“Becoming Disciples” - Autumn Term 2004 - Sermon
All Saints, Langton Long on 5 December 2004
Rev Tim Storey
Matthew 13:44-46 “A Pearl to Share”
In March 1992 Andy Mikula who lives Pennsylvania, received a bill for his as yet unused credit
card stating that he owed $0.00. He ignored it and threw it away. In April he received another and
the following month they sent him a nasty note stating they were going to cancel his card if he
didn't send them $0.00 by return of post. He called they said it was a computer error and would
take care of it. When Andy tried to use the card he found it had been cancelled. The company
said that they would take care of it. The next day he got another bill for $0.00 so he thought he
would play the company at their own game and sent them a cheque for $0.00. They sent a
statement saying he now owed nothing at all. A week later, the bank called him asking him what
he was doing writing a cheque for $0.00. The cheque had caused the computer to crash and the
bank now couldn’t process ANY cheques from ANY customers. The following month he received
a letter from the credit card company saying his cheque had bounced and that he now owed
them $0.00 and unless he sent a cheque by return of post they would be taking steps to recover
the debt. The amazing value of nothing
Three years ago a letter from John Lennon to Paul McCartney was sold for £80,000. I have a
letter here that I wrote to my Mum - anyone offer me a mere £ 5,000 for it ? I thought not.
As we all know the value of something is based on what other people think it is worth not
necessarily on what we think it is worth. Have you ever wondered why Gold is so valuable ? I
mean, why didn’t people decide that, say, sugar was more valuable: then the West Indies would
be the richest place on earth and we would all have much better teeth. The story we had read to
us just now is one of the simplest stories in the whole Bible. Man finds treasure in field. Man
realises value of treasure. Man sells everything he has. Man buys field and gets treasure. Or,
alternatively Merchant sees pearl in shop. Man realises value of pearl. Man sells everything he
has and buys pearl. The key point in each of these stories is that in each case the man
recognised the value of the treasure or the pearl and had to have it.
Why, I ask you, would anyone spend £80,000 on a letter ? Because that person is a totally
committed Beatles fan who knows that possess something that is as close to the heart of the
Beatles as a letter from John to Paul is to possess something very, very special.
The questions Jesus raises in these stories are very simple:
Do you know what the treasure, the pearl is ?
- in other words would you know it if it hit you between the eyes ?
Do you know how valuable it is ?
What would you be prepared to give up in order to have it ?
Firstly, Do you know what the pearl is ? We might answer the Kingdom of God which is what
he is talking about in this chapter or the Gospel or even Jesus himself and we would be on the
right track. But I think it is even more simple than that. Stop for a moment and look at the point in
time in which Jesus is speaking. Go back through the broken relationship between God and his
people back to the promise he made to Abraham and to Moses in Exodus 6:7 I will take you as
my own people, and I will be your God. The relationship has only just begun and, frankly, the
people have no concept of what the Covenant God has made with them actually means.
As time goes on the Covenant is revealed further in Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the
LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a
thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. It is a Covenant of
Love a love which God has for his people that is shown time and again. But, time and again the
Covenant was abused by Israel. God tried to tell them about it in Hosea 11 “When Israel was a
child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the
further they went from me. If you go to the book of Ezra you will see how the people finally
recognised that they had been punished for the abuse of God’s love. And how their relationship
with God was temporarily revived as they turned back to him. But it was only temporary. And yet
God persevered with them.
Whenever I think about this it makes me realise the phenomenal nature of God’s love for us. If
we look in the papers or if we look on TV or watch films we are reminded over and over again
that there is a limit to how far people can humanly love. When love is abused we are horrified but
we don’t instinctively think of forgiveness - we normally think of revenge and finishing the
God punished the people, yes, but the nature of God was not to finish the relationship but to seek
a way in which to strengthen it once and for all. Which he did in Jesus. It is summed up in the
simplicity of Jesus’ own statement in John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his
one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
It encapsulates the Gospel, the good news, which is at the heart of the Kingdom of Heaven - it is
God’s love which is the treasure that the prospector and the merchant found. They recognised
something that was far beyond anything one would normally find in this world
Our question was Do you know what the treasure, the pearl is ? Would you know it if it hit you
between the eyes ? The first question for us as individuals is whether we actually recognise
Gods love for us. Or do we treat it like the children of Israel did living lives that paid lip service
rather than heart service to God. The second question was this Do you know how valuable it is
? It is one thing to recognise that something is valuable - It is something else to know how
valuable it is.
