other keen merchants, their heart set on a big find, who would go to their grave without finding their hearts desire. Even among those skilled and dedicated to their search, good fortune seems to smile on some, and not on others. Even the devoted searcher would have to count themselves lucky that their efforts had been rewarded and that they had actually managed to be looking in the right place at the right time. 

So it is with the kingdom of heaven, the realm of God’s precious love. The person who without looking, unexpectedly finds the treasure of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, does seem extremely lucky! On the other hand, those who after years of spiritual devotion, finally encounter the living truth that sets them free, also have to acknowledge that this is an unearnable bonus. Whoever is blessed enough to find the pearl of great price finds it a case for astonishment and wonder. 

Then we come to the next difficulty which we need to consider about these parables and how we apply them to our everyday lives. What does it mean to sell all that we have in our quest to have and to hold this unimaginable wonder? We no longer advocate leaving your home, your family and loved ones, your work, your community and going and living in a cave in the wilderness as a way of ensuring that none of these things get in the way of your Christian journey. Instead we are faced with the dilemma of balancing our faith while being part of the world. And being in the midst of the wonders of creation, while enjoying a walk with our dog, chatting to a good friend and looking forward to a delicious meal and an evening with those we love who could think for a moment that not being part of these pleasures is what God had in mind for his followers? And yet we must admit that the balancing is not always easy. 3 

 

The program ‘Compass’ once showed a film about an Australian family. The father had drunk too much and had not been good to his family. Then he converted to Christianity and his life changed. But as the story developed we saw how, because of his religious arrogance ,he turned aside from his children. From his son because he was living with his girlfriend and his father frowned on this, and his daughter because she wrote a book expressing views that he disagreed with. It was a sad story. The father’s Christianity had turned him around – and that was good. But he had allowed his religious principles to take precedence over everything else in his life, including the relationships which should have been at the very centre of his existence. 

Time and again in the gospels Jesus emphasised that some things are more important than religious and traditional practices. He said that loving relationships were more important than worrying about Sabbath observance, or rules about sexuality, or socialising with the right people. Yet this same Jesus also said that the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, and mind and strength. Finding the treasure, claiming the pearl of great price, is one thing. Then living our lives loving God and neighbour makes up the on-going challenge of the Christian journey. 

A certain shopkeeper sent his son to learn about the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world. The lad wandered through the desert for forty days and finally came upon a beautiful castle atop a mountain. It was there that the wise man lived. 

Rather than finding a saintly man, though, our hero, on entering the main room of the castle, saw a hive of activity: tradesmen came and went, people were conversing in the corners, a small orchestra was playing soft music and there was a table covered with platters of the most delicious food. The wise man conversed with everyone and the boy had to wait for two hours before it was his turn to be given the man’s attention. 

The wise man listened attentively to the boy’s explanation of why he had come, but told him that he didn’t have time just then to explain the secret of happiness. He suggested that the boy look around the palace and return in two hours. 

‘Meanwhile, I want to ask you to do something’, said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that held two drops of oil. ‘As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill. ’ 

The boy began climbing and descending the many stairways of the palace, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After two hours, he returned to the room where the wise man was. 4 

 ‘Well,’ asked the wise man, ‘did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in my dining hall? Did you see the garden that it took the master gardener ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?’ 

The boy was embarrassed, and confessed that he had observed nothing. His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him. 

‘Then go back and observe the marvels of my world,’ said the wise man. ‘You cannot trust a man if you don’t know his house. ’ 

Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration of the palace, this time observing all of the works of art on the ceilings and walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around him, the beauty of the flowers, and the taste with which everything had been selected. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail everything he had seen. 

‘But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?’ asked the wise man. 

Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was gone. 

‘Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you,’ said the wisest of wise men. ‘The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon. ’ 

For the love of God, my sisters and brothers, did you find Jesus? How blessed, how lucky we are when we can look back on the time when we came upon the pearl of great price. Now, day by day, we face the challenge of living our lives ensuring that we never lose our grasp on that wondrous find, while at the same time not losing sight of all the other treasures which God sends for us to enjoy. Fortunately, God also gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, in order that we may not lose the way. 

Narelle Sellar 

July 2017 

 

Narelle Sellar is a retired children’s services director, and teacher. Narelle is a member of Canberra City congregation of the Uniting Church. As a long term lay preacher Narelle regularly leads worship services in a range of venues, and has also regularly supported TUC when we have been in need of preaching assistance.

Quote for today

...But you know Him, for He lives with you, and will be in you. John14:17

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About Our Church

Our faith community began in 1975 as a small ecumenical gathering of people who settled in the new Canberra township of Tuggeranong. We have grown with the Tuggeranong Community, and our parish centre is the hub for our work, as a place of worship, of gathering and ministry.

We aim to help people have life to the full. We welcome people into a our Christian community where they can connect with God, with one another and with opportunities to make a difference in our changing world.

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