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.
I wonder, when you hear the phrase, “X marks the spot,” what do you think of? A treasure hunt? Or a treasure map? Well, our faith is a treasure hunt in many ways, because we are always hunting and searching for answers to our questions. Aren’t we? Now, we may find a few answers here or there, and at times, we may feel that we have grasped a greater understanding. But the truth is, our faith, for the most part, is a mystery. And having faith is not about having all the answers or even finding the buried treasure. Instead, it’s about living in the uncertainty and trusting that, though we aren’t in total control of our lives, we can trust in God to guide us through.
I have to say our Confirmation class was like somewhat of a treasure hunt for me this year. The class was made up of five young men who Jen Lumi and I met with for the past six weeks, and we talked a lot about what Confirmation means. I referred to our class as a treasure hunt because each week I felt as though I had to search for tidbits of information. The class was very quiet. I guess you could say they were very good listeners. They weren’t much for talking and sharing, but that’s okay!
The mystery for me became how to connect with them and how to help them connect with one another. One Sunday, our class met at the Emerald Square Mall and we did an escape room together. For those of you that have never done an escape room, you get locked into a room that has hints and locks and keys, and you have to work together as a group to figure out how to get free. You have one hour to accomplish the task.
The theme of our room was “Treasure Island,” and we were told the following story: “Your crazy beachcomber uncle left you as the executor of his will. And after a week of sorting through junk, you discovered a bunch of trunks and boxes under a floorboard. You have fifty minutes until the taxi arrives to take you to the airport. So let’s see if you can find the proof you need to find the treasure before everything goes off to be auctioned!”
Well, we started by searching the room for clues. We looked for numbers or notes or patterns in the maps on the walls. Little by little, we uncovered clues, we found combinations, and we unlocked boxes and chests. In the middle of the room, there was a giant barrel with chains and locks around it. As we searched, we discovered that though we couldn’t get the locks opened, the lid was not on very tightly. And if we tried really hard, we could squeeze our hands in and remove some of the information that was inside. We thought we were being so smart and so sneaky! But what we later found out is that the information that we uncovered was actually not a part of the game that we were playing. And because we tried to jump ahead, we actually ended up confusing ourselves and making everything more difficult!
So, why an escape room as part of a Confirmation class? Well, because the treasure that we were trying to uncover was a connection, a relationship. As I explained to the class, many Confirmation classes in other churches are one or even two years long, but ours is only six weeks long because to me, Confirmation is not about learning everything there is to know about the Bible and the church and your faith, but it’s about making a relationship. It’s about making a connection with a pastor and a church family so that when the time is right for you and you are ready to learn more about your faith, when you’re ready to ask questions and wonder about the mysteries of life, or when you face a difficult time or a moment of joy, you have a place to come to wonder and to question, to share and to be surrounded by others walking a similar path. You have a safe place where it’s not about knowing all the facts and having all the answers, but it’s a place where you are welcomed and where you’re loved just as you are.
So, our time together has been quite a treasure hunt in some ways, but living a life of faith is a treasure hunt too. Today, from the gospel of Matthew, we heard a parable, and parables in themselves can be treasure hunts. Because parables are stories told in mysterious ways. They are stories with lots of layers that we sometimes understand only on the surface, but other times we dig into more deeply and when we do, they teach us something even more amazing.
So today we heard that “The kingdom of heaven or the Kingdom of God 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.”
So I wonder, what kind of treasure would be so important to you that you would find it, then hide it, then give all that you have to buy it? Sounds like a strange question, doesn’t it? It’s a tricky question that encourages us to think and to ask ourselves even more questions.
Well, speaking of questions, when our Confirmation class began this year, I assured each one of the confirmands that if when Confirmation class ended, if they did not want to be confirmed that I would honor their decision and in no way judge them by it. I also told them that, in our time together, we would be talking about the questions that would be asked of them at their Confirmation because I wanted to make sure if they decided to be confirmed, that they would totally understand what they were doing.
You see, Confirmation is a big step. It is making your own decision to become a member of the church universal. It is deciding, on your own, that YOU are Christian, that you are a follower of Jesus, and that you are ready to publicly put your faith and trust in him. Guys, as we discussed in class, Confirmation is not your parents’ choice. They chose to baptize you, making promises to be a good example for you and to teach you and encourage you in your faith. But Confirmation happens when YOU are ready to make those promises and take on those responsibilities on your own. No one else can do it for you. Your parents can’t do it for you. I can’t do it for you, and you can’t do it for each other!
Friends, if you remember, today’s sermon started with the question, “What do you think of when you hear the words ‘X marks the spot?'” And we answered, “A treasure hunt, or a treasure map?” Now maybe I’ve done too many escape rooms lately and searched for the answer too many puzzles, but the interesting thing that I realized this week is that the letter X in Greek is pronounced “Chi” and it means Christ. That’s why when people write “Xmas,” it’s not “taking Christ out of Christmas.” It’s simply using the Greek abbreviation for Christ! So, we could say that the treasure that we are searching for with a treasure map – the X that marks the spot – is Jesus!
Folks, today, our confirmands will confirm their decision to follow Jesus. And once you are confirmed, gentlemen, that’s when the real work begins. We spent quite a bit of time in class concentrating on the promises that you’ll be making – promises to resist oppression and evil, promises to show love and justice to others, and promises to witness to the work and word of Jesus Christ as best as you are able as you journey through each day, leading the way for others, and teaching by your own example. Because whether you live in North Attleboro or Plainville or Bellingham or England or Ireland or South Africa, whether you are a student at Norfolk Aggie or King Phillip or North Attleboro or Bellingham Middle School or High School, whether you play baseball or soccer, the trumpet, or percussion or you like to fish, whether you like to eat pizza or potato soup, or Dunkin Donut’s sandwiches, whether you’re thirteen or fifteen years old, or eighteen, or twenty-five, fifty-eight or one-hundred-and-one, and whether you are a student, a brother, a husband, a dad or a grandfather, you are also a Christian, which means that you are a follower of Jesus.
But what I want you to always remember is that being a Christian does not make you perfect. Being Christian does not make you better than other people. Being Christian does not mean that you will always make good choices and live a sin free life! We are all human beings, and we all make mistakes. The good news is that because you are a Christian, Jesus is always there to offer you forgiveness and grace giving you the chance to start again, helping you in times of trouble to part the sea of confusion and frustration and uncertainty, giving you assurance and hope and inviting you to walk through on safe dry ground.
So, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, as we call on the Holy Spirit this morning and confirm Billy, Matthew, Michael, Jack, and Evan, may you search within yourselves and affirm your own faith. That we might all go from this place remembering who and whose we are. Always remembering that “X does mark the spot,” that Jesus is our true treasure, and that in and through him, our lives are filled with hope and peace, forgiveness and grace.
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!