Dear Grace Church Family,
Is it possible to know joy in these times of social unrest, tragic death, and human hate? Jesus tells us that there is such a thing as an unassailable joy. He even tells us how to find it. (Hint: the stewardship of our whole selves is involved.)
Matthew 13: an unassailable joy. Some things in life are beyond price; they are truly priceless. Consider, how much would you take in exchange for your health? Or for someone you love? Or for your mind? There are some things that are priceless, though we may not always realize their worth.
Franz Joseph Hayden’s patron for many years was a certain Prince Paul. The Prince’s advisors constantly advised him that the money spent on Hayden would be better spent on fortifications and arms; “What good is music? they asked. Today, Prince Paul, his advisors, and his war budget are long forgotten, but Haydn’s music lives.
Of course, even works of art can have a relative value. A Paris newspaper once ran a contest. The winner had to give the best answer to the question, “If a fire broke out in the Louvre and you could save only one painting, which one would it be?” The winning answer was, “The painting nearest the exit.”
In our Gospel lesson, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is priceless. It is like treasure hidden in a field that someone stumbles upon. Joyfully, the finder takes everything he or she has and sells it to buy the field. Then the treasure is theirs. As if to emphasize his point Jesus adds, The Kingdom is like a fine pearl of unsurpassed beauty that a merchant finds. So, he too sells everything he has to purchase that pearl. This description of the Kingdom of God, the Reign of God in our hearts and minds, is priceless because it brings the finder great joy. When Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven (the two terms are interchangeable), he is talking about the reign of God in human hearts; where God truly rules a person’s life. The natural outcome for the person in whose life God reigns is joy.
That’s why Jesus says that the treasure finders sold all they had to possess it. See, this Kingdom is a package. It is a life of trust; believing that the Creator of this world loves each of us individually as well as collectively; believing that this Creator has given us a pattern for living that leads to harmony with one another, and with the One who is the Source of Life; believing that because of what Christ has done for us, our lives have eternal significance; believing that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have access to God here and now. Believing and knowing that brings joy. That is the joy that personal circumstances cannot take away. This is how the reign of God in your life and mine will bring us great joy.
This joy grows as we give our whole selves to this reign of God in our lives. The Kingdom, though, cannot bring us to the fullness of its joy if we seek to only give a small segment of ourselves to it. The point here is what comes to possess us. Jesus is concerned about our life’s investments, spiritually and materially, because they so often come to possess us. Jesus wants us to be free of being possessed by things. Instead, he wants us to possess and be possessed by joy.
Jesus calls each of us to make an investment of our whole lives, to take everything we are, everything we have, and everything we hope to become, and lay it on the altar of faith, including the very life that courses through our bodies. We are to make our whole selves available to God for God’s purposes, not just the expendable extras of our time, talents, and treasure. Once we do so, as we continually do so, we will possess the Kingdom. Even better, it will possess us, and its treasure will be wholly ours: the treasure of unassailable joy.