Visions of Heaven on Earth – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

Matthew 13:44-46

When I was 6 years old, my mom took me with her to Ohio to visit her cousin that she had been close to as a little girl. It was my first experience of traveling by plane. While I don’t remember it with great clarity, my mom loved to tell the story of how when we began to crest the clouds, I turned to her and said with big eyes, “Mom, are we in heaven?” I suppose my vision of heaven was similar to a lot of children whose imaginations saw God sitting in the clouds with angels flying all around. Later in my life, I remember hearing old time Appalachian hymn tunes based on Revelation describing heaven as having streets paved with gold and a river with the water of life running through it. While these visions are dreamy, they actually differ from Jesus’ descriptions.

In our gospel lesson for this morning, we see Jesus describing the kingdom of heaven to a crowd who had gathered to hear him teach. In this sermon by a lake, Jesus says that “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Jesus’ descriptions are not about heavenly visions, but rather portray heaven dressed in earthy tones: a field, hidden treasure, and a pearl of great value. Just prior to this passage in Matthew’s gospel we hear other metaphors: the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, and like yeast added to flour for leaven. Instead of describing a fantasy, Jesus is clothing the kingdom of heaven in a way that makes it accessible for his audience. In this way, Jesus says that the kingdom is not distant, but rather, directly in front of their very eyes.

What is important to notice is that the descriptions we hear today are not just about treasures in picturesque settings, but each one contains a person who is compelled into an extravagant action when coming upon these treasures. Someone found a treasure, hid it, then bought the field in order to claim it. A merchant sells everything he has just to possess a valuable pearl. The kingdom of heaven is not about the treasures themselves as it is about their discovery and the change it inspires. Perhaps we all can grasp this concept more than golden streets with plush clouds. How many of us have imagined what we might do if we won the Powerball lottery and how we might spend the money.

Today, in the calendar of the church, we remember Margaret of Scotland. In his hagiography of Margaret, James Kieffer writes: “Margaret (born c. 1045) was the grand-daughter of Edmund Ironside, King of the English, but was probably born in exile in Hungary, and brought to England in 1057. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, she sought refuge in Scotland, where about 1070 she married the King, Malcolm III. She and her husband rebuilt the monastery of Iona and founded the Benedictine Abbey at Dunfermline. Margaret undertook to impose on the Scottish the ecclesiastical customs she had been accustomed to in England, customs that were also prevalent in France and Italy. But Margaret was not concerned only with ceremonial considerations. She encouraged the founding of schools, hospitals, and orphanages. She argued in favor of the practice of receiving the Holy Communion frequently. She was less successful in preventing feuding among Highland Clans, and when her husband was treacherously killed in 1093, she herself died a few days later (of grief, it is said).”[i]

Margaret understood that her life was a gift and that her station in life was an opportunity to share with others in a very real way, Jesus vision of the kingdom of heaven. She strove to share with others that vision through her faith and philanthropy, in actions that mirrored the merchant and the one who came upon a great treasure in a field. Following her example, how would you describe the kingdom of heaven out of the treasure trove of your life? Blessed Margaret of Scotland who we remember today.


[i] http://satucket.com/lectionary/Margaret_Scotland.htm

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