The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, 30 July 2017
A Sermon on Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 by Samuel Zumwalt
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]
31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”… 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. 47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
[I found helpful Prof. Dr. Jim Voelz’ take on this text at http://concordiatheology.org/lalp/]
THANKFUL LIVING: PRIZING THE GIFT
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
At the beginning July, I expressed my gratitude for 13 years of service in this parish. Truthfully, we have had many more sad than happy times together, and I knew that would be so when Laura and I moved here, because so many of the saints were nearing the end of their earthly journey. There have also been shockingly painful times when two little girls, Emily and Sarah, were diagnosed with brain tumors two months apart in 2005 and then died in July 2006 and March 2007. A mother of young girls, Barbara, died in the fall of 2006 as did John, a very fit young retiree. We have lived through days, months, and years when we learned death is no respecter of ages or persons. We have also seen marriages and families break up and members leave because we would not bow down to sweeping cultural changes in the world around us.
Our mission, dear ones, is not to be successful, as the world marks success, but to be faithful to our baptismal calling as children of God. So…the summer sermon series is entitled “Thankful Living,” because that is how Christians respond to the gift of God’s Beloved Son Jesus. When someone gives you a gift, you say, “Thank you!” and demonstrate your gratitude by writing a note or by making eye contact and expressing your gratitude personally from the heart. When our heavenly Father gives us His own life through His Son Jesus, we live thankful lives!
One of the first things I noticed and appreciated about my wife in the courtship stage was her thoughtfulness, the care with which she selected cards and the words which she beautifully chose and wrote with a fountain pen in the style of calligraphy. Each gift given showed that she had listened with care or had observed closely and recognized what I liked. She would bring me a cup of Starbucks coffee or a bag of Dutch mints. Once she knew I like Ethel M’s chocolates, I received unexpectedly a box of chocolate cordials. But far more than that, the woman who became my wife recognized that I had been deeply wounded in love, and she carefully showed me I could trust her. She became my best friend. Even our discussion about where and when to marry, a conversation that stretched over two months, led to her finding the right place and time. How does one respond to such a gift? With undying love and gratitude for such a treasure!
The rule and reign of God, in Matthew “the Kingdom of heaven,” starts small like a mustard seed. The Virgin Mary said to the angel Gabriel, “Let it be so according to your Word,” and the Word began to become flesh in her womb. God’s Son and Mary’s was born in a place where animals were kept at night. Men who studied the stars came from the east searching for the infant King of the Jews. Herod the Great bristled at the notion that there could be any king but himself or his offspring, and so he tried in vain to destroy God’s King Jesus. Later, his conflicted son Herod Antipas was privy to King Jesus’ execution at Roman hands. Neither of the Herods, or those who thought themselves world powers, could understand that God was in Christ redeeming His field, the world, through the death of His Incarnate Son Jesus.
Peter would write later, and Martin Luther would repeat it in his Small Catechism, that Christ Jesus ransomed (redeemed, bought back) the world not with silver or gold but with His precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-20). The death of God’s Beloved Son Jesus, the Lamb, is enough for everyone. God wants none to be lost. That is why Jesus is the Man who finds the treasure in the field and buys it. Jesus is the Man who finds the pearl of great price and gives all He has to buy it. God did not love some of the world. Jesus did not die for some of the world. The treasure and the pearl are not some of the world. The Lord God (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit) wants none to be lost, all to be saved. And, when you understand what it cost the Lord God to buy you back from sin, death, and the old evil one, then you offer your life in gratitude. You live thankfully!
So, then, thankful living means you show that you prize the Gift of God’s dear Son to whom you were joined in the washing of Holy Baptism, where you were buried and raised with Him. You show you prize the Gift by telling everyone where they can also be joined to His saving death and resurrection. That is why Christian parents bring their children to be baptized with water in the name of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit in obedience to the Lord Jesus’ command. That is why parents keep their promises to raise their children by teaching them to observe all that God’s Son Jesus has commanded. You bring children to the services of God’s house, teach them the commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Creeds. You place in their hands the Holy Scriptures and provide for the children to be instructed in the Christian faith.
You pray daily, worship weekly, read the Bible, serve at and beyond St. Matthew’s, have spiritual friendships where you encourage one another to grow in the faith, and give generously of time, talents, and resources, because you are grateful for the Gift of God’s Beloved Son Jesus to whom you were joined in Holy Baptism. And you don’t want to miss one single opportunity to hear His Word and to receive His true Body and most precious Blood at the Lord’s Table!
If you have older children or youth who have not been baptized, it’s not too late to obey the Lord Jesus’ command. If your parents did not know or did not care enough to bring you to be baptized or to attend the services of God’s house, then you have to be reparented. You adults attend Sunday School, and make sure your children and youth are in Sunday School. You adults and older youth join the Crossways Bible Study, because you so prize God’s Gift that you become like a sponge soaking up all that you can. Following the Lord Jesus, you give yourself as completely as you are able with the help of the Holy Spirit! You die daily to yourself! You attend to how you use the words “me, my, and mine” in order to recognize whether you are dying daily to your selfish self, the old Adam or Eve, who needs to be drowned daily in baptismal waters!
