Text: Matthew 13:44-52
Date: Pentecost VI + Proper 12 + 7/24/11
God loves you.
Now, that may not strike you as being any big, new news. And that would be unfortunate. God loves you. But you’ve heard it before. Don’t we already know that? John 3:16 and all; ‘God so loved the world,’ etc.? “Jesus loves me, this I know….”
Yes, but God loves you. And you need to hear that, because “there are times” you know. Though you say you know God loves you, haven’t there been some times when you questioned that? maybe even lately? You know, “How can God love me after what I’ve been” or “what I’ve done?”
Yet, every time you come back to check it out you hear, still “God loves you.” Still, we ask why? and how? and what difference does that make when the air conditioner breaks down or the decade old buggy in the garage won’t start or when the balance in the check book isn’t enough to pay the electric bill or when the love of others grows cold? So maybe we don’t have as big a problem believing that God at least wants to love us as we do have a problem appreciating or valuing or believing what that love really means.
God loves you. This morning we heard Moses writing of God’s love for His ancient, chosen people, “The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” But before they have a chance to begin to check their image in the mirror, admire and adjust their hair or shirt, Moses continues: “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you” (Deut 7:6-8). That’s it. Just that simple, and that mysterious. It is because of His pure love alone that God chose to save you and make you His own possession. Martin Luther even makes the amazing comment in his Large Catechism, “For this very purpose [God] created us, so that he might redeem us” (Kolb-Wengert, Creed, Art. III p. 439). So the apostle Paul says that it is not necessarily true for all people generally that “all things work together for good,” but “for those who love God” and “are called (by God) according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). But God loves all, calls all, and has a purpose for all! With Paul faith alone concludes that there is nothing in all creation that is “able to separate us from the love of God.” And the key to that faith is not that we are so loveable or any quality in us. The key to that faith and to the love of God is nothing and no one else than Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:39) the love of God incarnate.
It was to impress His disciples of the great love of God for them that, especially in the growing darkness of opposition and rejection, Jesus told these two little parables of the treasure hidden in a field and the merchant in search of fine pearls. They and we are to listen and come away with the discovery that WE ARE that hidden treasure and that pearl of great value; that we are, as we heard in Deuteronomy, “his treasured possession,” and like a pearl of great value to God. Likewise, think of St. Peter’s declaration, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).
In the previous parable of the weeds Jesus spoke of the world as the field where He plants His good seed. Yet because sin still lurks and so easily besets us (Heb 12:1) for now we are called to live not by sight but by faith (2 Cor 5:7) right along side of, but still separate from, those who do not believe. So our value as children of God is hidden for now in this world, this field. We are God’s treasure hidden in this field.
These parables proclaim that it is solely because God loves you and values you highly that He sent His only Son to search for you, to find you, to save you. Both parables tell of a man or a merchant searching. Then, when they find what they are looking for both men go and sell all that they have in order to buy, to purchase their find.
People, by nature, do not and are not searching for God. God, rather, is the one who searches us out. How has God found you? He, of course, knew you even before you were born as His own creation (Jer 1:5). The fact that you and I were once lost to God does not mean that He ever lost track of us. The most blessed way God finds us, of course, is through faithful parents who bring their children to God’s water of holy baptism. But even if we discover God finding us later in life it is above all in this sacrament of water with the Word that we have and receive the certainty of God’s pledge and promise of applying the great ransom price of Christ’s death to us. There, we are told, we die and are buried with Christ into death and are raised to new life. There, as often as we return to the promise of our baptism in contrition and repentance, “the Old Adam in us is drowned and dies with all sins and evil desires, and a new man daily emerges and arises.”
God loves you. God knows you. God has found you. It is only by faith that we are awakened to see and perceive God’s love and action for us. Some spiritual “awakenings” may be more dramatic or of greater consequence than others. But they are always rooted and grounded in God’s original action and love.
As a man searching for a hidden treasure or a merchant searching for fine pearls, so God in Christ seeks the souls of His own creation in order to save them. Both searchers went and sold all that they had to buy their treasure. So it is, as St. Peter has written, “that you were ransomed…not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). The purchase price was our Lord’s very life, His body broken and blood outpoured on the cross. This is the expression and definition of the lavish, joyful love of God for you and for His whole world. Christ “sold,” literally gave all that He had in order to redeem you.
God loves you. And while this is true of us, it is also true for the whole world. Yet not everyone receives or believes that love. Nevertheless we are not to give up or stop inviting people to the love of God. As in the previous parable where the wheat and the weeds or tares were to be left growing together until the Day of God’s Judgment which is surely coming, so here that Day is described as a full fishing net, the angels separating the good from the bad, the evil from the righteous. That Day is surely drawing near.
Until then we have this assurance: God loves you. And that fact can sustain you even when everything else in your life is coming off its hinges. For what can make God change His mind about you? Nothing in all creation! “From God can nothing move me” (LSB 713).