Pearls of Great Price

This week is turning out to be a bit of an ‘emotional rollercoaster’. Since my heart operation, and whilst getting used to my 'new normal’ afterwards, I found myself with time and energy to spare, so I got involved in our church’s ministry to students - basically trying to support them whilst they’re in Lancaster and give them a church ‘family’ and a ‘home-from-home’. It has been great fun - they’re a terrific bunch - full of passion, love, humour, wisdom, enthusiasm... You name it, they’ve got it in spades - but more than anything, love. We’re supposed to be ‘ministering’ to them, but honestly, they’ve given far more to me than I have to them.

Last night was one of our final activities of the year - a meal and some time spent studying the bible and praying together. Appropriately enough, we were studying John’s second and third letters, which are at least partly about hospitality and welcoming visitors. It all got a bit emotional towards the end. Some we won’t see again until October, but some are finishing their time in Lancaster, and are leaving us for the last time. I don’t deal very well with partings, even when they aren’t ‘permanent’, and I was rendered pretty much speechless. We have one final ‘event’ - or series of events - on Sunday - some (I hope most) will join us at the church picnic; we’re all going to a restaurant for a meal; then finishing up at the 7:00pm service at St Tees.

Those folk have become very dear to me over the course of this year - they’ve found a place in my affections to an extent that has come as a complete shock to me. This morning, whilst thinking about them, and the fact that 90% of me really doesn’t want to ‘do’ Sunday (whilst 10% of me knows that I’d regret it forever if I stayed away), a thought came to me about how precious God’s people are to God and to each other.

Jesus told two parables:

“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.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13: 44-46)

We interpret those, usually, as being about what we must do when we ‘discover’ God’s Kingdom - I think we typically link it to another of Jesus’ sayings:

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

But it struck me that you could actually read those two parables a different way. Perhaps the man and the merchant might represent Jesus, then we become the treasure or the pearls, and the price paid is Jesus’ self-sacrifice upon the cross? In that interpretation, the stories become an illustration of how precious we are to God.

I might not be ready to die for our students, but they definitely mean a lot to me... Fine pearls, every one of them.

God bless you!

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2021