The Greatest Gift

Matthew 13:44- – 46
What a wonderful service we had in our Prayer Group Thursday evening. We all talked about the gifts God had given us to use in our lives here on this earth. It was so wonderful. Yet, there is a gift God gave all of use that I want to discuss today.

Many of us as children used to love stories of buried treasure. Grown men have spent their whole lives looking for treasures, but few find anything. I used to read treasure books and pretend I was part of the ship crew or digging on an Indiana Jones type crew. The female fatale.

Christ told the parable of a merchant in search of fine pearls, who when he had found one truly great one, sold all that he had and bought the pearl – ever since known as the “pearl of great price.” What Christ refers to in the parable, of course, is the Kingdom of God. And lest we confuse anyone – the Kingdom means everything – God and all that you could possibly desire, the gift that never stops giving.

Of course the problem about searching for Great Pearls is that they are only found among many false pearls, and many pearls of far lesser value. More than the “needle in the haystack” – it is finding the pearl among pearls – even if all the pearls are not alike.

It is easy at some point to say, “Well, after all, a pearl is a pearl, and even if this pearl is not THAT pearl, it’s still a pearl.” Which, of course, is all true, but beside the point. You wouldn’t sell all that you have in order to buy just ANY pearl. And, in truth, as the parable is structured, no other pearl will do.

Some say that there are no Great Pearls to be found among us, just lots of lesser pearls. And the point is to pick the best and know that when everything is said and done, God will turn your poor pearl into the Great Pearl and everything will be fine in the end.  Well then, why speak of a pearl of great price if there was no pearl to be found? Why speak of selling everything in order to possess it, if it is actually as common as gravel along the side of the road?

The pearl of great price exists and is worth all that any person has.

Jesus tells the story in Matthew 13:44-46: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, buried in the field,that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.”

In the First Century Mediterranean world, pearls were highly prized and sought after in such far away seas as the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean. The merchant in the story is portrayed as traveling around to such places in search of pearls.

In this parable, the pearl discussed symbolizes the kingdom of God. This symbolism is well placed considering the value pearls held throughout the ages. In this first century Mediterranean world, pearls often symbolized the highest good. According to Pliny the Elder (first century A.D.) pearls were considered the most valuable of all goods, having ‘the first place’ and ‘topmost rank among all things of price’. Therefore, at the time this parable was spoken people would have better appreciated the magnificence of the Kingdom of God due to Jesus’ use of the imagery in comparing the kingdom to a pearl of great value. It would be like referring to something as valuable today as pure gold.

To His followers, the merchant described themselves as disciples, and the pearl so earnestly sought represented the kingdom. Therefore, the parable operated to teach the people about their relationship to the Kingdom of God. Today, this parable talks directly to you and to me.

Once the pearl, or the kingdom, was found, “the [merchant’s] only proper response was to sell all else in possession for the sake of the greater worth of possessing the kingdom”

Therefore, “the kingdom is like a small, inconspicuous pearl – but one of incalculable value that, once discovered, calls for unrestrained response in the form of absolute discipleship”.

Through this parable, Jesus not only reveals the paramount worth of the kingdom of God, but also the idea that “a true disciple makes an immense commitment to the Kingdom” in face of this worth. All else seems valueless compared with that surpassing worth. No price is too great to pay . Thus it is with the kingdom of God. The effect of the joyful news is overpowering; it fills the heart with gladness; it makes life’s whole aim the oneness with God.

Let me tell you a true story about a woman who had a dream one night:

In that dream, she found herself in what looked to be a large church building in a long line of people. As she approached the front of the line, she saw people going before an altar or a table of some kind, kneeling and receiving communion. A wafer was placed on the tip of the tongue and a sip of wine was given to each by a man standing behind the table in a long, white robe. As she looked at those people, they had a bit of a blank look on their faces, as if they were going through the motion of getting in touch with God, and then they blankly walked back out into their mundane world and existence.

As she got to the front of the line, she got ready to do what needed to be done to receive her communion. As she began to kneel before the table, the man behind the table said, “No, no, stand up.” She stood up. He looked at her and said, “You know what life is all about, don’t you?” The words just came pouring out of her mouth as she said, “Oh, yes, I know what life is all about. I know that we are born into this world for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to know and to experience God. I know that whatever happens to us in life, whatever we experience, is meant to bring us closer to that knowing and that experience of God.”

He smiled. As she opened her mouth to receive communion, (because now she thought she was ready), he handed her a pearl. He placed that pearl ever so gently in the palm of her hand.

He said, “You are ready. Now go, and choose.”

Choose what?

