Sunday 26 July 2020 Message Supplement: “Fantastic Spiritual Investment”

There’s advancing on two fronts today, covering the lectionary selections from Romans 8:26-39 and Matthew13:31-33, 44-52.

In Romans, Paul wrote about how God’s Spirit has helped people with their prayers. This suggests that the Holy Spirit acts as an intermediary between individuals and God. It is all quite a mystery, but it seems that the very essence of God connects with each person’s spirit.

Then Paul writes one of the most popular verses in the Bible, Romans 8:28: “. . . all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” This verse is a marvelous reassurance that God will be there offering a way forward despite challenges. A faithful person’s love for God and God’s love for each of us means that troubles are not the last word.

Suffering can have a redemptive aspect in that even during distresses there are lessons to be learned and strength to be gained. Your part is to trust God and propel yourself forward with positive attitudes and behavior. Paul asserted that suffering needn’t separate people from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35), hence nothing can break the bonds of divine love. This is a wonderful message, especially appropriate given that Paul was originally writing to persecuted Christians in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire.

Today’s people of faith can draw the same consolation from Paul’s writing as did his ancient audience; suffering remains as real as ever. God’s essence is love, and because of this you can claim the greatest power in the universe.  It isn’t easy to keep God’s promises in mind while in the midst of disruptions and distractions. Yet as you remain faithful, God will help you gain the victory over any situation you face.

You can summarize Paul’s message by proclaiming God’s magnificent love, which stands above all else and will ultimately carry God’s followers beyond death. This is a fantastic promise. Realize that in the minutiae of life you can miss or overlook God’s presence. People are under duress and become sick, distractions are everywhere, and lastly humans are not spared physical death. Despite all this, the power of God’s love will build the bridge between this life and the next. It is up to you to willingly cross that bridge built over troubled waters.

Now consider the scripture selection in Matthew. Central here is Jesus’ use of a series of metaphors comparing the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed, yeast, hidden treasure, a gem merchant, and finally a large net. That’s a bunch of comparisons, all of which variously emphasize how valuable is existence in God’s eternal care. Your part is to muster the attitudes and actions which will activate God’s power in your life.

The initial metaphor Jesus offered was that of comparing God’s kingdom to a tiny mustard seed, which represents how even a slight amount of faith can grow to become a huge plant. Similar to a miniscule seed, faith seems obscure or hidden until witnessing its mighty effects. The next metaphor Jesus offered was that of faith compared with yeast, which causes food to rise to a volume beyond the small amount of yeast initially added to a recipe. Seeds and yeast are tiny, but their hidden power becomes known because of their powerful presence.

Jesus then turned to a set of kingdom metaphors, the first of which began with a treasure-seeker, who bought a piece of land knowing that something of great value was hidden in the property. Akin to this is when Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a precious gem, a pearl that a clever merchant purchased because of its desirability. In all these analogies, the kingdom of heaven is equated to economic value, like a superb investment, such that people should save-up and make a wise decision to follow God in order to obtain the richness of a fulfilling life.

Jesus’ final example was that of describing the kingdom of heaven as a net holding many fish. Sadly, some of the fish caught in that net were deemed bad, so much so that they were destined to be cast into a fire by angels and burned. The image of baked fish is easier to take than a roasted person but it is this latter, horrific image of human suffering that the text emphasizes. Yes, the kingdom of heaven can be a severe, sobering topic. The positive angle is that everyone is invited to emphasize the positive, constructive aspect, that of managing your life in a manner that produces spiritual richness from God’s love and truth.

Another take-away from Jesus’ kingdom of heaven discussion is that you are invited to invest in your future because it is a sure bet that you’ll produce more than just earthly treasure. The return on your spiritual investment is not only in the future but also in the present, through a life of wellbeing and fulfillment. Are you planning your future?  What are you investing in and can you count on an excellent return?

Greater than real estate, collectibles, Roth IRAs, a 401(k) and all other financial instruments and stock markets is your heavenly account, which is the only thing left on your spiritual balance sheet when you make your final check-out from earth. Make a fantastic investment now and God will take care of the rest. No Covid-19 viral pandemic or economic disaster will wipe your heavenly account. Instead, God’s abiding love preserves your life and offers an absolutely stellar return on your spiritual investment. Now that’s an unbeatable deal!

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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