Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 – The 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, July 27, 2014
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid…” (Matthew 13:44)
In early July 2014, Mr. Jason Buzi continued his Hidden Cash social media “experiment” by hiding envelopes with money in Fresno’s Woodward Park. According to the Fresno Bee . . .
Thousands of people descended on Woodward Park in north Fresno—triggering a traffic jam at the park entrances—after hints began flowing on Twitter and Facebook shortly before 5:30 p.m. Some people were sniffing around in the sprawling park on instinct, however, even before the first tweeted hints.
Nearly $1,900 was hidden in various locations in the park, tucked away in envelopes and Pez candy dispensers.
Buzi, who apparently uses his own money, placed silver dollars in some envelopes and as much as $75 in currency in others. He stuffed $125 in the Pez dispensers. But Fresno was not unique. Either Mr. Buzi or one of his friends has unleashed the Hidden Cash treasure hunt from the San Francisco area to Southern California. There are plans for London, Paris, Madrid, and more! Stay alert! There may be euros and pounds joining dollars in this search for . . .
Search for what? Treasure?
Jesus’s briefest of parables (Matthew 13:44) described a different treasure hunt:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Is the kingdom of heaven like a traffic jam as people crowd into a park, probe bushes with sticks, peer under park benches and elbow and curse (and cheer) each other as they pursue a repurposed Pez dispenser?
I hope not!
In the parable found in Matthew, with its scarcity of words and abundance of faith, two odd actions occur.
The first is how it’s found. Unlike the Hidden Cash social media frenzy, the parable’s only character has no idea he or she is about to stumble over a treasure. But there it is, discovered while traveling from Point A to Point B.
In other words, the finder wasn’t seeking anything. This unsettles me. I am oriented toward setting and achieving goals. My daily spiritual disciplines will lead me closer to God. Right? If I’m conscientious about saving money, a good retirement is guaranteed. Right? If I finish an unreadable first draft of a novel (rather than fussing over each “perfect” sentence and never completing the opening chapters), I will be able to revise and publish a worthwhile story. Right?
The parable chortles at my goals, lousy or laudable.
The second action makes the first feel tame. Once the treasure was found, the finder “sells all that he has” to purchase the field.
Give up all that I have accumulated? Am I to toss my pension overboard? What about my suburban house or relatively new Subaru? And surely all only means things. Selling all for the treasure couldn’t possibly include ridding myself of old guilt or regrets or dreams or schemes . . . right?
Silly Larry, don’t take the parable so literally!
And yet I do take this parable literally. And so I usually trudge across “fields” that are loaded with treasures—seen and unseen—and continue walking. I keep walking because my goals are the priority. I keep walking because I’m afraid to stop and risk any change to my routines. I keep walking and avert my eyes in order to claim there wasn’t any treasure anywhere to be found.
But every once in a great while I find and claim Holy treasure.
What if that’s wrong?
Instead, what if (every once in a while) God’s heavenly treasure finds and claims me?
Seven years ago, I felt trapped by my full-time position as a pastor. I rarely saw my wife other than when I was exhausted. My personal time for writing, which has always felt part of my call to ministry, had vanished into church obligations and more exhaustion. On I trudged.
And, unbidden, this thought, this treasure, found me: leave church.
Trust God and re-imagine my schedule. Give up the old; get on with the new.
I still pay my mortgage. My pension remains intact. Car payments continue to own me. But a sacred, scary treasure claimed me.
How I use my time, and how God (if I can even dare suggest I have an inkling about God’s thoughts) desires me to use my time, is one of the most precious treasures.
Have there been “treasures” that “found” you?
(Photo of Pez dispensers and cash from here.)