“The Family of God: From Their Treasure, Things Old and New”
July 30, 2017
The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 12)
1 Kings 3: 5 – 12/Psalm 119: 123-135/Romans 8: 26 – 30/Matthew 13: 44 - 52
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
What a beautiful day! The people of God are gathered to worship Him, and what a beautiful sight! We are gathered on the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of our reception into the Charismatic Episcopal Church, hence, into the Church Catholic. On July 31, 1994, to be exact, we were received in this communion. Every year, we gather as a Diocese on the Sunday closest to this date, at this time, on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Ordinary Time doesn’t mean common. “Ordinary” comes from the word ordain, which means to set a course for, to decree, and to designate. Ephesians 2:10 says, “God has created us in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” He has ordained us for good works. “Time” in the Greek has two concepts. They refer to them as Chronos, which refers to linear time measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days. There is also the concept of Kairos,which is the opportune time; the right time; the fullness of time. In Tagalog, is it “tamang panahon.”
To give us a clearer picture of time, in Chinese, the opposite of kairos is: wong tai ming. The right time, kairos, in Chinese is: wai tai ming. The opportune time, the right time is what we are encouraged to do. Seize the day because every day is the Lord’s day, the Lord’s ordained day. Scriptures says, “Behold, now is the time of salvation.” Today is the day of salvation ordained by God. Everything ordained by God is good. Everything God ordained for such a time as this is good because our God is good.
There is an inventor named Alexander Graham Bell and he went to Western Union to sell the idea of a device called the telephone. The President of the Western Union said, “What use could this company make of an electrical toy?” We see that he didn’t realize what he said. A Michigan banker advised the lawyer of Henry Ford, the owner of the Ford Company, not to invest in this new automotive company because he said that the horse is here to stay, and that the automobile is only a novelty. Now, we know that he made a very bad decision. An inventor in the name of Chester Carlson invented a machine that makes copies of documents. He went to IBM and he was rejected. He went to Kodak and was also rejected. He went to a small, unknown company called Haloid Corporation, and they accepted his idea. The company grew and they soon renamed themselves as Xerox and became successful.
There were bad decisions made because they did not seize the opportunity, the right timing. Those who made it did not have the vantage point that we have now. Anyone of us would say, “If I knew better then, if I knew then what I know now, I would have decided much differently.” This is why we are encouraged to seize the opportunity. Blessed is he who doesn’t see and yet believe, and also seizes the day, the kairos, which is the right timing. Environmentalists would tell you, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.” The next best time is now! Seize the opportunity. Know better the second better time, which is now.
In the past weeks, we have been having for our theme in the parables all about sowing, planting. Sowing is done with a hope for a better future. We sow and we plant because we expect something good in the future to reap. When we sow, we hallow; we make holy. We redeem matter, space and time, and we separate them. We prepare them for the life of the world to come. Anything not fit for the life of the world to come will be left behind.
This is what Matthew 6:19-21says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Those who are bad will not last in the world to come, but the good will be preserved and will be with us through eternity.
We participate in Jesus making all things new one soul at a time, in heaven’s colonizing earth one square inch at a time, in eternity’s conquering the present one minute at a time, until the earth is filled with the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. We will see eternity in moments as they pass. Grab the opportunity now. Parents, your children will only be two years old once, and if that passes, you have lost the opportunity. Meantime, we face reality, the imperfect reality. How does God deal with the imperfect reality? In 1Kings 3, Solomon was imperfect, inexperienced. He had nothing to offer, he had nothing to bring to the table as far as Israel’s betterment is concerned. His kingship was all God’s grace.
A German theologian named Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “ God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, namely, real human beings, the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love. God establishes a most intimate unity with this. God becomes human, a real human being. While we exert ourselves to grow beyond our humanity, to leave the human behind us, God becomes human; and we must recognize that God wills that we be human, real human beings. We distinguish between pious and godless, good and evil, noble and base; but God loves real people without distinction.
While we were yet sinners, God loved us already. He doesn’t wait for us to be perfect before He loves. The father of the prodigal son did not wait for his son to be cleaned up before he hugged and kissed him. Our God doesn’t distinguish between good and evil, religious or non-religious. He accepts everyone. He doesn’t expect everyone to stay as they are, in bad shape or imperfect, but once He receives them, He cleans them up. He accepts them as they are, and this is what we need to do.
God is not offended by sin. God hates sin not because of what it does to Him, but because of what it does to us whom He loves. God is self-sufficient. Nothing adds to or subtracts from Him. God knows that even though we are imperfect, His image is indelibly imprinted and impressed on us. There is a sterling silver underneath the stain. We see the surface, God see the diamond in the rough. He is patient, not willing that any perish, but all would repent eventually.
In Matthew 13, the verse, “He who has ears, let him hear,” is said twice. In the Message translation, Matthew 13:10-17 says, “The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?” 1-15 He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. I don’t want Isaiah’s forecast repeated all over again: Your ears are open, but you don’t hear a thing. Your eyes are awake, but you don’t see a thing.”
“The people are blockheads! They stick their fingers in their ears so they won’t have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut so they won’t have to look, so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face and let me heal them. 16-17 “But you have God-blessed eyes - eyes that see! And God-blessed ears - ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance.”
Grab the opportunity; seize the day. Would have given anything to obtain the treasure. In the gospel today, the two parables talked about selling all what one has and spending the money on the treasure, on the costly pearl that they discovered. St. Peter said, “We left everything and followed You.” This is what we are called to do – to sell everything; to give everything – to mean, all of our lives and all of our hearts.
