Yet there are some things that we can understand from these parables. If there is a word that stands out from the text today, it is ‘treasure’- the treasure hidden in a field; the treasure that is the pearl of great price; the householder’s treasure both old and new. Each of us will have our own associations around the word ‘treasure’. You might like to allow some of them to come to mind now. What is it that you ‘treasure’- an object, a place, a person, a memory? Some of mine are quite random – my mother’s rolling pin, the memory of a significant phone call, the sight of the first yellow aconite after a long British winter. You might like prayerfully to make a list of the things you treasure and give thanks for them. What would you give to retain that ‘treasure’, against the ravages of time, misfortune, or sickness? If it is a real treasure, my guess is, a great deal. And one thing I understand Jesus is saying is that our relationship with God is like such a treasure.
In these parables Jesus speaks about giving all that we have. God is a treasure worth everything. But it is not always clear how we can give everything. Down the centuries human beings have attempted to give everything, living dedicated lives as monastics, priests, missionaries and martyrs. They have given it their best shot. But even they have not really understood.
The folk in Jesus’s hometown of Nazareth certainly did not understand. They could see the treasure – the wisdom and the deeds of power – but they could not let go of their own understanding, their preconceived idea of Jesus as the carpenter’s son, with brothers and sisters just like them. So, they couldn’t trust him (that’s the meaning of unbelief here) and hence there was little he could do. I had to trust the NBN technician to take control of my computer and do what needed to be done. They needed to trust Jesus to take control of their lives to bring healing, but they could not bring themselves to do so, because they prized their false understanding of him more.
We too have the things we cannot let go of. The misconceptions about God and Jesus that we carry around with us, sometimes from childhood. They are part of the 'all we have’ that we need to let go in order to gain a deeper understanding. The trouble is, we like to feel we have understood. It gives us a sense of power and control. But we will need to let that go if we are to have a chance of drawing near the real treasure.
Jesus points us in the right direction. He compares the true disciple with a householder who brings 'out of his treasure what is new and what is old’. In other words, there will be old treasures, bits of understanding that we and other believers have gained over the years. But there will also always be the new – the new insight that we are only just now dimly perceiving. And all we can do is offer it all up – knowing that in truth we have not understood, but trusting that Jesus will work it out anyway. Our part is simply to offer what we can, and trust God to do the rest.
So, have we understood? Not at all! But can we trust Jesus with all that we treasure – especially our attempts at understanding – yes, we can, and in that surrender, we will find wisdom and deeds of power beyond our imagining. Amen.
by Penny Jones, for Pentecost 8 Yr A, Sunday 26 July 2020
(image from Wikimedia Commons, from the Brooklyn Museum - The Hidden Treasure (Le tresor enfoui) by James Tissot)