44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid again. In his joy, he goes away and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls. 46 When he found one very valuable pearl, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When the net was filled, they pulled it onto the shore. They sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but threw the bad ones away. 49 That is how it will be at the end of the world. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous who are among them. 50 And they will throw the wicked into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 51 Jesus said to them, “Did you understand all these things?”

They answered him, “Yes.”

52 He said to them, “Therefore every expert in the law who has been trained as a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his treasure both new things and old things.”

Matthew 13:44-52

My Dad used to work for a very large telephone company in Oklahoma City called Western Electric.  He grew up and went to school in the Chicago area, ending up getting his masters in counseling.  He moved to OKC in the late 1950’s and became an engineer!  However, he was involved in hiring and firing employees without the help of ziprecruiter.com.  He would get all sorts of applications from one person who carried a 3.9 average through collage and was ranked 5th in his class, to the person who had dropped out of high school but learned to play the piano in order to bring peace to the her sick mother.  So, who would you hire?  The person studied like crazy and got a 31 on his ACT score.  He earned top scholarship money and graduated with top honors, but he had trouble holding down a job.  Why? Because he couldn’t relate to people.  He was book smart.  The other applicant’s form said she knew who to talk to, picked up her GED, got a job in sales and soon became one of the top salespersons.  Why?  While she didn’t have an in-depth formal education she was street smart.

We could have a debate as to which is more important—being book smart or street smart and someone out there would probably say, “Aren’t they both important?”  That’s a wise answer for holding down a job, but what about in the big picture of life? What really counts?  And then we can ask an even bigger question—what counts in God’s kingdom?  Today Jesus teaches us what it means to be “Kingdom Smart” using 3 little parables about the kingdom of God.  Before we dive into these parables let’s be clear to the meaning of “God’s Kingdom.”  Scripture teaches three main ideas when it comes to God’s Kingdom.  There is the Kingdom of Glory—that’s the one in heaven.  There is the Kingdom of Power—that is God’s control over all things in heaven and on earth.  And there is the Kingdom of Grace.  This kingdom is not a place but an activity.  Singing, walking, and ruling is an activity and not a place.   Very often when Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God he is talking about God’s saving activity using his gift of love.  So, on the one hand we long to be part of God’s Kingdom and on the other hand we rejoice that we are already in it.  That’s why we pray for the Holy Spirit to bless us through this Word of God because

It Is Time To Be Kingdom Smart

Getting into God’s Kingdom

We start with the first two of Jesus’ parables: 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid again. In his joy, he goes away and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls. 46 When he found one very valuable pearl, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.  You can well imagine the joy of these two people when they found the treasure and the very valuable pearl.  It would be like someone without any money, thirsty and starving all alone walking down the sidewalk.  Then you hear laughter and music and look through the iron fence and hedge to catch a glimpse of a delightful group of people standing around the backyard with tables of hors d’oeuvres and drinks.  You think, “How can I get in there?”  The valet is by the entrance and you ask him how to get in?  He says, “All you need is an invitation.  But the host is the only one who hands out those invitations.  And even if they were for sale, you could never afford one.”  You walk away so sad. When suddenly a little breeze floats a piece of paper through the tree branches, down the street and smacks that paper into the palm of your hand like a Walmart Bag stuck to the grill of a car.  You turn around and approach the valet with the question, “Is this the invitation?”  He replies, “Why, Yes!  You’re in!”  You did nothing to get it, but you got it and got in!  Imagine the joy!

Likewise, you had no part of being born into this world any more than you had any part in being born into God’s kingdom.  You did nothing to be called by the Holy Spirit from the darkness of sin into the light of his kingdom.  This is the point of the parables.  The man wasn’t looking for a great treasure, or the merchant expecting to discover a valuable pearl.  They fell into their laps!  And boy, were they ever so grateful and joyful!

We were lost and condemned creatures deserving only rejection by God because of our sin.  However, Jesus bought our invitation into God’s kingdom by his holy blood shed on the cross.  Jesus graciously gave you the treasure of God’s love and the valuable pearl of God’s forgiveness.  What did you do to become a member of God’s kingdom?  Nothing!  Jesus + Nothing = Everything!   Then comes the question: What will you do about it this gift?  There is excitement and thankfulness.  We have come to learn that if Jesus had not given us his gracious gift that brings us into God’s kingdom we would have been lost forever.  We are shocked despite secret sins that God knows, that he would love you and me so much to send Jesus to be the invitation, the substitute we needed to get into God’s kingdom.  It Is Time To Be Kingdom Smart!  Remember how we got into God’s kingdom by his grace.  Jesus did it all.  You are in!  Then Jesus gives us another parable about being

