- Good morning (evening); everyone.

o And thank you for joining us in order to worship our God! Once again.

 I hope that the Lord will indeed; be with us in this place.

 And that God will minister to each  of our hearts and minds; Today.

- Over past couple of weeks; we’ve been spending some time 

o In the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 13:

 Where Jesus gives us: a long series of parables 

 About the “Kingdom of Heaven.”

 OR—“The Kingdom of God.”

o The Gospels tell us that Jesus went around preaching & teaching 

 About: the Kingdom.

 And he often did it—through the means; of stories.

 Like the ones found in Matthew 13.

- We’ve already looked at the story; of the sower:

o Who goes out to “sow” some seed…

 That famous parable tells us about the Lord God;

 Who plants “his word” into us;

o And the Lord’s word is trustworthy & sure 

 To find the good soil…

 That is hiding inside; of every person.

- We’ve also looked at the story; of “the farmer” whose field begins to grow:

o Both “wheat” and “weeds.”

o And I reminded us: that “our job” is not 

 To “weed” the Lord’s field; on God’s behalf.

o But in fact; our job is to learn  how to become “patient” instead.

 Our job is to extend grace rather than judgement.

 To hope for best; rather than assuming the worst 

 About other people.

- Today (tonight); we’re going to move on 

o Towards several more; of Jesus’s parables.

 Strangely enough 

 The further we move into Matthew 13;

 The shorter the stories become.

- Today, we’ll be reading verses 31-35, 44-46, & 51-52;

o Giving us a broad selection of stories..

o We’ll also “look” at the book of Philippians; Chapter 3.

 And read a portion from there  as well.

 The Bible tells us (in Matthew 13)…

- (That) Jesus told them another parable!

o The kingdom of heaven is like  a mustard seed.

 Which a man took; and planted into his field.

 Though it is the smallest of all seeds;

 Yet when it grows  it become the largest of garden plants;

 And becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch upon its branches.

- He told them still another parable:

o The kingdom of heaven is like yeast 

 That a woman took and mixed—into about sixty pounds of flour;

 Until it worked its way all through the dough…

- Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd—in parables.

o He did not say anything to them; without using a parable.

 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:

 I will “open” my mouth in parables.

 And I will utter things hidden—since the creation of the world.

- (Jesus went on)

o The “kingdom of heaven” is like treasure—hidden; in a field.

 When a man found it, he hid it  again;

 And then in his joy—went and sold all he had!

 In order to “buy” that field.

- Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant  looking for fine pearls.

o When he found one of great value!

 He went away and sold everything he had;

 In order to “buy” that pearl.

- “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.

o “Yes,” they replied.

o And so he said to them:

 Therefore every teacher of the law—who has become a disciple;

 In the kingdom of heaven.

 Is like the owner of a house; who brings out of his storeroom 

 Both new treasures as well as the old…

- (Turning now) to the book of Philippians; Chapter 3.

o Starting in the second half of verse 4…

 The Apostle Paul writes to us.

- If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh;

o Then I have more!

 Circumcised on the eighth day; of the people of Israel 

 Of the tribe of Benjamin. A Hebrew among Hebrews!

 In regards to the Law; I was a Pharisee!

 As for zeal—I persecuted the church.

 And as for righteousness based on the law  I was faultless.

- But whatever were gains to me (then).

o I now consider loss—for the sake of gaining Christ.

 What is more, I consider everything a loss!

 Because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus—my Lord 

 For whose sake I have lost all things.

o I consider them garbage!

 So I might instead  gain Christ.

 And be found in him;

 Not having a “righteousness” of my own that comes from the law;

 But that which is through faith—in Christ.

 The righteousness that comes from God; on the basis of faith.

- I want to know Christ—yes 

o To know the power of his resurrection!

 And to participate in his sufferings;

 Becoming like him  even in his death.

- And so, somehow, I might attain: the resurrection of the dead.

o Not that I have already obtained all this;

o Nor have I already arrived at my goal.