I have to be honest if there is one programme on television I cannot bear it is the Antiques Road
show. I am sorry if you like it but I call it the Avarice Road show. People queue up for hours to
show the cracked pot that great Auntie Ethel told them belonged to Queen Victoria’s
chambermaid and, quite frankly, when they meet the expert who tells them all about it they are
interested but not half as interested as how much it is worth. When they are told “It’s lovely - it’s
gorgeous but, I’m afraid it’s only worth about 50 quid”, you can see their faces trying to show
enthusiasm but failing miserably. But look at their faces when they are told it is priceless and a
glazed look of “It’s mine, all mine” takes over.
We are not dealing with something cold and dead we are dealing with something alive and life-
giving but, when we are told it is priceless our reaction can be to shrug our shoulders and say
“That’s nice, isn’t it ?” Listen to what John said about this pearl this treasure this love in 1 John
3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children
of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not
know him. You cannot read that in a monotone ! It is love that has been lavished on us ! We are
God’s children !
Think about a certain day on December 25th and the vast amounts of money that will be spent
between now and then to lavish children with the ultimate Harry Potter toy or whatever. Why ?
Because parents and grandparents want to show their children just how much they love them.
And what can one say about the child that shrugs their shoulders mumbles “Thanks” and ignores
the present ? Is it any better than the reaction of the children of Israel to God’s expressions of
towards them ? Because having recognised the pearl as being valuable having recognised
just how valuable it is, the Merchant then gives up everything to go and buy it.
And the final question for us was this: What would you be prepared to give up in order to
have it ? In one sense the answer is very simple: We have been given love: Surely we should
respond with love ? 1 John 4:9 says This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his
one and only Son into the world that we might live through him So if we are to respond with
love in return how great should that be ?
Let’s be honest for a moment: All of us if we are completely honest with ourselves are guilty of
half-hearted love towards God. It’s a fact. We talk love but do we do love ? When Jesus was
asked what the greatest commandment was he replied: "`Love the Lord your God with all
your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' and `Love your neighbour as
yourself.' - there is nothing half-hearted about that.
Our walk with God is echoed in the hymn “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross”
Were the whole realm of Nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all!
God’s love, the Treasure that is hidden from millions who are not interested in treasure unless it
comes with a MacDonalds Happy Meal, the Pearl of God’s love which is of indescribable beauty
and infinite value is ours for nothing. No cost except our life.
And the final twist is this: over the past few months we have been looking at the whole subject of
sharing our faith with those around us. The response is in Jesus instructions to his disciples in
Matthew 10:8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out
demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
We could walk out from here saying "What a wonderful pearl I have found, I'm going to enjoy
keeping it to myself" God doesn’t demand our response with menaces or threats. God gave you
and me his love unconditionally. If we are to respond then we need to respond wholeheartedly,
The verses from 2 Corinthians 5 are the sort of verses which scream out Paul's passion fro the
Gospel. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal
through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. We cannot respond
to the treasure we have been given with a shrug and an “if I must” sort of response as the
ungrateful child at Christmas. Surely our response must be with a wholehearted, honest
assessment. At the end of the day we go back to where we begin: God sends a demand for $
0.0 But this time there are no computers or banks to confuse the issue. The treasure: the pearl of
God’s love, is His free gift of salvation. The response is up to us.
Paul wrote this in Philippians 3:8 I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing
greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I
consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him. He had found and
recognised the value of the pearl and gave everything to possess it. What about us ? Have we
found it ? Are we willing to share it ? Please God that the answer is "Yes" - with all of our hearts.