The Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge on November 16, 2015

The following homily was preached by The Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Dean and President of Seminary of the Southwest, on Monday, November 16, 2015.

“The kingdom of heaven is like
a 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.”
Matthew 13:44

“Treasure” is an Old School word for wealth – wealth, but without the negative associations. Treasure is antiquated – sparkling, valuable, heavy, and precious. Seeking after it is almost part of the word, built into it. Think: “hidden treasure” “treasure island” “treasure hunter.”


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When my sister Jennifer was young, she had a “Rust Club.” She looked for and collected old metal things that had rusted and she arranged them in a secret place in the woods away from our house. As the months went by she collected more and more items: rusty nails, lots of those, what we used to call “tin” cans, a couple of skeleton keys, and many, many license plates.

Because it was a “club” you had to be admitted as a member. Then you would be taken to the hidden place and you could enjoy the wonder of the collection of rust. It was a very small club – she and a friend and I think, eventually, me too. Her rust collection was her treasure.

Margaret of Scotland 1093, married to Malcolm, possessed treasure. And she used it for good works, founding schools, orphanages, hospitals, and monasteries. She rebuilt the monastery at Iona. She was a devout person, who cared about things liturgical – Lent, Roman Mass, the Lord’s Day on Sunday, regular communion. We remember her, and the Scots do, for her devotion to God, her care for her eight children, and her care for the people of her country.

She had treasure and spent it to heal, to educate, to care for, and to pray.

In the parables of the kingdom of heaven, treasure is something you seek, something you don’t already have. It’s “good fortune,” “accident,” “bonus,” “unclaimed prize.” In Monopoly, the card: “bank error in your favor.”

The parable is from the point of view of the have-not – a peasant or a child.

The Kingdom is lost by someone, Found, then hidden, then discovered, then kept secret while enough money can be amassed to make an offer on that ordinary field of dirt, so that you could own it, and under the dirt, you would dig up and rediscover the treasure.

“The kingdom of heaven is like
a 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.”

Today the scripture directs our attention to the kingdom of heaven — an old school, quaint, beautiful, world.

Not the world of terrorist bombs and retaliatory attacks.

Not the world of devastated lives and families, of straightforward narratives of good and evil, success and failure.

The kingdom of heaven is elusive and not obvious. It is lost and found and hidden and bought and likely lost again. The kingdom of heaven is what we long to glimpse and to linger in and to trust. The kingdom of heaven is what Jesus preached is very near. Even today, even in Paris, even in these particular challenging circumstances, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure; it has seeking built right into it.

Let us seek it.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, Margaret’s, that became places to pray and live and learn. The kingdom of heaven is like rusty stuff that other people threw away that you seek and find and arrange with love and with joy invite your friends to join.


Cynthia Briggs Kittredge (@cbkittredge) is the Dean & President of Seminary of the Southwest.  She believes that historical and literary study of scripture in its ancient context can inform and nourish the imagination for faithful preaching and teaching. Professor Kittredge, a contributor to The New Oxford Annotated Bible and the Women’s Bible Commentary, is the author of Conversations with Scripture: The Gospel of John and Community and Authority: The Rhetoric of Obedience in the Pauline Tradition. She co-edited The Bible in the Public Square: Reading the Signs of the Times and Walk in the Ways of Wisdom: Essays in Honor of Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza.


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