 But I press on to take hold of that 

 For which Christ Jesus took hold of me

- Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet 

o To have taken hold of it.

 But one thing I do:

 Forgetting what is behind and looking forward 

 To what lies ahead.

o I press on towards the goal to win the prize!

 For which God has called me—heavenward(s);

 In Christ Jesus [my Lord].

- Thanks be to God—for these Scriptures.

o Given to us, this morning (evening).

 In the name of Christ we pray;

 Amen.

- My friends:

o I think that it’s actually quite astounding!

o When you get right down to it.

 (To think) that the God of all creation!

 Of Heaven & Earth; and all the cosmos.

 And everything beyond…

o The God who can answer the question—behind “every mystery.”

 That we humans encounter 

 And many more besides.

o The God of all truth and knowledge;

 OF wisdom & understanding…

- (That God) came to us in the person  of Jesus Christ.

o And he told us—stories.

 Stories about things that have been hidden 

 Since the creation of the world!

 According to Matthew;

- And those stories that Jesus told us:

o Are stories about farming…

o And making bread!

 They’re about birds; and seeds; and tees.

 Stories about “fields” and “pearls.”

 And old treasures—as well as the new.

- I wonder if these stories; are about such simple and mundane things:

o Because Jesus intentionally chose—to tell us about “divine truth.”

 Through the use of ordinary imagery…

- Or if divine truth is so “rich” and so “deep.”

o That it can only be truly described;

o Through the use—of stories…

- I actually “doubt” that the images used in Matthew 13 

o Are themselves—especially holy or spiritual:

o At least; as opposed to any other!

 “Everyday images”—that Jesus might have chosen to use.

 But something about their character;

 About the way that Jesus uses them  reveals—the divine.

- I’m reminded of a story shared by the author: Madeleine L'Engle.

o Who once told of a young woman  who came to one of her lectures;

 Madeleine wrote the famous children’s novel;

 “A Wrinkle in Time”—published in 1963.

 Which contains many Christian themes and spiritual insights.

o The “young lady” in question came to one of Madeleine’s lectures and said:

 I read A Wrinkle in Time when I was about 8 or 9 

 And I didn’t understand it!

 But I knew  what it was about.

- The “young woman” at Madeleine’s lecture described the kind spiritual impact;

o A story  can have.

 That gut level—sort of understanding.

 That expands our “spirituality.”

 Even if we don’t know  exactly; what’s going.

- I think that stories in Matthew 13 work much the same way;

o Especially—the short ones!

 We can describe what’s happening in the story:

 But it’s up to “you” and the Holy Spirit—to grasp; the Lord has to say.

- (Jesus tells us; in Matthew 13) That the Kingdom of God is like—a seed;

o Planted into the ground…

 Although it might seem “small” and “inconsequential” today.

 The Kingdom of God has potential! To become—extraordinary.

 And when the Kingdom of Heaven flourishes on this Earth;

 All people—like birds; will flock and find rest  upon its branches.

- The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast—mixed into some dough;

o We don’t always see it 

o And we don’t even always know—that it’s there!

 But as the Kingdom of God works its way; into us 

 Pushing & pulling—like kneading some dough;

 It has the power to completely change  the substance; of who we are.

o It’s like a chemical reaction; that creates something new.

- The stories of Jesus tell us that the “Kingdom of God” is not like  an Earthly nation.

o It has no boundaries or political parties.

 The Kingdom has no single language or single human culture.

 The Kingdom of God does not expand;

 Through the “conquering power” of emperors or kings.

o But instead; the Kingdom of God grows 

 Through the “ordinary” acts—of holiness.

 Through God’s people.

- The Kingdom of God is not some “distant” or “weird” and far off—place.

o But it’s actually something intimately normal!

 Something woven into the fabric of who we are.

 Something that gives us purpose and meaning;

 If we have the eyes and the ears—to see it.

