Sunday, October 17, 2010

Initial refelctions on a faith worth owning and Jesus parable of 'The Pearl Of Great Price'

44 "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 and bought that field.

45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Matthew 13:44-46

I’m involved in a church plant in Auckland city called StudentSoul at the moment I’m on a vision quest working with others to find what is at the heart of what we want to be as a church and community.

In an early discussion in one of our worship on Wednesday meetings (we’ve become fourth day Adventists and meet for worship on Wednesday evenings) I was working through some of the features of the young adult stage of life. I was talking about the process of individualisation, becoming an autonomous adult and in particular the process of owning one’s own faith. The process that late teens and twenty something’s go through to develop their own faith over and against the faith of their community and family, either finding that existing faith, worldview, value system is for them and gives them meaning and purpose for life or discarding it and finding something new. In what was one of those ‘aha’ moments of clarity one of the people present said ‘I’d like to have a faith worth owning’. That really struck home and you could almost feel the sense of collective agreement yes we would all like that. Yes we would all like to have something that at our very core gave us reason and purpose for life, something worth living for and even something worth giving it all up for.

Since that time we’ve tentatively flirted with saying we are a church that is about helping people find a faith worth owning. I’ve tried to expand on that and say for us a faith worth owning is a Christ centred faith, a faith worth living out and a faith worth sharing together and with the world outside our small community. But in what has developed as a sense of divine coincident as I have been working through a process with a friend to clarify my sense of vision and leading I have also been reworking an old sermon and made reference to Jesus parable of the pearl of great price and the treasure buried in a field, and this has helped to clarify my thinking or at least blown the horizons of my thoughts.

So this is just an attempt to articulate some of my thoughts (to get some clarity). Jesus wants people to have a faith worth owning as well. He tells these two very short parables in Matthew 13 as part of a wider section of parables about the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’. He says that it is like a pearl of great value that a merchant sees and then is prepared to give up all they owns to possess it. Likewise it is like a person who goes out and finds a buried treasure in a field and then sells all he possesses and buys the field so they can possess the treasure.

Perhaps here is the difference between owning your own faith and finding a faith worth owning. It’s the degree in which you are willing to give up everything to own it. It’s finding something of surpassing value, surpassing worth that all else seems to pale into insignificance in the light of it. It’s something that you are willing to empty yourself for and that fills you up. That in coming to possess possesses you. Jesus is saying that the reign of God is such a pearl such a buried treasure, Jesus is that treasure, that pearl . This is at the heart of what discipleship means Peter in Mark 10 says ‘But Jesus we’ve given up everything to follow you”, later Paul will give an account of all the benefits he had as a Jewish man and a Pharisee and then say in Philippians 3:8 I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things...’

As I reflect I think this is an ongoing process, Giving up all we have to possess the pearl of Great price. Maybe we’ve seen it as a simple one off transaction like in an auction put your hand up and come get it ...but I find myself asking myself have I given up everything to possess the kingdom of God?

Being a church that is a place and a space where people can find a faith worth owing is being on a journey to give up all we have for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, for the sake of surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ.

It is a challenging endeavour because it invites us to look more and more closely at the personification of the reign of God in Jesus Christ and an invitation to put him more and more at the centre of our existence.

It is a community endeavour, because by myself I’m not sure I can do it, i need people on the journey with me to help and support and be part of that emptying myself to be filled with God.

One of the dangers I think of talking about owning ones faith is that the people whom Jesus seemed to be most upset with were not the people outside of faith but those who thought they owned the faith and could say who was in and who was out. The people who took great delight in saying I’ve arrived I’ve found it. But in Jesus parable there is something almost weird about the actions of someone who would sell everything they own just to possess one thing, it is as if instead of saying I own it, it is more that they are captivated and owned by the kingdom of heaven.

Having a faith worth owning in Jesus language calls for so much more than a belief system that fits in with a comfortable western lifestyle, more than a add on, or even a large part of one s life but something that in demands everything.

In the world of my favourite hymn ‘When I Survey The Wondrous Cross”

“love so amazing love divine

Demands my life my soul my all”

A faith worth owning is one worth giving up all to possess.

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