Readings for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 13:44-52; Romans 8:28-39; Deuteronomy 7:6-9
Let me to ask you a sensitive question. Who do you matter to? The reason I ask is not to create doubt in your mind or bring up any deep insecurities. Quite the opposite. The common theme of the three readings for Sunday is a message that is, at the same time, both the sweetest news in all the world AND a squirm-inducing statement that can be surprisingly hard to accept:
You are precious to God. (Say that out loud to yourself a few times, and let it sink in.)
In the Old Testament reading, Moses describes the LORD’s affection for His people Israel in language that is embarrassingly lavish. They are “holy to the LORD”, “chosen”, “His treasured possession”. Why does God feel this way? Ask a father why he loves his child, and I suspect you’ll get a similar answer – just because you are mine. God loved Israel not because she was great in size, nor because she was good (so often, like us, she was not). God’s choice to love us is a gift He offers freely, and it’s a love that arises out of who HE is, rather than who we are (Deut 7).
The apostle Paul is bursting with confidence and overcome with joy at the thought of God’s everlasting love for us in Christ. “If God is for us, who can be against us!” Then Paul goes on to describe how God has secured our salvation from start to finish. God is incapable of loving us only sometimes or in part. If we have Christ, we have God’s full acceptance and favor (Rom 8).
The first two parables Jesus tells in the Gospel reading are often interpreted as being about discipleship and the great cost of following Christ. I am convinced that they are actually about Jesus himself and all the glory he gave up to redeem us from sin, death and the devil. Yes, you are the hidden treasure, the pearl of great value that Jesus gave up everything to have as his own. It’s humbling, I know. But it’s true. You are precious to God. (Matt 13)