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People will always be searching for hidden treasures. But you and me don’t have to find the right map, or read a book with clues to find a treasure chest filled with jewels…for we already have the most valuable treasure of all, more valuable than money, more valuable than any earthly goods…we have the living Christ! And as long as we don’t hide that treasure away, we can bring hope to a broken world and you and me; we will finally be who we are meant to be.
Posted by Elk Grove Presbyterian Church on Sunday, June 21, 2020
2 Corinthians 4:1-15
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
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I don’t know if you are familiar with this trending story coming from Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s a story that has been repeated in several newspapers but originally it came from the local television station KOAT out of Santa Fe.
Well, anyway it’s about Forrest Fenn an Antique Collector who buried a treasure chest, not an empty treasure chest, but one filled with gold, emeralds, diamonds, rubies, and sapphires in total valued over one million dollars (it reminds us about the pirate days when those chests were filled with sparkling gems…well, this treasure chest was worth one million dollars!
Forrest buried the treasure for anyone to find, and get this, the only clues he gave to serve as a map to find the treasure chest was written in a poem in his book, “The Thrill of the Chase.” Quoting from the news story Fenn said, “I was a little bit shocked because I hid it in a pretty good place and lots of people over the years couldn’t find it. But this man (the one who finally found the treasure chest) followed the clues in my poem, and that took him right to the treasure and, that was what it was all about.” Fenn estimates that up to 350,000 people from all over the world hunted for the treasure…some even quit their jobs.
That’s a lot of people searching, lots of people hoping and dreaming about finding this HIDDEN TREASURE! One might ask why? Why such interest in finding this treasure? Certainly, it’s for the money and underneath this desire for money is the perception of how this treasure could change one’s life, open the door to new opportunities…what would you do with a million dollars?
Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth talks about a hidden treasure too…now for you and me it might be hard to understand what he is talking about…hidden treasure in clay jars? We have to go back to ancient times to understand the true meaning of what Paul is saying. You see they didn’t have safes or locked containers to keep their valuable possessions safe. I imagine they had more like a piece of wood blocking the entranceway into a home, so what people did to keep their possessions secure was to hide them in clay jars. Most houses had multiple clay jars upon the shelves, filled with various cooking supplies and so if a thief might come into the home he would see all these clay jars and would never think to look inside a jar for coins or other valuables. It was a way to keep what was important safe! This understanding of hiding things in clay jars would be common knowledge and Paul then takes a common understanding and applies it to the hidden treasure of knowing Christ.
I think a good question to ponder this morning is why hidden? Why does Paul describe our faith in Christ as being hidden? I should say thank you, Paul, for he answers us in the very next verse by saying that the power that the gospel gives us, the power to live authentic, sacrificial lives focused outward on the needs of others does not come from us, it’s not about our own abilities, our own efforts, or because we are so special but rather it’s about our ability to be empty…to let our clay jar be empty so Christ can make a home in us. But believe me, my friends being an empty jar takes work, probably the hardest work we’ll ever have to do.
Paul speaks the truth when he says, “For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh…” I believe Paul is saying that there are many things within us that simply have to die…that’s the emptying part, letting go of all those selfish, self-centered behaviors that are always pushing us to be better, be more, make the most money, have the most prestigious career…these inner voices driving us to become people we were never called to be. It all has to go, all these false earthy desires in order for us to become this visible witness of our faith so that we can truly become a light in the darkness.
Parker Palmer in his book, “Let Your Life Speak” talks about this transformative work in a story about Rosa Parks, the black woman who sat down on a bus seat reserved for white people. Parker says that Rosa Parks reached a point where it was essential to embrace her true vocation—not as someone who would reshare our society but as someone who would live out her full self in the world. This is what happens to those who discover the treasure hidden in the clay jar…we become who we have been born to become, we find our true self that is found only in Christ. Hear this quote from Rosa Parks, “I will no longer act on the outside in a way that contradicts the truth that I hold deeply on the inside. I will no longer act as if I were less than the whole person I know myself inwardly to be.” Rosa Parks’ journey to become a woman claiming her true self began early in her life when she discovered a deep-seated faith in Christ. In her own book “Quiet Strength,” she says, “we even had devotions before going to pick cotton in the fields.” Prayer and the Bible became a part of my everyday thoughts and beliefs. She said, “I remember finding such comfort and peace while reading the Bible. Its teachings became a way of life and helped me in dealing with my day-to-day problems.” Rosa Park’s clay jar was full, not by her own efforts but by her willingness to let Christ come and fill her inner world and in her life, she became a light in the dark. What was hidden became visible for all to see. She found her true treasure!
People will always be searching for hidden treasures…one man searched and found a million dollars…but you and me we don’t have to find the right map, or read a book with clues to find a treasure chest filled with jewels…for we already have the most valuable treasure of all, more valuable than money, more valuable than any earthly goods…we have the living Christ. If we can do the work to die and die often, we can be like Rosa Parks and become a light that shines through the darkness…the treasure in the clay jar will not remain hidden and we can bring hope to a broken world and you and me; we will finally be who you were meant to be.