Grounded in God’s Kingdom

Jesus said, 47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When the net was filled, they pulled it onto the shore. They sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but threw the bad ones away. 49 That is how it will be at the end of the world. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous who are among them. 50 And they will throw the wicked into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Our lives have changed in the past couple of months.  During these days of “stay at home” orders what have you done to maintain your health?  To maintain your skills at playing an instrument?  To keep your marriage strong?  To stay on top of your game at work?  To keep your house up?  To keep dust off your shelves?   For health—you exercise.  You practice the scales, attend seminars, attend continuing education workshops, paint the walls, Swiffer the shelves and floors.  You work at it!   Getting into God’s kingdom is the Work of the Holy Spirit through the gospel in Word and sacrament.  Staying grounded in God’s kingdom is something we do as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit using the tools God has given us.  This is a great challenge for us during these days of masks and social distancing.  It is difficult for some to be able to come to worship, and to maintain a healthy schedule of providing their souls with the spiritual nourishment it needs for stronger faith.  It’s work!

Here is the danger.  Some might even have been tempted to think, “Is being in God’s Word all that important?”  Our sinful side living in us is still powerful and needs to be beat down daily through repentance and trusting in Jesus’ forgiveness.  Our sinful side can grab us and drag us through depression and sinful pride right out the door of God’s kingdom!  And if you choose to jump out of God’s gracious kingdom you jump right into the waiting arms of Satan. 

So, when thoughts come regarding the work to stay in God’s kingdom, remember Jesus’ warning in this parable!  There will be the day when God gathers all people before him in judgment.  Those “fish” who are good are those who have faith in Jesus.  Those “fish” that are bad have rejected Jesus and are thrown away.  What sort of fish are you?  Have you been swimming in the water?  Yes, the water of baptism made you God’s own fish so swim!  Stay grounded in the kingdom through the gospel in word and sacrament!

We understand Jesus’ progression of thought: We can’t do anything to get into God’s kingdom, but laziness, apathy, and indifference to God’s Word can get us tossed out.  It Is Time To Be Kingdom Smart!  Jesus wants us to stay in God’s kingdom by engaging the Gospel in Word and sacrament.  But, our work is not done at this point.  Jesus also wants us to

Grow in God’s Kingdom

If you needed something fixed, who would you call?  I’d call Mr. Fixit.  You see he has every tool a person need to fix anything.  Perhaps some of you have a garage at home and you can picture what I’m talking about.  He has the latest Craftsman 24 volt multi-use tool, and he has his grandpa’s tools passed down to saw or chisel anything that needs fixing.  I’d call him because he’s got the tools for every type of repair situation.  Listen to Jesus describe him, 51 Jesus said to them, “Did you understand all these things?”  They answered him, “Yes.”  52 He said to them, “Therefore every expert in the law who has been trained as a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his treasure both new things and old things.  Go ahead and picture what this disciple of the kingdom of heaven looks like.  First, he knows that the Lord God used his tools of Word and sacrament to bring him into God’s kingdom.  He also knows that using these tools will keep him in God’s kingdom.  These tools are also used so he can continue to grow in God’s kingdom and share God’s kingdom with others.

With the tool of God’s Word in our hands we have the tools we need to grow in every situation.  The Holy Spirit promises to use these tools in our life to grow us stronger on the inside of God’s Kingdom, and to use the same tools to extend God’s kingdom to others.  And how big is God’s kingdom in your life?  Now, don’t think of a place, but of an activity.  How big is God’s kingdom?  Think of it like this.  Jesus commanded his disciples, 19 Therefore go and gather disciples from all nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and by teaching them to keep all the instructions I have given you. And surely I am with you always until the end of the age (Matt 28:20).   And the disciples grew because the Holy Spirit used the proclamation of Jesus to grow God’s kingdom with more believers so that today the gospel fills our world.

So It Is Time To Be Kingdom Smart.  My dad will tell you when he was hiring people he looked at their resumes and looked for the people who had a decent GPA, but who could also play the piano.  He looked for people who had the book knowledge, and knew how to relate that knowledge to life.  They were book smart and street smart.

You could say the same thing about Jesus.  He called disciples who were fishermen and tax collectors.  Then he trained them to be Kingdom Smart.  And he also trained you!  Now it’s our turn.  I don’t believe anyone here wants to keep God’s kingdom all to themselves.  Rather, we want God’s kingdom to grow.  God has given us the tools to do that.  You have God’s Word.  You have your God-given abilities to share God’s Word with others.  You can tell your friends, relatives, acquaintances and neighbors all about the wonderful works of God.  If you’re watching on live, you can share this link with a friend so they can learn what it means to be Kingdom Smart.  Together as a church we continue to reach people with the gospel.  Pray for the Lord’s mercy and blessings to give us courage and time to be more and more Kingdom Smart.  Amen.