Our all still fall short of the glory of God. What we think we have given for the one hundred percent is not everything, and all because we are still imperfect. Nonetheless, in our understanding, we give our all, but it all falls short, and it cannot be acceptable to God. Only Christ’s offering is acceptable to God and is perfect. Our offering will only be acceptable if we join it with Christ’s suffering. What Christ asks of us (what we understand as our all) is to give to Him so that it will be acceptable to be joined with His offering.
As an example, the five loaves and two fish are impossible to feed five thousand people, but how come it did? This is because it was all given. It is a wrong mentality to say, “My offering is small, so I won’t give it.” Two mites go a lot further if given by a poor widow than one hundred times that amount given as a surplus by wealthy people. Imperfect, but God honors it. God loves human beings as they are. We will give because it is for God. We only avail of the treasure if we sell all. We only obtain the costly pearl if we sell all that we have. Being lukewarm doesn’t cut it.
Jesus told Peter, “If I don’t wash your feet, you have no part in Me.” In baptism, the old has gone and a one hundred percent new has come, which is dedicated to God. It doesn’t mean that we are perfect. We all have sinned since our baptism because we are still being perfected. Nonetheless, we give our all, and this is what is acceptable to God.
In the parable of the dragnet, the dragnet caught the good and the bad fish. The kingdom of God, the church of God, has in it the good and bad fish. It is not supposed to be inclusive. It is supposed to be public, to include everyone; a real community, which means it is imperfect. Sadly, we have not been a welcoming Church, not in condemnation, but we are to be more open to others. Somehow, we have stopped winning souls.
Brothers and sisters, it is time for us to realize that the Church’s doors shall continually be open. Walls, gates, and doors should be open. We are imperfect, but we need to begin to win souls again. The mission of the Youth Movement before was win souls in order to build, and then, to send them. If we are the Church of God, we should be winning souls as a start. We should have the heart of God and realize that we need to gather all the good and the bad. In the Parable of the Wedding Feast, the slaves of the master gathered every person they found on the streets – both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Reading from our Old Testament, Solomon married an Egyptian, and he was committing adultery. Yet, underneath this stain was humility and wisdom displayed in his prayer, and his prayer was for the sake of Israel, not for himself. This pleased God and God answered his prayer more than what Solomon asked for.
In the dragnet, maybe because it was tight, some fish turned bad. When things get tight in the net, some endure. To me, let God do the sorting who is good and bad. Anyway, He is the Judge. As for us, be good fish; be wheat. In doing so, we might just turn some bad to good, the tares to wheat, by a witness of our love, which is what the Church was meant to be, in the first place. The Church is a hospital for people to be healed, to be built up, for people to be sent out to get more of the sick to be healed, to be built up and to be sent out.
We are not the judge; God is. The Judge does not will that anyone perish. If God accepts everyone, we should, too. Banish from your thinking that mentality of “us and them.” This was the attitude of the Pharisee against the tax collector, both of whom were praying in the temple. The Pharisee was in the front row praying, “God, I thank You that I am perfect. I am holy. I am a Pharisee. I have a degree in Pharisaic theology. It is good that You taught me how to tithe and to give an offering, to attend attend faithfully and attend ministry. I thank You that you didn’t make me like the tax gatherer over there. I am different from him.”
In the kingdom of God, there is not the “us and them.” The net caught the good and the bad fish. Our responsibility is to heal. The Bishop, the Priests and the Deacons are not them, and you are you. The Parish of St. Andrew is not them, and we are the Cathedral of the King. We are not separated. The Church in the U.S. is not them; the Roman Catholics are not them; Protestants are not them; sinners are them. There is not the “us and them.” The least, the lost and the lonely are not them. They are objects of our ministry. In fact, Jesus is present in and among them, which is why we should find fullness of joy in ministering to them because the presence of the Lord is right there. We are not supposed to be hands-off of them.
“Us and them” attitude is the reason why we find it hard to forgive. We would say, “I am not like that. I would never do what he did to offend me.” Beware! Maybe, the opposite is true. Maybe the reason we can’t forgive is because we are exactly like them, maybe, worst than them and we can’t handle and stand it.
The tendency of many people is to see the surface, not the treasure or the costly pearl, which God sees through the stain. When the wages were being paid to the workers in the parable of the vineyard, the first- hour workers came and thought that they were different saying that they worked more than those who came in late. I am leaving that to God. We should not have an attitude of “us and them” mentality. We should not think that we are more special than others. We all are partakers of the Divine nature and God is working on each one of us. It may be on different levels, nonetheless, God works in each of us and is not willing that any one perishes. This is the love of God.
The right thing to do is to leave the judging to God, and get His heart today! It is the Kairos kind of time. The Bible talks about seed time and harvest. We have been sowing. Don’t stop sowing. Winter is not coming because the harvest is coming. Something is about to burst. I can feel it. Do not lose heart in doing good, for in due time, at the proper time, in the fullness of time, Kairos, the right timing, we will reap a harvest.
Brothers and sisters, we will reap a harvest, so bring out the treasures. Out of your treasures, bring out the things old and new. What you have learned from the past, bring it out! What you hoped for the future, bring them out, and make them converge in the present at the right time. Then, all things will work together for good because our God is good. I am positive about this because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.