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MT 13: 44-58
(Sunday between 24th & 30th July...In 2005, July 24th...10th S.after Pentecost)

The definitive "Yes" the disciples answer to Jesus' "Have you understood all these things?" (v.51) is a useful useful pole around which to explore the passage. That has to be a whopper, doesn't it? Jesus wants to hear us say "Yes!" so let him have his "Yes". Let him think we've taken it all on board. Take the pressure off! Better to recognize the first disciples as  people just like us, than to idealise them. How much of Jesus & his teachings have we understood? Do we still think we can 'put it over' Jesus in any sense? Do we say "Yes" but do "No"?

Whatever God's long term cosmic plans for the universe (47-50) as Jesus understands them, or MT, or an even later disciple portrays him as understanding them, the simple parables of treasure & pearl, & the first part of the net story, too, bring us back to earth & present realities.

It seems reasonable to take the treasure as, broadly, 'the things of God'. Widely or narrowly as we choose to identify them, they are lying hidden in the field of everyday life.Where we labour or romp. They are not so hidden that ordinary people can't unearth them serendipitously. If members of our congregation were to share their story, how many might tell of coming upon God when they weren't particularly looking for him? (Compare folk parables, fairy tales, where good things turn up unexpectedly & the story turns the corner.) Jesus seems to be consciously contrasting this with the merchant's deliberate searching after treasure in the next mini-parable. Just as God's Rule is wide, so are the means of coming upon it, under it. When it happens, there's no mistaking the joy it brings!

In contrast with the above, the merchant is a deliberate searcher. After truth? It's common enough for people to keep up this search without ever finding the godly equivalent of the philospher's stone. The merchant who sells up everything else in order to buy the priceless pearl is an icon for those of us who have to off-load all (not just some!) of life's baggage if we're to recognize & appreciate God when we find him. This includes in-house, churchy baggage (even garbage) as well as out around the market places of daily life baggage / garbage. Unless we off-load / unload both, we may end up still not possess- ing the inexhaustible riches of God in Christ.

Those of us who exercise any (even low-level) authority in the church can be tempted to play the role of 'they' who do the netting & sorting out the 'fish of every kind'. It's happening right under our noses with the world swing to the religious, (self-) righteous Right. Sure, exercising judgment comes with the job. In biblical terms that's called 'discerning'. Not judging! Not in the condemnatory sense. I guess that's where the apocalyptic element comes in here. Jesus transfers the responisiblity for 'sorting' to the angels. I'm inclined to the view that a lot of church people-sorting would be carried out more compassionately if we were more conscious of being angels ( = messengers) in human clothing. To parody the old joke about Ian Paisley, some of us who don't imagine we'll ever need them may well end up the ones who end up needing teeth provided for us so we can gnash them!

Could we answer "Yes!" to Jesus' question as confidently as the disciples do? If "Yes!" is the answer Jesus wants to hear, let's give him his "Yes!" Whatever of God's treasure we've already taken on board, let's keep space, make space for those  treasures we're yet to stumble over or invest in. But don't expect to find the price listed on the Stock Exchange.

The Scribes usually get bad press from Jesus, but here they seem to stand for any disciple who takes God's Rule seriously - both in study & its application - over the whole broad sweep of God's continuing self-revelation in history. I think it was Matthew Fox quoted Meister Eckhart as saying  "God is always the newest thing there ever is". Perhaps it's that gift of interpreting past & future in terms of a present dynamic that Jesus means here?

When Jesus has finished his teaching he leaves wherever he's been & moves on (back to his old territory, as it turns out). Knowing when to move on, move out, move forward, move back, is in itself a gift of God's grace.

Do we teach Jesus / God with such conviction that people are astonished? Not at us, at God! Even if some dismiss us 'cos  they know too well who & what we really are. PS: Mightn't finding God as 'dynamite' be a treasure in itself?