In the name of the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.
Do you remember about two months ago (Trinity Sunday) when we baptized Livie? Do you remember my buddies that came in town to be her godparents? My good buddies from seminary? Well after the service, I went to gather a bit of critique from them about my sermon and how the service went (I’m always seeking to improve and I might even be teachable). They gave me all sorts of grief about the fact that here it was, Trinity Sunday and I didn’t mention the Trinity other than to say, “In the name of the F, S, and HS.” Also it was a baptism, but I didn’t preach on baptism. What did I preach on? The creation of the world. I caught a lot of flak that afternoon.
I told them that there is a rhyme and reason to my preaching: Biblical literacy is paramount for me, because what is the point of delving in to the mystery of the Trinity if the basic story of salvation history is not known? Before the Church Fathers sat down to being to understand the deeper meanings of Christian theology, what was the first thing they had to figure out? The story of Jesus and how it fit in to the broader picture of God’s self-revelation. And where do we find that? In Scripture. The Bible is our lifeblood.
I just got back from a Bible conference in Steubenvile, Ohio. It was wonderful—one of the best conferences to which I have ever been. Sure the weather was nice (mid to high 70’s), but the break from the oppressive heat here was a mere blip on the radar. I was learning from people who believed in the Bible, not just taught it (sadly, there is a difference). These people are mainly concerned with teaching the story of Scripture because they believe that it is God’s love story between us and Him.
There was one high point where I got to have about a 10 minute one-on-one conversation with Scott Hahn (he sends his love btw). I was telling him about the exact moment I fell in love with the Bible. I think I have told this story before—a professor of mine told the class: “I believe the Bible is fully inspired from the table of contents at the beginning to the maps at the back,” and then he proceeded to demonstrate this to us.
Scott loved that quote. In fact he told me to hold on to that mentality forever: “We need to get that message out there more.” Most commentators spend soul-crushing page after soul-crushing page of commentary about the “fact” that this person could not possibly have written this or that book because of this or that reason. Most bible commentaries spend less time telling you about the actual bible and more time about how this part should not be authoritative. It is always a bright spot in my study to find commentators who actually believe the bible to be true and try to convey the story and all its interconnected parts.
This is the beauty of the conference from whence I just return—not once did I hear about the “higher” soul-crushing criticism, rather I had the Bible unfolded right there in front of me and I could not get enough. And as I was reflecting on this on the flight home I realized that this is the treasure of which our Gospel lesson today speaks.
Today Jesus has us in a field, and if you will remember, the Holy Land is not a place rich in oil (In fact, God placed the Promised Land in the one place in the Middle East not teeming with oil), rather it is a place rich in rocks. Big rocks, little rocks, medium-sized rocks—rocks as far as the eye can see. If one desires to plant anything in the ground, the first thing that must be done is the removal of all the rocks.
And as the fields are being plowed, the bigger rocks are piled up at the boundaries of the field to create walls (nothing better to do with the rocks). And they had to be piled up at the boundaries, because if you simply made a pile of them in the middle of the property, eventually you would have an unintended wall due to the sheer quantity and then property disputes would arise due to poor planning of piles.
So imagine, if you will, that you are working a plot of land, just having come back from hauling a rather large rock to the border: “Whew. Stupid rocks. But, this land isn’t going to de-rock itself—back to work.” There you go off to plowing when you have to stop—yet again—for a rock. So you grab your shovel and head over.
“Ok this rock looks kind of big,” so you scrape the dirt off to try to find the side and once you do, you stick the shovel under the corner and try to pry it up. So you push down, “Ugh. This is a pretty big rock. Let me dig it out a little bit.” Then you dig a little bit so that you can now pry it out. (Stab. Heave. **Rip**Rip**RRRip**Thwump**)
You can now see that this rock was like a rock version of a glacier (10% above ground and 90% below), so you take a rest before beginning the process of relocating this rock to the wall, and sit on the rock (just to show it who’s boss).
Then, once you are on top drinking water, you glance at the whole to admire your handiwork. “Wait, what is that?” You hop down and poke it with the shovel—that’s no rock. You go in for a better look. “Oh! (Looks around) Oh! Hey, I better cover this back up.”
So you put the mini-mountain back in the abyss you created and start to rebury it—but you make sure to make it distinguishable from the other huge rocks on the property that you can make it back here to extract your find.
On your way home you are thinking, “Man, I just found $100 Grand! What a great day!” Then you think some more, “I’m going to go back and get that money tonight and go home and bury it by the tree in my back yard. No…wait, if I only bury it there, then someone might find it. I’m going to break it up and bury it on the side yard and by the porch and…Oh my Gosh—I’m rich!!!”
“There is no way the spot I found today was the only spot that had money—it’s probably all over the place, I just have to have time to really search for it. But I can’t do it at night, and if I do it during work, the boss will get suspicious if I am only digging and don’t eventually start the planting process.
Hmmm how much money do I have in the bank? That much huh. I need more, I have to blow this guy away with my offer—he just bought the place after all. So let’s see, I have a car, a flat screen. Eh, I will just sell it all—I’m about to be rich, who cares if I have to get rid of all my current stuff, I’ll just buy better stuff when I find all the money.”
Beloved, this is what we have in the Bible. We have our Bibles at home, which can be something that can be a little old and dusty, maybe it is on the coffee table for company, maybe it is under the coffee table to make it level (no judgment here). Then we open the Bible some time, maybe it is a time of need—maybe after dead-old Aunt Edna just died and so you read her Bible when you are sorting through her things—and you find a verse that is of great comfort at the time. And then upon more reflection, you truly realize what a gift of infinite wealth you have discovered.
Jesus tells us that we are supposed to find this wealth—he placed it there so we would find it. And since we are supposed to find it, we are supposed to commit like the parable—the person regarded everything else as secondary, even worthless by comparison.
This is why Jesus then tells the Parable of the Net. “The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kid. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad.”
The good fish are the ones who sold all to obtain the kingdom. The bad fish are the ones who decided that they would much rather have the things they currently owned at left the treasure alone.
This is why I preach the Bible, because Jesus tells us that yes this is a treasure that is supposed to be all-consuming once we have discovered it. Yet sometimes through the daily course of life we skip the big rocks to come back to it at a later point in time. Yet Jesus makes it a point to tell us that if we fail to find this treasure it will be to our eternal detriment. So my job is first and foremost to get you into to heaven, so I have to grab a shovel and help you find the big rocks, and say, “Hmm, I wonder what we will find under here?”
In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.