Mt. McKinley in Alaska, originally known as Denali, "the Great One." .... "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge..." (Ps. 61:2-3)

       "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asked.  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church..."  Jesus then began to speak of the rough road ahead. And Peter took him aside and rebuked him... "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus replied. "You are a stumbling block..."
                                                (Matthew 16:13-23)

May these words of this Peter be like a rock,
not a stumbling block!

"Entrusted with treasure"

Message preached July 28, 2002
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA

based upon  Matthew 13:31-22, 44-52

Order of Worship

            In Robert Lewis Stevensonís novel, Treasure Island, a boy in the process of becoming a man sails forth on a fantastic journey in search of pirateís gold. Along the way, he is befriended by various older men, who serve as guides through treacherous seas. The story, yes, is about finding a buried chest full of stolen wealth. However, on a deeper level, it is a tale of a young man coming of age, seeking a different kind of treasure - a treasure which is hidden within. The hard work of discovering this wealth is primarily in the hands of this young person, but he does not work alone. His guides through this perilous pilgrimage, even the self-serving Long John Silver, help him to become what he is meant to be...

            Along the journey of becoming a disciple of Jesus, which is a treasure-seeking adventure far greater than any classic novel, we are befriended by those who help us find our way. Some of these persons have our best interests at heart. Others - the Long John Silvers of life - well, weíre not so sure about them. Even so, the truth is this: God provides such persons to help us, folks we call "mentors."

            Now, before I go any further, I want to forewarn you that you are going to help me preach this sermon. Later on in my message, I will open up space for some of you to share from your experience, your own fantastic journey with Jesus. Perhaps this morning you will feel led to speak briefly about someone who served as a mentor in Christ to you, how they helped you find your way at a particular moment in time. On the other hand, maybe you will be moved to share about how God empowered you to be a mentor to someone, entrusting you with treasure.

            Being entrusted with treasure, thatís what mentoring is all about. I need to state that this word, "mentor," is not found in the Bible. It goes back to the Greek epic of Odysseus and the older friend of this great adventurer into whose hands was entrusted the care of Odysseusí son, Telemachus. This trusted friendís name was Menthes, from which is derived the Greek word, "mentor." While this word "mentor" is not specifically used in the Bible, there are mentoring relationships throughout these pages. A prime example from the Old Testament is the case of young Samuel, whose mother, Hannah entrusted him into the hands of the priest Eli to mentor (1 Samuel 1-3). From the New Testament, the classic story is told of how a youthful Timothy relied upon the mentoring guidance of the apostle Paul to eventually become a key leader in the early church (Acts 16:1-5, 1 Corinthians 4:17, 16:10-11, Philippians 2:19-23, 1 Thessalonians 3:1-6, and the letters of first & second Timothy).

            Mentoring, however, is not just for the young. Paul himself needed guidance he could trust after God turned his world upside down on the road to Damascus. A case could be made that Barnabas (whose name means "son of encouragement" - see Acts 4:36) became Paulís mentor (Acts 9:26-30) even as they later became colleagues, just like Paul and Timothy. If you wish another example from the Old Testament, there we find an older Moses leaning on his father-in-law, Jethro, as a trusted mentor when he - Moses - felt the heavy weight of leadership (Exodus 18:13-27). We all could use a mentor along the way of becoming what God desires us to be.

            A mentor, as I said, is someone entrusted with treasure. What is this "treasure?" Well, on the one hand this treasure, this "pearl of great value," this something small which has so much potential - like a mustard seed, or a pinch of yeast - this treasure is the person with whom God calls us to be in relationship. As a father, my greatest treasure is here in this room - my children. This treasure belongs to God. A parent, by the way, is also a mentor. Those who are called by God to mentor the children of someone else are entrusted not only with the treasure of an earthly parent, but the treasure of a heavenly parent. This latter point makes all the difference in the world. If only those who take advantage of young ones when entrusted with their care would remember that these "pearls of great value" belong to God, a great deal of heartache would be avoided. God treasures each one. Mentors are entrusted with Godís treasure.

            On the other hand, when we speak of being entrusted with treasure, we are talking about more than people - as valuable as each person is in Godís eyes. These parables of Jesus, who is our truest mentor, my brothers and sisters, even as he is our Savior and Lord - these parables point to something beyond our grasp, a direction in which we aim as we grow in grace and truth. Is this treasure the person we are becoming in Christ? Is it the faith God is providing us all along the way, a power so great even though so small? Is it the kingdom of heaven, so very near, even though so very far, which seems at times to just bubble up all around us and within us - even as we anticipate the day when we will fully be with God in paradise?

            Godís treasure hidden in a field, a pearl of great value for which we risk everything, something small which has so much potential - like a tiny mustard seed which grows so large, or a pinch of yeast which leavens flour, making it rise... with this we are entrusted, my friends. This is a great adventure upon we have embarked as disciples. When we sail the disciple-"ship" we do not travel alone. God provides mentors who unfurl the sails with us, helping us to learn (often by simply showing us the ropes) the fore from the aft, the starboard from the port (I still get those confused). Mentors donít have to know everything, they just need to be willing to get in the boat.

            Think about those who have helped you to grow as a disciple of Jesus. I imagine at the time you may have seen them as all-wise. However, I bet if you were to be able to ask them about their wisdom, these mentors might confess their own ignorance in so many things. So it is, for wisdom is found in Godís hands, not our own. Still, recall how these persons helped you.

            Or, remember when you journeyed as a mentor with someone else. The point wasnít that you had all the answers, was it? Such wisdom belongs to God, right? The importance came with the treasure you both sought, whether it be the uniqueness of this younger person with whom you walked, his or her growing potential, the mustard-seed of faith within, or the kingdom of God the two of you had your sights set upon, even amid the simplest of activities - a ballgame attended, an ice cream cone shared, something fun done together or a job you both handled side-by-side. The possibilities are endless. Recall when you served as a mentor to someone.

            Now, as I warned you earlier, Iíve set aside the next portion of this message for you to share. Weíll operate as we do for our time of sharing joys and concerns, with ushers handling the microphones for you to speak from right where you are. Make it evident to us, e.g. show us just a bit of what mentoring has meant to you - whether on the giving or the receiving end. The words donít have to be fancy or highly "theological." We just need to see some of what Godís been doing in your life. Anyone brave enough to begin?

         Weíll see what happens! Those not able to be here will just have to ask around to find out what was shared.

            There is a purpose to all this. You see, our congregation intentionally pairs up our young people with mentors, and we need persons willing to serve in this capacity. Weíve got a number of new youth in our midst, newcomers as well as incoming middle-schoolers. Some relationships between youth and mentor may not have "taken" as well as some others - which is sometimes how it happens, isnít it? Who can predict the chemistry of a relationship? We may need to do a little shuffling of mentors. Thatís okay.

            The point is, we need a batch of new folks willing to jump into the disciple-"ship" with our youth. Donít worry, weíll provide some training. Likewise, remember that you donít have to be an expert. An expert, by the way (Peteís definition), is just a has been (ex) drip under pressure (spurt). Jesus doesnít want experts, just folks willing to be entrusted with treasure.

            Are you game? If so, on an insert in your bulletin there is a place where you can indicate your willingness. If youíre serious, and willing to really work at it, just write down your name, tear it off and place it in the offering plate later on. Is God calling you to be entrusted with treasure? Ponder that question as we sing the first three verses of "When the storms of life are raging." This is an appropriate song for the turbulent, but rewarding years of adolescence, wouldnít you say?

online resources for this scripture text

For commentaries consulted, see Matthew.

©2002 Peter L. Haynes

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