Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone.

5th Sunday Pentecost

 

  1. Pentecost 5.17 “Pirate’s Treasure” Matt. 11:25-30

“What things?” Would be my question (since I’m a man who starts with “What”). “What things has the Father hidden from the wise and understanding and revealed to little children, Jesus?” Context helps. Basically, it’s all the things we’ve been hearing from Jesus to His apostles the last several weeks—that they are sent out like sheep in the midst of wolves, that they face hardship, mockery, suffering, persecution, outward failures a plenty, as the world judges such things, trials before kings and emperors, cross and death for the sake of Christ’s Name, but in the midst of these things (these dark, cross-shaped things) the life and power and joy of Christ Jesus is revealed in them, discovered and enjoyed eternally by them. Those things…

In chapter 10, Jesus tells the 12 these things as He sends them out, promising them that even though they will be hated by all for having these things, He will love them and confess them as His own before the Father’s throne in heaven. And that will make all the tears, all the rejection, all the woes worthwhile. “Trust Me on this,” Jesus says. He says the same thing in chapter 11 about John the Baptist and his sufferings and trials, saying John is the Elijah (who had very few friends and thought he was the only faithful Israelite left in his day) who is to come and they said to him “we played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” And no, the sent ones of Christ never do dance to the tune the world pipes. Liturgical dance is simply not our thing. This is a liturgical dance free zone, the true Church of Christ Jesus. And thank God for that, right?

These are the things Jesus has just said when He thanks the Father for hiding these things from the wise and understanding and revealing them to little children. As an excursus, I think “little children” here is not referring merely to chronological age. I think for Jesus, it is as with the old saying: “You’re only young once, but you can be immature forever.” I hear our long suffering office manager complain that Russell and I are way too in touch with our 13-year old selves. I’m fairly sure she’s just kidding, right? Well, about me at least. The Gospel is for kids from 2 to 102. I think so. And I use this passage (a lot!) to back it up…

Because the wise and understanding, well… Jesus just never really expects much from them or gets much from that crowd in the way of praise, worship, and joy. The wise and understanding are baffled by Jesus, from the time He flummoxed them in the temple when He was just a 12 year old boy Himself, to His cryptic little parables, to His sermons in John’s Gospel on Baptism (chpt. 3) and the Supper (chpt. 6), not to mention His little excursus on hedge fund managers (chpt. 2), whom He chased out of His house with a whip He made Himself—an artisanal whip. The irony is only hedge fund managers could afford to purchase (and would purchase) the actual whip if the genuine (authenticated) article turned up at Sotheby’s for sale. Ponder that a while…

Yes, the wise and understanding (as the world counts such things, who dominate university economics departments, the book review columns of the New Yorker, Times, and Paris Review, as well as the Wall Street trading desks) they have hardly had much use for Jesus; by and large, they’ve never really got Him. The things of the cross, the things of loyalty and faith and preferring noble death to ignominious compromise with the world, the joy of Narnia (I mean the Kingdom of Christ) compared to “the real world”—the wise and understanding have never really gone in for these things, whole hog. They seem hidden, concealed for them, a treasure in a field they never do discover…

But one has to say that the things of the Kingdom are hidden in plain sight. It’s why the childlike find them and delight in them so much. They are indeed hidden, but marked with a big X, like on a pirate’s treasure map, that any fairly astute 13 year old child could not only find, but would delight in the hunt beyond measure! And to get to use a pirate’s map, to search a bit, and to find that X indeed marks the spot, well; it makes you feel like Indiana Jones—and is there a better feeling in the world? Not if you’re in touch with your inner 13-year old, there is not…

And when you realize the X is literally the cross of Jesus Christ, well; it only increases your joy. The world’s Story (as told by God!) turns out to be very, very much like Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and while the wise and sophisticated of the world find that a disappointment, there are a few of us who find it cause for much joy. Secretly, we always hoped Reality would be more like “Treasure Island” than like the latest issue of “The Economist”, haven’t we? I have!

Yes, the things of the Kingdom are hidden in pretty plain sight. That’s the best hiding place, really—any fan of detective and adventure stories will attest. I get weary of reading all the scholarly commentary about the Gospel, about how Israel would not have expected a King like Jesus, who was outwardly humble, meek, a surfer dude with a scruffy retinue, more like the gang from Scooby-Doo than an ancient despot with a huge Assyrian-type army. They talk a lot about the offense of the Gospel and how unlikely it would be for any Israelite to be looking for a King like Jesus, who is outwardly poor, humble, careless

But, if you actually read the Bible (and it is a good read, so much like an adventure tale right out of Stevenson!) you will see what every child-like reader, who is not too fully grown-up, sees with delight: the pages of the Old Testament are littered with clues and pointers to Jesus! David was the boy king who killed a giant when he was a skinny kid with a slingshot. And David said his power was not conventional, was not his own, but was magical-realist, divine, supernatural, the power of the Word of God that comes only as a gift to the childlike, to those divinely made capable of a little bit of wonder, love, and awe—to those who will believe without asking too many grown-up questions that just spoil the fun.

Isaiah told us He would be a suffering servant, wounded for our iniquities. David foretells how He will be pierced by savage men, killed, and raised up by God for our salvation. And the prophets are all pretty clear that in the midst of war, pestilence, and terror, the treasure of the Kingdom is hidden in Flanders Field, out in no-man’s land, to be found by those who care more for the Treasure than for their safety, and will be thrilled to find it even as the rockets whistle above their heads, like fireworks on the Fourth…

Anyone in touch with their inner 13-year old loves fireworks, gets Jesus, sees how much hardship, boredom, and plain stupidity the adults have loaded up our world with. We are already sick and tired of it, and longing for the Kingdom that anyone with a bit of imagination can see is so much better than this!

And so Jesus says, the Gospel in a nutshell: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden; and I will give you rest.” And He does. Yoked to His cross, X marking the spot, the Treasure is hidden in plain sight for us today—Gospel Word, Sacraments; and Peace surpassing understanding guards our 13-year old hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Services

Advent Vespers –

Wednesday, 15 December 7:00 p.m.

17  December 2017

3rd Sunday Advent

8:30 Matins

11:00 Divine Service with Communion

9:45 – Sunday School and Adult Bible class

Classes for ages 3 and up

Advent Vespers – Wednesdays – 7:00 p.m.

December 6, 13, 20

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service – DS w/Comm

7:00 p.m  24 December 2017

Christmas Day Service – DS w/Communion

11:00 a.m.  25 Christmas 2017

Location

Our Savior Lutheran Church is a confessional Lutheran church in Raleigh, North Carolina, belonging to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We are located at: 1500 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27608.

For directions, use 742 Nash Street, Raleigh.