The Hidden Value of God’s Kingdom

Jul 30, 2023

9th Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Pastor Jean M. Hansen
     Picnic day has arrived! We certainly will miss Art and Sarah’s creative announcements reminding us that this day of fun and fellowship was on the horizon. Even if you did not sign up; please stay! There will be plenty of food and you won’t want to miss the Kona Ice truck.
     First though, let’s focus again on the parables of Jesus. He is teaching his followers – the crowds, the disciples and, by extension, us, in stories that use common images to convey a deeper truth. He used this method because, in part, his preaching in Galilee was met with hostility and rejection. Using parables kept him out of trouble, but also communicated about God, God’s will and God’s ways.
     In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus often made comparisons: sinners who are like lost sheep, the word of God that is like a seed sown on different kinds of ground, the Kingdom of Heaven that is like a wedding feast. In today’s verses, Jesus offers several comparisons. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, like yeast, like a buried treasure, like a fine pearl, like a net cast into the sea. While these images may seem quite different, Pastor Barabara Brown Taylor writes that there is one thing that’s strikingly similar about them. They all feature hiddenness.
     “The mustard seed is hidden in the ground; the yeast is hidden in the dough; the treasure is hidden in the field; the pearl is hidden among other pearls and the net is hidden in the depths of the sea. If the kingdom is like these, then it is not something readily apparent to the eye, but something worth searching for, something just beneath the surface waiting to be discovered.” (1)
     Before we go any further, we probably should clarify the term Kingdom of Heaven. We often think of it as a future reality that will fully come when Jesus returns, and it is that. But the Kingdom of Heaven also is a present reality. I like what Dallas Willard wrote in The Divine Conspiracy: “…the Kingdom of God is present any place and every place where the influence of Jesus’ living presence determines the shape of life. Wherever and whenever Jesus’ wisdom, Jesus’ wit, Jesus’ savvy, Jesus’ words and Jesus’ love mold the words, actions, thoughts and life patterns of some person or group, then there is where God’s kingdom is manifest.” (2)
     That means the Kingdom of Heaven is here, now. It is like a mustard plant that grows rapidly from a miniscule seed which is hidden in the ground but becomes a 12-foot-high shrub that provides shelter, has curative properties and is an invasive weed, not easily eliminated. It is also like yeast which is hidden in three measures of flour, unseen, yet has the potential to create 40 or more loaves of nourishing bread. In both cases, out of something small, hidden comes dramatic transformation.
     As commentator John T. Carroll writes, “The parable intimates that the world is being re-made, God’s reign is at work, even when it doesn’t appear to be so. It is up to the church (followers of Jesus) to bear witness to that work of God, and to embody the transformation in its (their) own life and practices.” (3)
     After sharing these two comparisons with the crowd, Jesus speaks only to his closest followers, telling them that the Kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone finds and then hides again in order to sell all and buy the field. It is also like a merchant who is on the lookout for beautiful pearls, chances upon an extraordinary one, and the sells everything in order to purchase that one-of-a-kind pearl. The message is that God’s one-of-a-kind Kingdom is so valuable that it deserves complete commitment and sacrifice, even if the value is at times difficult to discern.
     Remember, those who are first hearing these parables have left homes, family and professions to follow Jesus. Perhaps these words are intended to assure them that being Jesus’ disciples is worth the sacrifice.
     The final parable about the fish in a net reflects last week’s parable about weeds in the wheat. Good and evil exist together in this world. The time will come when it is sorted out, and whatever does not belong in the Kingdom of God will be dealt with. Thankfully, though, that’s not in our hands, nor up for our commentary. What is in our hands is to impact the world, bit by bit, in ways that do not appear powerful, or flashy, but like yeast and mustard seeds, have a big impact. That’s because, quoting Chelsy Harmon, the kingdom can change hearts. It can change the world. It has changed the world. (4)
      As I reflect on the ministries of our congregation, and the serving that is done by those who gather here, I know that there are many, many examples of the world being re-made, God’s reign at work, even when it doesn’t appear to be so. This week, as I looked at the photos on the bulletin board across from the Outreach Office, it was obvious how that happened during the Ohio Mission Trip of the week before last.
     God’s reign was at work in every project that was done and every interaction that occurred. It was perhaps most obvious at the wheelchair ramp site, which often is the case. (The Ohio Mission Team from our congregation has built 15 ramps during the past 16 years.) This year we all met the recipient, whose mobility is severely compromised, because members of Mt. Zion Lutheran Church brought him to the potluck meal they hosted for us. (That church allows us to use their building and grounds as “home base”, which is yet another example of mustard-seed ministry – we could not do what we do if they did not do what they do. That’s also true of the Faith Endowment and all of you who support this ministry in a variety of ways.)
     Back to the recipient of this year’s ramp - T. faces many challenges; a very practical one is being able to leave his trailer home safely. At the potluck, speaking through an electrolarynx due to the loss of his voice box, he thanked us for our impact on his life; his words were few, but touched the hearts of everyone there. For him, the mustard seed of faith had flourished into a tree – a ramp – of safety and community.
     The fact of the matter is that the “hidden” Kingdom of Heaven is in plain view. It’s hidden not in some exotic place, but in the ordinary circumstances of our everyday lives. It may not be readily apparent. Yet, that’s how the Kingdom comes; and it’s worth the commitment because its value cannot be measured. AMEN
  1. “Sermon for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost” by the Rev. Canon Todd D. Smelser, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52, July 27, 2008, The Cathedral of St. Philip,
  2. “Commentary on Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52” by Chelsey Harmon, July 30, 2023,
  3. “Commentary on Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52” by John T. Carroll,
  4. Same as #2