It occurred to her as she contemplated this dream a little further, that life is filled with cycles of getting in touch with God, cycles of knowing all that we can be, and then going back out into our mundane existence and getting overcome with life, cycles of making new choices and then falling back into the very patterns that will not allow us to live up to those choices, cycles of coming to church or retreats or going on vacation, and touching that inner inspiration that tells us what we are, and then going back into the world and hearing of earthquakes and illness and war and poverty, and dealing with family squabbles and taxes and career and financial pressures, and getting weighed back down.

“What is my pearl of great price?”  She asked herself.

We must ask ourselves this too. Think about these words of Paul (from the book of II Corinthians):

“Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” [II Corinthians 3:17-18]

Life is a progressive movement from one degree of glory to the next, so with each event (as similar as it may be to others that occur in our lives), we get an even greater glimpse, an even clearer look, into that picture that reveals images of the Spirit of God.

The key is knowing that is what is going on. How do we know this?

Rather than going blindly with that veil over our faces, through the rituals of life and existence, we can remove the veil and reach for that pearl.

Jesus taught about a pearl in a beautiful and wonderful parable, which we’ve heard over and over again. There is a reason for this – because it is a pearl of great price. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. On finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all he had and bought it. Short, succinct, to the point.

In the realm of the absolute, the pearl of great price is our oneness with God, our complete and whole communion (common-union with God, as the Creator’s children), who we are, the truth of who we are – our complete, joyful, oneness with God.

And, to sell all we have in order to buy (take possession of it). First in mind we have to sell off ALL our worries, our doubts, fears and our anxieties. We must release it all so we can take possession of that that is holy and perfect.   The pearl of great price reflects the Holy truth of our oneness with God.

Now, we have available to us a multitude of Divine ideas.  All we have to do is choose one-just one. We must incorporate this into our life and become it.

One Divine idea to take, as an active theme to your whole life, for example, “Serenity.”

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the
courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

This, as many of you know, is the Serenity Prayer..

A man used this idea and even found peace in 25F. Twenty-five F was the Delta airplane seat he sat in all the way from Boston back to Dallas, after going to a friend’s wedding. In a 757, there are not any rows behind 25F. It is right up there against the bulkhead, next to the rattling engine. This 25F was something special. It came complete with a crooked seat cushion, and a bent tray table. When the person in front of the man, who had the luxury of leaning back, leaned back, the table went right into the man’s stomach, in 25F. And the window was so dirty that you could only see though a third of it.

Well, he was angry. “How dare they do this to me? After all, I’m a Frequent Flyer.” He was ready to call the stewardess and pull out his Frequent Flyer card and ask for first class. But he could see the plane filling up. As the curtain remained open to first class, he saw every seat in front of him filling up.

Then the Serenity Prayer came to the man’s mind.

God, grant me the ability to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. He saw every seat full and he knew he could not change it, so he accepted it. He decided to relax for the rest of the flight. Then, the plane took off.

He said, to put it in the words of an anonymous poet, the plane lifted and it seemed for a great instant that earth and sky parted. As he rose into that cloudless expanse, he gained a new perception of the world. It may have been out of one-third of a window, but he gained a new perception-one idea, the pearl of great price.

What is the pearl? It is action, which calls us to express our oneness with God in THAT moment.

IF we choose one thing, just one pearl, one special spiritual gift to give ourselves, seeking God’s help, then everything else will fall into place.

This is what it means to sell ALL that you have and go for that pearl of great price. You see, the realm of spiritual awareness means to focus your mind, your heart, and all your thoughts, consciously, on the idea of your oneness of and with God. The realm of expression means to give your life to the fulfillment of the gift you are giving yourself.

One pearl, and all else falls beautifully into place.

There that woman was, in a dream, the pearl in her hand. The man had said, “You are ready. Go now and choose.” As he said that, she realized that the church she was in was more than just a building; it was a realm where many souls come when they have had enough of the world to close themselves in and work to get back in touch with God.

The veil was lifted as she became consciously aware of God’s truth of life that had spoken of itself in that dream. Life is about knowing and experiencing God. We can do this. We can break those endless cycles in which we feel stuck by knowing our oneness with God, by choosing just one single idea that reflects that oneness. No matter what comes up, no matter what happens to us or when, we bring ourselves gently back into focus with that idea.

By choosing our pearl of great price, and as we reach for that pearl (that gift) and watch it being placed in our hand, it will begin to radiate and glow with a wonderful spiritual light that will light up our world. And this is the mighty gift of God.

Take your pearl.; it is your gift. Embrace it!

Let us pray: Holy Father, we thank you for the many gifts you have bestowed upon us – gifts to enable us to serve you and mankind with all our hearts. Mostly we thank you for the gift of Your Son, our savior, Jesus Christ. But most of all, we thank you for your ultimate gift – our pearl to hold dearly as we become one with You.

Rest in the silence of prayer as you thank the Lord for your gift. …

And so it is . . . In Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.


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