An early church teacher Marcion proposed a Bible in which there was no Old Testament. The Gnostic heretics, whose thought was more Greek than Hebrew, preached a spiritual Christ who never died for the sins of the world but rather became a redeemer by teaching secret knowledge. Neither Marcion nor the Gnostics were scribes trained for the Kingdom of heaven, precisely because they ignored what was old. They did not recognize that it is impossible to know who Jesus is and what He has done without an intimate knowledge of the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible), which was the only Bible the early Church had in its infancy. For all of 2014, 2015, and all but the last four weeks of 2016, our sermons were on Old Testament texts to make that point. When you take the Crossways Bible Study, forty of the sixty units are on the Old Testament and the time just before the birth of God’s Son in human flesh. The old is good!
For the past three years, we have been saying a portion of Luther’s Small Catechism, which is nothing less than an exposition of what Holy Scripture teaches, so that, again, we learn to treasure what is old, the entire counsel of the Lord God, and not simply try to focus on the New Testament or even the surrounding culture’s fascination with what they think is new but is only the same old devil’s empty promises, the same old sin, death, and devil from which the world was redeemed by the saving death of God’s Beloved Son Jesus. Please take note again: Jesus died to redeem (to buy back, to ransom) the world from sin, death, and the devil. We Lutherans call that objective justification. Until we are baptized into the Lord Jesus’ saving death and resurrection, we have not yet been joined to His saving death. Faith, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, is nothing other than trusting the Lord Jesus with our living and daily. Faith is trusting that what God’s Son Jesus did on the cross is for me…given and shed to save me!
The vows a man and a woman make to one another on their wedding day ought to be memorized and repeated often if not daily. On significant wedding anniversaries, it is beautiful for a man and a woman to repeat publicly in the presence of earthly and church families those vows they made years before: “…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, to love and to cherish until death parts us.” Such a public witness is a reflection of the love and faithfulness Christ Jesus has for His Bride, the Church. By this, they prize the gift of each other’s life. By this, Christian spouses prize the Gift of God’s Bridegroom, His Son Jesus.
Dear ones, how will you show your gratitude for God’s Gift? How will you prize Him?
In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
©Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina USA
Bulletin Insert (see below)
Thankful Living: Prizing the Gift
“O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy, that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 618).
Matthew 13:32 “It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it…becomes a tree.”
St. Jerome (late 4th – early 5th century translator of the Latin Vulgate Bible): “They wonder whether an apostle would ask for a small faith or they doubt the Lord concerning what he has to say about small faith. Yet Paul the apostle makes an even greater comparison than faith to a grain of mustard. In fact, what does he say? ‘If I have all faith so as to move mountains, yet do not have charity, I am nothing’” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Matthew 1-13, 281).
Matthew 13:44 “Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
St. Gregory the Great (late 6th – early 7th century Bishop of Rome): “We should note that the treasure, once discovered, is hidden to protect it. It is not enough to guard our pursuit of heavenly delight from wicked spirits if we do not hide it from human praise. In this present life we are, as it were, on the road by which we proceed to our homeland. Wicked spirits lie in wait along our route like bandits. Those who carry their treasure openly on the road are asking to be robbed” (286).
Matthew 13:46 “…on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
St. Gregory the Great (late 6th – early 7th century Bishop of Rome): “In the same way, he who has a clear knowledge of the sweetness of heavenly life gladly leaves behind all the things he loved on earth. Compared with that pearl, everything else fades in value. He forsakes those things that he has and scatters those things that he has gathered. His heart yearns for heavenly things, and nothing on earth pleases him. The allure of earthly things has now dissipated, for only the brilliance of that precious pearl dazzles his mind” (287).
Matthew 13:52 “…like a master of a house…brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
St. Augustine (late 4th – early 5th century Bishop of Hippo, present day Algeria): “For if he should bring forth new things only or old things only, he is not a learned scribe in the kingdom of God presenting from his storeroom things new and old. If he says these things and does not do them, he brings them forth from his teaching office, not from the storeroom of his heart. We then say, Those things which are brought forth from the old are enlightened through the new. We therefore come to the Lord that the veil may be removed.” (291).
- In what ways does my life say to others that I prize the Triune God above all other gifts?
Table of Duties (from Martin Luther’s Small Catechism)
Certain passages of scripture for various holy orders and positions, admonishing them about their duties and responsibilities
Give to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. Matt. 22:21.
It is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also
because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants,
who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay
taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Rom. 13:5-7
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for
everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all
godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior. 1 Tim. 2:1-3
Remind the people to be subject to rules and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do
whatever is good. Titus 3:1
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the
king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do
wrong and to commend those who do right. 1 Peter 2:13-14
- Pray for every unbaptized child or adult you know and for the child’s parents, too.
- Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship.
- Discuss with your spouse, your family, or a friend why God expects Christians to be good citizens to the extent that government does not persecute Christians or try to force them to disobey God by doing evil.
- Read through these passages again daily and reflect on your experience with those who serve in government office. Which officials have been easier to respect and why? Which have not? What traits does a godly ruler have? Pray for all leaders including those who fall short of the mark.
For Husbands and Wives
Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”