Summary: A sermon that looks at the parable of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great value in light of the surrounding parables.
Do you know where the phrase “buy the farm” comes from? It is actually rather recent in its usage. It started perhaps during WWI but certainly by WWII, having been recorded only in the 1950’s. Professor Jonathan Lighter has compiled the origin in the Random House Dictionary of American Slang. It actually is an Air Force term based on some older Royal Air Force phrases, “Buy the plot” or simply “Buy it”. Obviously, it refers to a pilot whose plane crashes.
Generally, when a plane goes down the pilot tries to maneuver it away from urban areas in order to minimize collateral damage. Normally, the plane will go down in a rural area and hit someone’s farmland. Ordinarily, the farmer whose land was effected by the crash sues the government for damages, claiming that it was his most productive land that was damaged. Because of the jet fuel, the land is now permanently fallow. Therefore, the farmer sues the government for a sum far greater than the remaining mortgage so that, one could say the pilot pays for the farm with his life.
That is kind of what happens in the gospel lesson for today. A man finds something of value hidden in a field. He hides it again and then sells everything that he has in order to buy the field. That way the treasure hidden in the field belongs to him. Certainly, there is no dying that happens in the lesson, there is no damage done to the property and there is no law suit but there is a transaction that takes place and there is something of value that is given up in exchange for the field.
Before we got any farther, let’s get a little background. This teaching of Jesus follows right after the “parable of the sower”, the “parable of the tares” ,or as we might say in more modern language the “parable of the weeds”, along with the “parable of the mustard seed” and the “parable of the yeast”. We’ve heard these teachings in the last couple weeks so I won’t reread them or delve into them.
However, Jesus gives this instruction to the people and then Matthew gives to us the famous line from his gospel. “so was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet . . . “ And then he loosely quotes Psalm 78:2, “I will open my mouth in parables. I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”
The next few verses of the Psalm are instructive for us. The Psalmist writes:
What we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which He commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands. They would not be like their forefathers, - a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to Him.
That is really what this section of scripture is talking about. It is calling out to everyone, everywhere to turn to God and to trust in Him above all else. I know that we aren’t like the Israelites of old. We haven’t melted down our gold, only to make an idol out of it. We haven’t gone off and worshipped at other temples. But we struggle with our faith in our own ways. It is so easy to let other things crowd in to our lives and undermine our faith, pushing it to the back burner. Just like the seed sown along the weeds in the parable of the sower, we allow the concerns of this world to choke out our faith. We sometimes have so much going on that we don’t put the effort into the right things. It’s been true for us.
We were up against it this spring. Our lease was up and we needed to move. Our house on base was ready. We had purchased airline tickets to go to our church’s chaplain’s retreat so we only had a few days to get our household moved but the movers couldn’t handle the dates that we needed them. We checked with our landlord to see if he would allow us to extend a couple weeks. He said that he’d have to charge us a full month’s rent. That wasn’t going to work so we ended up doing a full DITY (do-it-yourself) move. Over 15,000 pounds later, all of our stuff was moved into our new house. We got on the plane, spent a great week in Jacksonville but when we returned to Kansas City, we couldn’t find our car and I spent a couple hours walking around the parking garage trying to find it.