Rebecca Dolch preaching
Forest Home Chapel
August 28, 2011
I’m excited about our book discussion after church. This will be my first one. I understand that many folk in our congregation are not a bit shy about expressing strong opinions, so we should have a lot of fun talking about Homer and Langley, the fictional account of a story based on two
actual brothers in New York City. One of them was a hoarder who died, buried under enormous piles of things in their own home.
It is interesting how literature affects us. This past week I found myself tearing through the office and meeting room on the first floor, clearing things out, cleaning things up. With great help from Elizabeth Mount and Grace McMenamin and Carol Hocket, and with the blessing of the Church Council, we recycled, re-gifted, reorganized, dusted, moved filing cabinets and furniture and filled up trash cans.
I was telling our daughter about our fall cleanup yesterday. She said: Of course you would be clearing out the church this week, Mom. Everybody just read Homer and Langley, and the
Cornell and Ithaca community are temporarily terrified of being hoarders.
So we, the church at Forest Home Chapel, have been living the book.
Which is something that Christian people seek to do: live the book; not usually a book by E. L. Doctorow—but truth comes in many forms.
Today I want to start exploring a specific genre of our Book: the parables of Jesus. If someone were to ask you: how did Jesus teach? How would many, many people answer? He taught in parables, a type of story that appeared in the ancient wisdom tradition.
Cynthia Borgeault wrote my current favorite book about Jesus called Wisdom Jesus.
Her basic thesis is that Jesus was among other things, a spiritual master and teacher in the ancient wisdom tradition. Jesus was not a priest: not interested in temple hierarchy or strict ritual observances like rigid dietary laws. Jesus was not a prophetic messenger sent to the people of Israel to warn them of impending political catastrophe because of their unfaithfulness. Jesus was not interested in the political Israel, had no interest in the conquering hero Messiah role---continuously being thrust upon him.
Rather, Jesus was a wisdom teacher. And wisdom teachers taught the transformation of human
consciousness. What exactly does that mean? Wisdom teaching wasn’t so much about
knowledge. It was about deep insight about life. Here are some wisdom tradition questions:
What does it mean to die before you die?
How do you go about losing your little life to find the bigger life?
Is it possible to live on this planet with a generosity, abundance, fearlessness, and beauty
that mirror Divine Being itself? (Borgeault p. 24-27)
Jesus’ parables are stories usually from everyday life, but told in a way that blew the minds of the people of Jesus’ culture. Some scholars call the parables:“spiritual hand grenades” their purpose was to uproot people’s paradigm, world view, belief system.
His parables often start with “The kingdom of heaven is like….”
Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of heaven was radical in his day. In the parables, the Kingdom of Heaven wasn’t about a place you go when you die (if you’ve been good.)
The Kingdom of Heaven, or Kingdom of God was not about an earthly paradise.
In Jesus’ parables, the Kingdom of heaven was a metaphor for a state of consciousness. His parables gave his people and give us a glimpse into what we call the mind of Christ. He told his parables in a way that made people say: “HUH?” What is he talking about. And then a few days or months or years later: OHhHH THAT is what he meant.
I chose the parable of the hidden treasure after reading the book Homer and Langley. Obviously
Langley identified with external treasures: Items. Things. He assigned meaning to them, had a relationship with them, couldn’t let go of them. He found his identity from them; couldn’t get enough of them, and finally was destroyed by them.
One of the teachings of Jesus was … lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth where things rust and decay and get stolen. Everything is transient. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.
Or another way of saying it: what you treasure becomes your life. One of the key questions the scripture asks is
What do you treasure?
Are we treasuring the things that will bring us into wholeness and oneness.For Jesus in the parable, the hidden treasure was the kingdom of heaven which dwells within us. It is hidden from us until we are ready to seek it with everything we have, even when we don’t know exactly what “it” is.
So let’s hear that parable again:
44"God's kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic—what a find!—and proceeds to sell everything he owns to raise money and buy that field.
The hearer of the parable in Jesus’ day would hear 2 really big problems.
A trespasser finds treasure in someone else’s field.
Wait a minute! The listener would say: it is against the law to trespass.
This is not good. The items in someone else’s field would never be able to belong to a
The trespasser goes and sells everything to raise money to buy the field.
Wait a minute! The hearer would say: This is not smart. This is foolish. This is stupid to
sell everything to buy a field?