- I think that’s what Jesus means when says that the Kingdom is like treasure;

o Hidden—in a field.

o Or a pearl; of great value!

 Whenever we catch a glimpse; of what the Holy Spirit is doing 

 Or we feel the “presence of Christ”—moving us:

 In new directions.

 The Kingdom—demands our attention.

- The Apostle Paul described it like a “heavenward call” upon his life.

o The presence of Jesus gave him focus.

o And it moved him forward.

 Without Christ; nothing had value for Paul.

 He went so far as to say (that) everything else is garbage…

 In comparison—to “knowing” Christ.

- Paul’s words might sound extreme; to our “modern ears.”

o And even to his original audience 

o He would have sounded shocking!

- He might have sounded like a zealot 

o An extremist! That no one; reasonable—could imitate.

 Except that Paul himself said:

 That he didn’t consider himself; to have obtained anything 

 That’s beyond the rest of you.

o He said: I haven’t taken hold of the prize; yet!

 NOR do I consider myself—especially “holy.”

 In fact; I’ve given up on the entire idea of earning “righteousness” 

 Through the flesh

 God has completely turned the scales!

 Of what has value and worth for me—upside-down;

- Instead; Paul argued  that only—through the “presence of Christ.”

o Did he actually gain; the strength & the fire to—keep running!

 Jesus himself  became “the source” that gave Paul his fuel:

 His energy; his passion…

- The Kingdom of God created “a miracle” in Paul.

o Whereas he was once trapped; within the realm of his own self-confidence.

 A Pharisee and a zealot  persecuting the church.

 A leader; earning respect—through his actions.

- Nevertheless—Paul found; that the worth  earned by his work;

o Was worthless!

o In comparison to value; of knowing Christ—himself.

- Every human is born with a certain spiritual hunger 

o A desire to be “fed” by God; instead of ourselves.

o A desire to be held by the hands of Christ.

 We might understand it—as a “longing.”

 A desire that we’re born with; that seems to have no satisfaction.

- Our careers and our families 

o Our homes; and our hobbies.

 They might offer some taste of it.

 But “something” is missing…

- Many of us—have often overlooked the “treasure” in our own field.

o The pearl of “great price” seems too costly [or] too strange.

- We might think:

o (That) becoming a disciple of God is—more of a hobby;

o It’s not really my profession…

 This “religious stuff” happens at church!

 And that’s it likes to stay…

 It doesn’t follow me home.

- But God would rather that we find out  that “The Kingdom of God” lives everywhere.

o That God’s purpose is woven into us 

 From very young to the very old.

 From the beginning; to the end.

- He said to them:

o A disciple in the kingdom of heaven—is like the owner of a house!

 Who brings out of their storeroom 

 Both new treasures—as well as the old.

- The kingdom of God is wonderfully diverse;

o The promises of Christ; have no beginning and no end.

o (Because) they are forever!

 But at the center of everything  is Christ; our king.

 The rule and reign of God draws our entire world; together.

 And the Kingdom “exists” in the ordinary and the everyday;

 As much is it exists in the heavenly direction;

 That God has called us towards.

- God has set out a goal for each of us  to know Christ; and to be changed.

o Forgetting what is behind and moving straight ahead!

 The Apostle Paul says;

 I am striving to obtain that prize!

o I pray that you will all join me—in this journey; to the Kingdom.

 That Christ will “satisfy” our every need;

 And change the ordinary  into the holy.

- May God reveal the Kingdom to us  today.

- If you would join me in prayer this morning (evening).

o O Gracious & Mighty God!

 We believe that we are made 

 To become your Kingdom people.

o O Christ; we pray that you will give to us:

 Both eyes to see and ears to hear—what your Kingdom is doing.

 I pray that we will “follow” your lead.

 And press on towards the goal  that you!

 Have called us towards.

- Create in us a clean heart 

o O God, we pray:

o In the name of Jesus Christ;

 Amen.