(1 Kings 3.5-14, Psalm 119.57-64, Romans 8.28-31, Matthew 13.44-52)
Rev'd Daniel Irvine
There truly is a wealth of material within our readings for this morning. So many potential sermons could come from these texts that it is hard to know which road to follow and which idea to try and articulate, because if I tried to develop all of them we might still be sitting here next week!
But I did come across one story that helped me narrow the options down, about a woman who, having been married for forty years was complaining to her friend that her husband never showed her any affection.
Her friend suggested that the woman speak to the parish priest, so that’s exactly what she did.
The priest timed his visit to ensure that the woman’s husband was at home when he came over and sat quietly and listened to her complaints: “My husband never hugs me, never kisses me, never tells me he loves me.” she said.
But the whole time she was talking the husband just sat watching the football on the TV.
Finally, the priest went over to the crying woman, and put his arms around her. He gave her a warm hug and a kiss. Then he turned to the husband and said, “See what I did? Your wife needs something like that at least twice a week.”
Without blinking an eye, the husband replied, “Fine, then, I’ll bring her to see you on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
…Not listening and not hearing are problems as old as the human race, even Jesus complained that the crowds, although they heard did not really listen to him.
In our modern world not listening has almost achieved the status of an Olympic sport contested between wives and husbands, parents and children, teachers and students, and sadly quite often between all of us and God.
That is why Solomon’s prayer in our first reading today is so important.
When God offered Solomon anything in the world, Solomon asked for just one thing, “an understanding heart”.
He asked for a heart that could hear the inside of things, a heart that could find peace and then could make peace and so help build God’s kingdom.
[How carefully and thoughtfully Solomon used the gift he received, or how far the riches and splendour that he accumulated blinded his heart is a matter to discuss another day.]
But what we do know is that the very core and depth of everything is God.
The understanding heart hears God-at-the-core of every thing and every moment.
It sees and knows the world as God sees and knows it.
Such a heart knows how to take and to receive the good out of each moment, no matter how dark that moment may be.
Such a heart has a vision of the kingdom of God that makes a person aware of its great value, like the treasure in the field, or the pearl of great price, valued beyond all else, such that we might forsake all to truly possess it, only to find in the end that what we sacrifice is never truly lost.
Whether we come across that incredible vision suddenly and unexpectedly, like the labourer ploughing a field, or if we have been searching for it our whole lives like the merchant, when we find it our whole lives can change as we become aware of the incredible love that is the foundation of God’s relationship with us.
It is a love that casts such a wide net that no one can ever really escape it. All are brought into the kingdom; and the third parable in the gospel this morning reminds us, as did the parables over the last few weeks, that it is not up to us to sort the catch, but God alone.
Our understanding heart, which sees the vision of the kingdom, should be focused on sharing and planting the love of God into the hearts and lives of others, not on trying to judge them and make them conform to our image of what is clean and unclean.
[This idea, incidentally, is the purpose of sorting the catch from the drag-net, not to somehow judge the fish on their taste or appearance but, for the Jew, to sort them between the clean and unclean based on the dietary laws of the Torah.
This fact in itself should cause us to think about how we interpret this parable in light of our understanding, developed in the apostolic era of the Church, that all foods are now clean and good to eat!
But perhaps that is a thought for another day.]
Returning to the understanding heart that Solomon prayed for and which helps us to realise the great worth of the kingdom.
It is an understanding that should fill us with such love for God that it overflows into love for all our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbours, love that even overflows and extends to our enemies.
It is an understanding that lets us see the world differently but it is not a magic shield that somehow insulates our hearts from pain and grief, from wounds or tears.
Those pains are almost the necessary cost of such an understanding and loving heart, the sacrifice we make to possess the great treasure, but what this understanding does do is to ensure that our hearts cannot be destroyed, no matter how much hurt and grief they endure.
Such a heart will survive and grow ever stronger, and hopefully become more attuned to all life because we are trying to attune it to God, who is at the core or existence, sustaining all of creation.
The alternative to this loving and understanding is not one which we really want to contemplate.
It is a heart deaf to the inside of others, deaf to the preciousness of each and every moment, and in the end deaf to the ultimate core of all that is, God.
So today, and every day, let us pray like Solomon for the one thing that will open us up to everything that truly matters.
Let us pray for an understanding, listening heart – a heart that is truly like God’s.
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to show us what God’s heart is truly like. Amen.