Jesus says to us today, The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field. It is like a pearl of great price.
So where is this kingdom? I don’t see it. The Gospel says it’s hidden: a hidden treasure in the ground that the landowner doesn’t know is there. A pearl that is ignored until someone discovers its value. So the kingdom is hidden: but, in the Gospel, this kingdom is soon uncovered, this treasure is discovered, and put to use. The kingdom of God is at hand, as the Lord says (Mk 1:15).
But where is God’s kingdom here in this city? Or even in our own families? We have not seen this Kingdom much. And I think that is because we find it easier to keep the Kingdom hidden. We know it’s there, but keep God’s kingdom hidden. We keep it inside the church walls, and we say, this one little building is where God can reign, but not outside. Or we exile God’s kingdom off to heaven. Heaven is God’s kingdom and not here, not on earth. A lot of us tell ourselves these kinds of lies.
But why are we afraid of the kingdom? We are running from God just like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. Remember that? After they sinned, they heard God walking in the garden and they hid themselves in the bushes, like naughty little kids. But God called Adam by name: Adam, where are you? And he found them even though they were afraid.
Maybe we don’t want the kingdom because we’re afraid of the King. Jesus Christ is the King, and he can change our lives in ways we don’t expect. God is unpredictable. He is subversive. So it’s better to keep him buried in the ground in a box. It’s easier that way.
This is not a new problem. Let’s go way back in the bible. Let’s go back not to Adam, but to Abraham.
God told Abraham, your children and your children’s children are going to sojourn down into Egypt. They’re going to go into it free but after 30 years they’re going to be enslaved, exploited and abused — for 400 years. In 400 years you get used to a lot of despicable things. They spent 400 years, 10 generations, developing a lifestyle that was so bad that they actually had forgotten who God was. Forgotten their covenant; forgotten their relationship; forgotten how to worship; forgotten whom to worship. Their imprisonment was so normal to them — they were accustomed to an environment that was poisonous and evil. Yet they knew something was wrong. They knew something was wrong even thought they couldn’t remember a day of freedom. They knew in their spirit! — that there was something else. They had not practiced their sacraments or ceremonies or rituals for years and years and yet they cried out to God from that oppressed place. And they cried, Deliver me. I need you. Deliver me. Liberate Me. Set me free.*
And if you don’t think we have much in common with the Children of Israel, think again. We live in an oppressed place. We live in a world that sometimes feels like a prison. And God is here to get us out of it. But in order to go with him, we have to give ourselves over, we have to abandon ourselves entirely to his will. Look at Solomon today. Solomon was a king. And here is Solomon on his throne. And God comes to this powerful man and he doesn’t give him an order. He gives him a choice. God says, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Tell me what you want, Solomon. And in a moment of humility, Solomon asks God for divine wisdom, knowledge of God and his ways, and not for a nicer palace or fancier robes. “I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.” he says. Solomon makes himself small. He puts God on the throne and himself at God’s feet. And God responds by making him and his kingdom great.
We all hunger for more. We hunger for God. We need God. We are not satisfied with this world and we want out. You know that. But if you want out, you have to let God in. We know that God made us for the kingdom. We know that he predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son, as Saint Paul says today. Do not let go of that hunger for God.
One of the false prophets of the modern world, the poet Schiller, invented a German word for a life without God. You can always rely on Germans to have a word for everything. And the word he invented was Entzauberung — it means disenchantment. It’s an awful word. Disenchantment. There’s no magic left in creation, no spirit, no God. Disenchantment. And modern man goes through the world and it’s all merely matter. It’s a machine with no designer. Life is nothing but a clump of atoms, and the particles and force fields that make up our world will someday collapse into a cinder floating endlessly in interstelllar space. So why think about it? The best thing to do is escape into the darkness of distraction. And go to the movies or the bar or some big casino.
Don’t you believe it. Don’t you dare believe it. This world may look like a plain and muddy field, but there’s a treasure hidden under it. This may look like a pile of junk, but hidden in this mess is a pearl of great price. A pearl that can turn the whole world upside down. The kingdom of God is at hand. The kingdom is here! — and it calls out to us even if we can’t see it yet. You know it’s there.
King David wrote in the psalm today:
For I love your command
more than gold, however fine.
In all your precepts I go forward;
and every false way I hate.
David wanted God and nothing else. No gold, just God. And another poet, one I know who lives right here in Milwaukee, wrote: Someday soon I will escape this pastel world of mediocrity, escape to hardship, escape to opportunity, where I can… grow like a new spring plant, become the who and what I was meant to be: Give my life all to Him who knows me.**
Give my life all to him who knows me.
Do we dare to be Christians here today? Do we dare we believe the absurdity and the foolishness that Jesus asks us to live out in our daily lives. Do we dare? Dare we be agents for the kingdom that Jesus says has come? ***
Yes. We dare. And we believe, I believe, as we are about to say in the Creed. Not “we have an opinion about” — We believe. We trust. God, in his Son, saved me. Christ has made his kingdom and set up his throne in my heart and everything is touched. The whole world around me. “Behold I make all things new” says the Lord.
Sometimes our world seems so plain and dirty and empty. Some people in the time of Christ looked at our Lord Jesus and saw only a carpenter’s son with dirty fingernails. Was he the King of the world? To the eye, Jesus was nothing special. And some people today look at this little piece of bread we eat at mass, and they say, “It’s just bread.” But you and I know better. We listen to the Spirit that says this humble man and this humble host is the King of all creation… and the King of you and me, too. The kingdom is here, because the King is here.
Don’t be afraid of him. Abandon yourself and your whole life to him. And then you will not only live in the kingdom — in fact, you will become a kingdom, with the King’s palace right in your tiny and flawed heart. The King is calling your name as he called Adam and Abraham, and he is coming to live — in you. Let him in. Amen.
*Acknowledgements to T.D. Jakes for this paragraph.
**The poet cited here is Clarke Ross.
***This paragraph is inspired by James Sledge.