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17th OT A ~ "X Marks the Spot" ~ Dr. Susan McGurgan



One summer,

my brother and our next-door neighbor

became bored with Red Rover

and tired of riding bikes.

They had already traded every baseball card

and shot an entire galaxy of space invaders

with their pointer fingers and some chopsticks.

The dog flatly refused to be harnessed to a wagon

and the summer promised to be

long

and hot.


Maybe it had something to do with reading

Mark Twain, who said,

“Now and then,

we had a hope that if we lived,

and were good,

God would permit us to be Pirates.” *


Or it could be

the boys wanted a chance to laugh at parents

who continued to discover strange holes

and mysterious rock cairns

long after

that epic summer became memory.


But when I remember that summer,

I like to think they wanted to entertain

a sometimes annoying

but always game-for-adventure

little sister and tag-along

who was crazy about history

and buried artifacts

and sleuthing like Nancy Drew.


Whatever the reason,

that summer my brother and his friend

interred toy soldiers

and buried Cracker Jack prizes

and Monopoly money

and broken pieces of Mom’s costume jewelry

throughout our adjoining yards

for me to discover and dig up.


Led by elaborate maps and compass headings,

I excavated beneath the mimosa tree,

searched behind Candy’s doghouse,

and cut a serious trench or two

beside the yew hedge.


My stash of treasure grew:

tarnished curtain rings,

strings of “pearls” and glass jewels,

mummy curses and Viking bones

and a pile of ever more cryptic clues,

written on torn brown paper bags

and aged with the patina of grimy fingers.

Inspired by my wild enthusiasm,

Paul and Larry joined in,

digging a “hole to China”

in the corner by our fence.

While I followed treasure maps,

they labored over a hole,

debating how long it would take

to reach the molten core

and fall out the other side of the world.


X Marks the Spot.

Pirates’ Loot.

Buried Treasure.

A Hole to China.


This is the stuff of dreams--

not just for children

looking to pass a long, hot Tulsa summer,

but for anyone blessed

with a touch of adventure

and a taste for surprise.


A young Bedouin shepherd,

tossing a rock into an opening

on the side of a cliff near Qumran

hears a clay vessel shatter,

and 2,000-year-old religious scrolls

are brought into the light.


After thirty years of searching,

British archaeologist Howard Carter

uncovers a step

descending into the tomb of Tutankhamen

and reveals the first largely intact

royal burial from ancient Egypt.

.

A diving team for a salvage company

finds something shiny on the ocean floor,

and recovers the wreck of a galleon

carrying 17 tons of coins --

valued at $500 million dollars.


The lure of discovering something

hidden,

the siren call of a treasure map,

the rumor of riches,

the hint of something precious and rare

buried in time

has driven,

and continues to drive us to explore,

to seek,

to excavate,

to map,

to dream.


I think Jesus understood

this facet of human nature—

this urgent call to adventure.


He invites fisherfolk

to cast out into the deep,

fishing for the biggest catch of all,

fellow disciples.


He sends those disciples

out into the unknown two by two

without the security of food

or money

or support—

to survive by their wits and faith alone

on the grand adventure of mission

to teach, to preach, and to heal.


He sometimes speaks in cryptic terms,

inviting listeners to use our imaginations—

to hunt and search

for deeper meaning

and greater understanding.

He often answers questions

with even more challenging questions

or engages us in stories

about things both lost and found:

the lost sheep

the lost coin

the lost son

beckoning us

into a journey of discovery.


Today, Jesus speaks of treasure

buried in a field—

Treasure so precious

that possession of it

is worth everything you own.


He tells the story of a pearl so valuable,

so bewitchingly lovely

that a wealthy connoisseur

sold his entire collection

just to hold it close.


Many of the commentaries on this passage,

both ancient and modern,

point to the treasure in the field

and the pearl in the collection

as being the Word Incarnate,

or Scripture,

or Salvation,

or the sweetness of the heavenly Kingdom.

Or perhaps the treasure

is faith

or discipleship

or even the Church itself,

the body of Christ.

Take your pick,

they all make sense.


But what if it’s us?


What if we are the pearl of great price?

What if we are the treasure,

buried deep in the field?

What if God

is the merchant

longing for us—

the perfect pearl?


What if we are priceless

irreplaceable treasures

to be searched for,

yearned after,

paid for?

What if God is willing to sacrifice

everything—

Everything!

just to find us and keep us?


What if there is no price God won’t pay,

No payment God won’t make

for our sakes?


What if we spend our lives

digging,

hunting,

following first one treasure map,

then another,

only to finally realize that we,

ourselves,

are the lost treasure

marked with an X?


I was too young to know

that summer so long ago—

that summer of searching for Viking bones

and buried curtain rings—

that God was searching for me, too.

I didn’t know,

then,

that God saw me,

not simply as a sometimes irreverent,

often stubborn child

whose report cards

always carried the notation,

“She talks too much”

but as a pearl,

worth everything God has to give.


"The kingdom of heaven

is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy

goes and sells all that he has

and buys that field. The kingdom of heaven

is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has

and buys it."


Know this.

Believe this.

It is a treasure

that will transform your life.




*Mark Twain, “Life on the Mississippi”

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