Henry Mora saw an opportunity and seized the day.

A gold detector tested positive near the patio in the front yard of his Montclair, California, home and he figured this might be something big. So he grabbed a shovel and started digging. While he only intended to go down three or four feet, ten days and sixty feet later the Montclair Fire Department showed up, sidestepped the hole and shut down the whole operation. The hole was as deep as it was going to get and no significant amount of gold had been discovered. The city officials commented that the homeowner had gotten carried away and they were lucky that no one had gotten hurt in the process. The hole has been fenced off and Mora is required to work with a civil engineer to correct the situation. Interesting that a hole could cause such a stir.

I've wondered a time or two if Jesus based his parable about the kingdom of heaven being like treasure buried in a field on a real-life event, or if he discovered the image buried in his own imagination. The Gospel stories of the Biblical-era Henry Mora are simple and to the point. "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 (Matthew 13:44)." Apparently the main character in the parable was a little more adventuresome, or a little more crazy than Mr. Mora. At least our modern-day treasure hunter already owned the land on which he was digging and didn't risk everything on an expedition that turned out to give him nothing back. And therein lies the question. When are we supposed to take risks with our lives and when are we supposed to stop digging, fill up the hole and go home?

Questions are a good place to start regarding Jesus parables. He taught using these compact, seemingly-obvious lessons to draw people in and then encourage them to really think about how the stories spoke to their faith and informed their lives. The people with whom Jesus conducted his ministry were from a variety of backgrounds. Some were farmers, others were shepherds or tradespeople. Those differences didn't matter because everyone living in the Roman Empire in the first century understood who was in charge. Rome's kingdom stretched far and wide, fully beyond most people's comprehension.

But when Jesus spoke of a kingdom of heaven, people wanted to know what that meant. Would Go'd's kingdom be like Rome's? That couldn't possibly be, so they asked Jesus, and themselves, what a kingdom with God as ruler would be like. Establishing that God's kingdom would be based in justice, mercy and love, all good things, the hunt to find the kingdom of heaven, wherever it may be, was on. Where should they look? Where should they start? Eventually these questions would bring them to Jesus' simple affirmation that the kingdom of heaven was already among them. But how could something so glorious be here on earth, especially an earth they mostly knew to be harsh, painful and oppressive?

Jesus gives them several examples, one of which is to see that the kingdom of heaven is so precious and rare that someone's joy in discovering it makes them act in ways that the world would describe as crazy. The kingdom of heaven is a treasure, hidden away on a piece of property that this person discovers by chance. But they recognize what it is, hide it again, and come back with every asset they have laid on the table to buy the land that holds the treasure. We don't know what happened after that, but we do know the original owner wasn't aware of the wealth their land held. Some people seem to be able to see the kingdom of heaven, know its true worth and be willing to put everything they have into making it their own. Seeing it and not realizing what it is would do the person no good. Neither would seeing it and recognizing its worth without being willing to stake everything on buying it. Awareness, recognition and investment, risking it all, is the way to discovering the kingdom of heaven. Faith is the answer if you have asked the right questions, and works embody that faith fully and deeply.

Henry Mora hasn't mentioned whether he was seeking more than gold in digging his front yard hole. If he was he is honoring the Biblical tradition of inner joy and outer silence. Seeking the kingdom of heaven is to be first on our list, and we are told that everything else will follow. Henry Mora's story is a modern reminder, a parable for today that tells us to pay attention, recognize God's kingdom and its priceless value when we see it and to be willing to give everything we have to claim it as our own. It doesn't matter how high the risk is of our friends and neighbors thinking we are crazy. Chances are they owned the land in the first place.

Author's Bio: 

The Rev. Cory L. Kemp, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay with a double major in Communication and the Arts and Social Change and Development and a minor in Women's Studies, was ordained into the ministry of the Moravian Church in North America after completing her Master of Divinity degree studies through Moravian Theological Seminary. Over twenty-five years of experience in individual and community ministries gives Rev. Kemp an informed perception about faith, its implications and struggles in everyday life. Rev. Kemp focuses her work on helping people understand their faith and how faith can become transformational in their lives. Bring authentic, meaningful faith into your daily life by visiting www.creatingwomenministries.com.