Christ Lutheran Church
July 30, 2023
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
“Have you understood all these things?" They said to him, “Yes.” So he said to them, "Therefore every scribe schooled in the Reign of Heaven is like a man in charge of a house who brings out of his treasure both new things and old." (Mt. 13:52)
There are many elements that comprise Christian worship! We confess our sins, receive absolution from the pastor as if from God himself. We chant God’s Word in the Introit, we offer God our highest adulation in the canticles we sing such as the Gloria, the Sanctus, the Benedictus and the Nunc Dimittis. We also gladly hear and learn Scripture as it is read aloud, and taught in the sermon. We bring offerings to God which he returns to us multiplied – not in quantity but in quality. We give him bread and wine, and returns to us as the very Body and Blood of Christ: for the remission of ours sins, life and salvation.
But there is another element in our worship that deserves special mention, and that is to hear the Lord’s parables and listen attentively as they are unfolded by the church’s teachers.
When the Lord set out to explain the Kingdom of Heaven to sin-darkened humanity he did it in 27 parables. 27 earthly stories with a heavenly meaning! Luke’s gospel contains 16; Mark has 4; John has none at all; and Matthew has 7 – all of which we heard in the last three weeks, today included.
How important are parables to our enlightenment? A thousand years before the Word was Made Flesh and dwelt among us King David prophesied that Jesus would speak in parables! A thousand years later his prophecy was fulfilled as we heard in last week’s gospel where St. Matthew informs us that Jesus, “said nothing to them without a parable.” And today, 2,000 years after that! Jesus is still up to the same.
He still imparts God’s mind to us, and a reliable glimpse into the humanity’s future. He teaches us things that are otherwise unknowable, that no one could twig in a thousand years.
The latest cultural fad is AI (artificial intelligence). The media – whose job it is to keep people afraid at all times and in all places – loves to predict how in a short time we will all become slaves of a race of merciless and cruel robots. They paint sci-fi pictures that people love to gobble up. Will it happen? Maybe. But be sure of this, Oh Christian! AI does not even register a blip on God’s radar, nor should it worry you because “nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
If anything AI should remind Christians of Psalm 2 where David aims his slingshot at anyone who thinks he will compete with God,
“He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.” (Ps. 2:4)
But AI cannot teach us about the Kingdom of Heaven which is not only a place, but also a status or condition. The term “Kingdom of Heaven” might better be translated “The Administration of Heaven.” Now that would be something to see, wouldn’t it? We speak this way of presidents: the Biden Administration or the Trump Administration or the storied Kennedy Administration.
And so the Kingdom of Heaven, if we may, is the “Jesus Administration” and it is like nothing you have ever dreamed. It makes no sense AT ALL except to the “scribe” who has been schooled in the Lord’s parables.” You are that scribe. That lover of Scripture. AI knows nothing about it. Can tell you anything about it.
But the Lord’s parables do; and so we must take the time to hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them.” Let’s do that now.
In the first of today’s parables there is man who is not particularly looking for anything, but lo and behold he finds a “treasure” that fills him with sheer joy! Now the land that contained the treasure was not his own and so he covered up the treasure, went away, and sold all that he had to obtain this inestimable prize.
And there are two ways we can understand this, both are right. A baby brought for baptism is looking for nothing. A person who stumbles upon the precious gospel because his friend, or fiancé brings him to church was looking for nothing. But when the person begins to understand the peace of God which surpasses understanding, then he rejoices with great joy, and begins to live for Christ and Christ alone; putting out the old, and bringing in the new..
We could also see this parable in a different light. We are the treasure buried in the earth. Man, made “of dust from the ground,” found by Jesus. Who then goes and sells all that HE has. Who empties himself and takes on the form of a servant, and becomes obedient unto death, even the ghastly, monstrous death of the cross – all for the joy of winning us to be his Bride.
Could AI think of that?
Could Steven Hawking or Steven King?
We can do the same interpretation with the parable of the Pearl of Great Price. Here we have a man on the hunt for precious pearls, and when he finds one like nothing he’s ever seen he takes no chances, he doesn’t negotiate a better price. But goes out and sells all that he has and pays the required price. A price of unimaginable sorrow so that we “might be his own, and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, even as he is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.”
And as stated above we can think of Jesus as the Pearl of Great price.
“Jesu joy of man’s desire.”
“Jesus priceless treasure,
font of purest pleasure,
truest friend to me.”
And for the love of him we too are willing to “sell all that we have and give to the poor and come and follow him” wherever he might lead: unafraid and unfazed whatever the cost.
Could AI think of that?
Could Taylor Swift, or Tom Cruise?
And then there is the parable about the dragnet. In it the “fishers of men” gather every kind of fish there is: some good some shoddy. Some, that is, who are happy to be in the Lord’s net, and others who would as soon destroy a stained glass window as humble themselves before God. We can’t tell who is who at this time, but at the end of the age the angels of God will do a binary separation.
Binary we say!
Those that are kept for the Kingdom because of their humility and faith in Christ, and those who are tossed into the “fiery furnace where there is only wailing and grinding of teeth,” never to be heard from again.
Could AI think of that?
Could Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg?
No, only the Lord’s parables can sort, such things as these.
There is one other thing about parables: while they teach they do it with mystery. And that is good because divine mystery is a required nutrient for a sound mind. If you doubt it think about all the irrational and illogical people in the world who don’t know their right hand from their left: and ask what they are missing. It is not education or opportunity. They are missing divine mystery, the Lord’s parables, to occupy and develop their minds and hearts so that they might know,
“what is the breadth and length
and height and depth and to
know the love of Christ that
that they may be filled
with all the fullness of God.”
And contrary to the title Concordia Publishing House put on Luther’s incomparable Small Catechism, there is no such thing as a “Simple Explanation of Christianity.”
And now that we are schooled in the Kingdom of Heaven O fellow Scribes let us rejoice like the man who found the treasure, merchant who bought the Pearl, and the fish who are pulled out from the depths of despair, by the net of God. Amen