In Jesus’ day, hiding your valuables by burying them was a common practice since there were no banks and safes and thievery was very common, invaders could come at any time. So there were a lot of intricate laws about when and where and under what circumstances you could claim treasure that had obviously been hidden.
So the listener hears this parable and thinks to herself or himself:
OK, I want God’s kingdom.
But does that mean that to get it, I have to trespass (be outside of the law) squander all
my money? Not smart, not legal? Is that what the search for the kingdom of heaven is
I think these 2 problems with the parable are also two teachings that address the question:
How do we find the kingdom of heaven, the mind of Christ, the spiritual path? 1. Become a “holy trespasser”
The trespasser accidently found something fabulous, that made him ecstatic, outside of his or her regular life. I remember my first encounter with deep prayer was with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Mercy in Rochester, NY. I had grown up in the 50’s and 60’s in a predominately Southern Baptist town where many people thought the Catholics were heretics, idol worshippers. (They didn’t think too much of the Methodists either!)
In a subsequent era of my life, I learned about the indwelling spirit from a chiropractor who led classes in his home. Most people would call him a “New Ager” which has been a pejorative term so often, but he opened my eyes to a new way of looking at how the spirit works in our lives. In another era of life, I discovered the powerful tool of meditation from a Sufi teacher.All along, I also had the Christian path, and every week, my heart and mind were opened and informed and often inspired through worship, reading and prayer.
Holy trespassing on other traditions, opened up another world of God and of insight and open heartedness, and understanding of my own tradition.
Does this “offend Jesus”? Not if you think of Jesus’ role as a wisdom teacher, one who
came as a spiritual master to show human beings how to be transformed.
There is a sign in the hallway here at Forest Home that says:
The only person you can’t teach anything to is a person who thinks they know everything. How do we search for the kingdom of heaven? #1.Become a holy trespasser.
#2. Release everything.
The parable said: He sold everything to buy the field.
The hearers thought: that is foolish!
And yes, to cash in our pensions in order to take a class from a supposed guru would probably be foolish, but that is not what Jesus was talking about. .
Jesus was talking about not being attached to things and outcomes and our own agendas. It is not easy to release things. Some of us have problems letting go of things. Other people find it hard to let go of our agenda for how people ought to be.
Anybody can get upset when the outcomes we desire simply don’t happen. Others can’t release worry or anger or perfectionism or poor self esteem, or being controlling.
Jesus was saying: if you want to be in the flow of God, in the mind of Christ, in the kingdom of heaven, you have to release things. Everything. It is a daily practice to turn things over to God, to guidance, to the divine flow. It doesn’t mean you don’t own anything. It means you don’t let anything own you.
In the book Homer and Langley, our dear Langley had the kingdom of heaven upside down. His
idea of the ultimate was to write one single edition of a newspaper that would encompass all the news for the rest of history. He went about his quest by trying to bring everything of the world into his home, and he analyzed every newspaper and current event, looking for a way to consolidate his universe.
I think Jesus would say to Langley in a parable sort of way: You are that one newspaper. Everything in the world is within you. Seek first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness and everything that you need will manifest.
Since it is easier to tell a parable than to explain one, here is an ancient Sufi parable:It was the dark of night. The street lights had been lit. A man was on his hands and knees searching frantically for something.
A neighbor came out and asked: “What are you looking for?”
The man answered: “I’ve lost my key.”
The neighbor said: “Where did you lose it?”
The man answered: “I lost it in the house.”
The neighbor said “Then why are you looking for it out here?”
The man said: “There is more light out here.”
Folks the temptation is to look for our treasure, for the key to our life out here, in stuff, in other people’s answers, in excitement or drama or any number of things.
Jesus is saying: Your treasure is hidden inside of you. Look for it. That is the nature of the spiritual path, to find your inner guidance, inner peace, inner light, inner key. Bill read another Bible lesson today: a teaching of Jesus about treasure:
It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to
be, and end up being.
Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You'll find all your
everyday human concerns will be met. Don't be afraid of missing out. You're my dearest
friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself. (selections from Luke 12:29-34)
Sister and brothers, there is more treasure and more light inside of us than we can ever imagine. And one of the great blessings of the church is that together, in the spirit and presence of Christ, we can help each other find it. But we have to go for it. Wholeheartedly.
And that is the good news of the gospel.
Let us pray:
God, I don’t understand the transformation of consciousness, I don’t understand the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but I want to. And I want to seek them with the beloved people of this congregation. So help us all move together in the direction of your transforming love. Amen.