Sermon Notes: Ordinary 17, Year A: ‘Pearls of Salvation’

Text: Matthew 13:44-52

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

  • We live today in an age when synthetic pearls are commonplace, when plastic is the norm.
  • Even real pearls today are farmed or ‘cultured’
    • This is a very different way from the natural pearl that Jesus speaks of
    • Only 1 Oyster in a 1000 might contain any kind of pearl, and they were found deep underwater, at depths of more than 40ft in naturally occurring, not manmade  oyster beds.
    • A diver would have to go down with only the air in his lungs, often with a rock tied to himself to make the descent quicker, scrabble around in the murky, muddy depths and then shoot up (not not that fast, which is highly dangerous) with perhaps a small beautiful pearl, or more usually empty handed: hard, dangerous, low paid work.
    • In a haul of 3 tons of Oysters, only 3 or 4 will contain a pearl of any real value.
    • So we begin to see why pearls might be so expensive in Jesus’ time
    • A pearl is the result of something gritty that gets trapped inside the oyster shell
      • A grain of sand which irritates the Oyster
      • Layers of natural calcium carbonate (the same as the oyster shell) are built up around the grit and this beautiful object is produced: it catches the light in almost unique ways
      • In our lives, we too are exposed to the grittiness of life
        • Challenges and disappointments
        • Indecision and temptation
        • Burdens and the unpredictable twists and turns of every day life
        • I wish I had the opportunity to promise you that such grittiness will not occur in your lives, but we know the truth: that life is filled with these challenges, these tests, these difficulties
        • In fact, I want to suggest to you that it is precisely because life has its ups and downs that the promises of Christ are even more significant
          • That through Christ, and with Christ alongside you, the gritty challenges of your life produce something of immense value
          • Value to yourself, value to others, value to the God who loves you
          • We have the opportunity to enclose the tough and challenging things in our lives
            • Wrap them in prayer and love
            • And produce something transformative
            • This is why the Merchant who finds a pearl of great value risks everything to obtain such a great prize
            • This is why Paul speaks of Athletes in training  (1 Corinthian 9:24-25)
              • 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
              • The prize of salvation, which the Merchant risks all for, that the Athlete trains for is not the promise of the future, but the here and now: the pearl is available NOW
                • If we are prepared to pay the price asked of us
                • If we are prepared to put everything aside to focus upon God’s will
                • If we are prepared to risk our old, sinful, belaboured lives
                  • And embrace God.
  • The Kingdom of God is, as Christ told us, close at hand
    • Not ‘pie in the sky’
    • Not the empty and vapid promise of harps and halos, forty virgins or whatever else has been brainwashed into you
    • Not a platitude intended to put of the necessity of making things better in this world
    • But bringing the rule of God ‘on earth as it is in heaven’
    • Here
    • Now
    • Fighting for Social Justice, for equality, for the involvement of all to all regardless of race, gender or sexuality
    • Fighting for freedom from oppression
    • Giving a voice to those without words
    • Fighting for those trapped in poverty and the degradation of addiction in this very place
    • Seeking to make the love of Christ known to all whose gritty lives have not yet had the opportunity to gain a little of God’s wonderful pearl.
    • If we fail to do this, if we fail to win these generations for Christ,
    • If claim timidity, or age, or tiredness or lack of formal education for failing to at least try and build the Kingdom of God
    • Then we will find ourselves in the wrong basket
    • The question the good judge will ask us is not “have you behaved” but “what have you done”
    • Not “who have you condemned” but “who have you embraced”
    • Not “how pious have you acted” but “what has been in your heart”
    • For no pearl can form without a little bit of grit
    • No Kingdom can be built without an earth to build upon
    • No salvation is possible until we ourselves realise how much we need God
      • And when we see that, we will have found the treasure which is worth everything

Amen