Recalibrating desire

SERMON  

Sunday 26 July, 2020 

St Andrew’s Church of Indooroopilly 

 Genesis 28.10-19a  

Psalm 105.1-11  

Romans 8.12-25  

Matthew 13.44-58 

Recalibrating desire ©Suzanne Grimmett

A person who is not at home with inward things does not know what God  is. It is just like a man who has wine in his cellar and, having neither  drunk nor even tried it, does not know that it is good. 1 

So says Meister Eckhart, reflecting on the hiddenness of God’s kingdom  within each of us. Hiddenness is a theme of many of the parables we have  been hearing in past weeks, and even moreso today with this talk of hidden  treasure in a field, a wondrous pearl found among many others, teaming  varieties of fish just under the ocean’s surface and household treasures, old  and new, brought out with joy.  

It is important to note that this description of the kingdom is about what it  is like- not what it is going to be like when we arrive there. Jesus was  always pointing to the nearness of the kingdom, even going so far as to say  the kingdom of heaven is within you. This kingdom is the movement of  God within us and amongst us in the world. It is the move that creates a  new and large family, the kind St Paul spoke about in Romans, that  transcends the traditional boundaries of family to create a fellowship  founded on love where all separations between us are overcome.  

The kingdom of heaven is discovered amongst those living God’s way, and  finding great joy in the living. Far from the wowserish reputation of  Christianity where the morality police are lurking around every corner  demanding that we not have any fun, at the heart of discipleship is desire  and a love of life. The way of Jesus the Christ, however, calls us to a  recalibration of desire to a place where our goodness and our joy meet.  The joy of discovery is a theme in Matthew’s gospel- whether that be the  joy of the magi in finding the Christ child in Bethlehem, or the joy of the  women running from the empty tomb that first Easter morning. The hidden  surprises of God may be found wherever we seek Christ and surrender our  will so that our desire and the desires of God are the same, our joy and  God’s joy aligned.  

Earlier in the Gospel Jesus spoke about being careful not to store up for  ourselves treasures on earth where “moth and rust consume and thieves  break in and steal”, but to instead “store up treasures in heaven.” Why does  Jesus use such metaphors of hidden wealth and material goods? It seems  that in order to speak of heavenly things, we need to begin by speaking of  earthly things and the desires we do understand- desires for security, love  and companionship, for wealth to see us through life, for clothes and  shelter to keep us warm and good wine in the cellar to make us glad. These  are good things in themselves, but their acquisition does not bring us the  kind of treasure that lasts. But the earth is the place where the seeds of the  kingdom are sown, and there are clues scattered everywhere to help us  recognise ‘the will and rule and presence of God’ that brings lasting joy. 2 

And never doubt that we need to look. It is God’s pleasure to give us the  kingdom, but the Gospels reiterate that we need to seek, to ask, and to  knock if the spiritual things hidden in plain sight are to be revealed to us.  

The parables we have been hearing across these weeks themselves testify  that that we cannot be plainly taught exactly how to live our life and what  to do- parables are a gateway through which we enter to experience  revelation. They defy a single meaning and are instead like a jewel that  needs to be turned and turned again to receive all the interpretations  possible, reflected in each of our lives. How do I seek after God’s kingdom  and find the the goodness of following Jesus’ way? Or, in the earthly  symbolism of the parables, what do I need to sell off in my life if I am  going to buy this field or claim this pearl?  

We are told that when we find this treasure, it will transform the desires of  our hearts, enabling us to release our clinging attachment to our small  earthly desires and joyfully align our will to the desires of God. And in  these stories there is an abundance of joy- joy in the acquisition of a  priceless treasure, joy in the beauty of an exquisite pearl, joy in the  ridiculous abundance of a net which indiscriminately has gathered fish of  all kinds.  

Of course, not all of the images of this parable are joyful. We also hear  words about judgement similar to that found in last week’s parable of the  weeds and the wheat, and a return to that favourite Matthean expression  “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This is what, we are  told, will await those who do not hear or see or accept the gift of God’s  kingdom. This little morsel is extremely tempting in those moments when  we would like to fancy ourselves as the righteous and those ones over there, whoever they may be, as the condemned. Once again we need to be  reminded that the separation of evil from good is not our task- here it is the  role of the angels. But I think we also need to remember that the trajectory of all of these parables is the abundance of goodness and the movement  towards gathering everyone in. It is those who separate themselves from  this abundance, those who set themselves up to judge and condemn, who  are in danger of the sort of hell found in the severing of connection and the  absence of God.  

You cannot play God and surrender to God at the same time.  

Here is where our human understanding fails us. We look at the intractable  conflicts and human heartache in the world and struggle to imagine a  future that does not involve us cutting loose those whose agendas seem to  hold us back, or creating a future, whether that be for the world or for the  Church, where we are not in some way separating ourselves from others.  But perhaps we are just all like that man with a cellar in his house full of  fine vintage wine, who declares that it can’t be that good, despite never  having sampled it. G.K Chesterton once said that “the Christian ideal has  not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left  untried.”  

Perhaps we all underestimate the power of forgiveness to create a world  where human desires are transformed and aligned with the unbounded  grace of a God who longs to gather everyone in. A kingdom where there  are no more divisions between enemies and friends, worthy and unworthy,  clean and unclean; no death, but only more life. We have only our  experience on this earth after all, and maybe we cannot fathom the mystery  of a God who invites us into a place where there is no separation. 

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor  rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor  height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to  separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38) 

These are words which are often spoken at funerals and to comfort those  who are dying. But they are also words which can help us find the treasure  that is hidden in the field, or the richness of life teeming just beneath the  surface in the here and now. In Christ we are forgiven, and we can be like  a rich gift of fine wine for others in need of that same outpouring of grace.  To believe in the power of love and the transformative hope of forgiveness  is to leave cynicism behind and imagine the world brand new each day. To  live in this way is worth seeking with all our heart and giving all we have,  knowing that where we find our goodness, there also will be fullness of  joy.  

+Amen.

1 Meister Eckhart, Sermon 10 in Bernard McGinn, ed. Meister Eckhart: Teacher and Preacher  (New York City, NY: Paulist Press, 1986), 262

 Barbara Brown Taylor, The Seeds of Heaven: Sermons on the Gospel of Matthew (Louisville, KY: 2 Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 42.

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