David in the Old Testament was a hidden gem because he didn’t fit the world’s criteria for a King. In God’s Kingdom, everything that is hidden will eventually be brought to light: hidden gems, like people who are overlooked or silenced; as well as hidden injustices. We can partner with God in calling forth hidden gems and calling out hidden injustices.
Speaker: Pastor Stephen “Tig” Intagliata
Bible Passage: 1 Samuel 16:7; Mark 4:26-34; Luke 8:17
I do a lot of research when I’m looking into restaurants to eat at or places to visit, and one phrase that seems to pop up a lot in the reviews is the phrase “hidden gem”.
A hidden gem is a place that is a great find that’s not very well-known, like a well-kept secret. Of course, once enough people read the reviews of these “hidden gems” they become more popular and while they still may be gems, they’re no longer “hidden”.
A few years ago Karen and I were visiting our family in DC and we took a boat from Old Town Alexandria across the Potomac River to Georgetown. Someone had heard about this great cupcake place on the Martha Stewart Show called Georgetown Cupcake, and they wanted to check it out.
So we found it on our GPS and started walking that way. Then we saw this line that went out the door and wrapped all the way around the block. That must be it, we thought.
Now I’m one of those people who can get a little impatient about standing in line for things, even if it’s a sweet treat like a cupcake. I’m also one of those people who isn’t afraid to seek people out on the spot to get advice.
So I ducked into a store that was right next to us, and I said to the woman behind the counter, “Hi, I want to get a cupcake, but I don’t really want to spend two hours in the hot sun in line at Georgetown Cupcake. Do you know if there are any other cupcake places not far from here?”
And she said, “Yes, actually there’s a place right down the street called “Sprinkles” that isn’t as well known as Georgetown Cupcake but is just as good in my opinion, and you shouldn’t have to wait in line.”
I said, “thank you so much. That’s just what I wanted to hear.” So I went back outside and relayed the news to my family. We walked a couple of blocks down to Sprinkles, there was a very short line inside the building, we bought our cupcakes and actually found a table inside in the air conditioning to sit down and enjoy them.
Sprinkles fits the description of a “hidden gem”, in the shadow of the wildly popular but no better Georgetown Cupcake. If you know of any other hidden gems in the DC area, whether they be restaurants, beaches, or things to do, let me know. But don’t tell too many other people!
I’ve heard some people here at Daniels Run Peace Church that our church is kind of a hidden gem, like a well-kept secret. (Glen, I think I’ve heard you say that before, right?)
We are small, and Mennonites aren’t very well known in this area. But we have so much to offer, and are really doing a lot of good with the resources that we have.
And we’re hoping with the work we’re currently doing to upgrade our website and increasing our social media presence, that more people will find out about us.
The scripture passages today have to do with “hidden gems”. They are about people and things that are below the radar of the mainstream and of what’s popular, things that are sometimes overlooked or overshadowed by things that are more popular,
things that appear to be better, stronger, faster or flashier. But in the nature and values of God’s Kingdom, the Kingdom that Jesus preached and embodied with his life,
These “hidden gems” are more valuable to God than those other things that get more attention.
The verse from 1 Samuel is about the choosing of David to be King of the Israelites to replace Saul. God told the prophet Samuel that one of the sons of a man named Jesse was going to be the next King.
On the outside, David was the son least likely to fit the stereotype of a King. He had brothers who were older, and bigger and stronger and more intimidating than he was.
But those weren’t the criteria that mattered most to God. The story says that God looks beyond outward appearances and straight to the heart—to things like strong character, courage and humility.
David possessed these qualities, so God had him chosen as the next King of Israel.
David was like a hidden gem, overlooked and underappreciated, but he turned out to be the leader that Israel needed at that time and place in their history.
Centuries later, Jesus comes onto the scene. To most people, he doesn’t fit the bill of what the Messiah, the Savior, should be like. He didn’t come flying through the clouds with a lot of fanfare, or riding through town in a chariot with the strongest horses.
Jesus didn’t surround himself with military troops to pummel people into submission so he could set up his Kingdom in Jerusalem and around the world. He didn’t schmooze with the rich and the powerful, the movers and the shakers.
No, Jesus hung out with those who were considered nobodies or losers. He gave people value and that most other people thought were worthless. He gave people a voice who were so often ignored or silenced.
We could say that the Kingdom of God itself is like a hidden gem. It began at the grassroots, without a big marketing strategy.
Jesus used parables to describe his Kingdom, helping people understand what it was like by comparing it to everyday things, some of which were like hidden gems.
Like today’s scripture, where Jesus uses the metaphor of seeds to describe what his kingdom is like. God’s Kingdom is like seeds that are scattered and disappear into the ground, and that grow slowly,
until they start to sprout and little by little grow into grain that produce fruit or tall plants that provide branches and shade for the birds to make their nests in, like the Ken Medema song that we heard talks about.
A small and seemingly insignificant thing like a tiny mustard seed can grow to be larger than all the other plants in the garden.
These parables illustrate to us what Jesus’ Kingdom is like, which involves a way of life where people who are “hidden” in the eyes of the world are considered “gems” in the eyes of God.
The beatitudes in Matthew 5 give us a glimpse of what kind of people these hidden gems are:
They’re the ones who are poor, and poor in spirit, those whose hearts are pure.
The ones who are suffer and mourn, and hunger for justice in the world.
The hidden gems are the ones who are meek and those who show mercy to others.
They’re the ones who live as peacemakers, even if that means being ridiculed or persecuted.
These are the hidden gems, the ones who Jesus lifts up as an example, and who tremendous worth in God’s way of seeing the world.
But these are same kind of people who are often overlooked or unappreciated or even silenced or trampled upon by a society and its people whose values are almost the exact opposite of the values of God’s Kingdom.
A society where value and success is determined by big and fast, and wealthy and powerful, and popular and trendy,
A society where outer appearances are more valuable than inner character, and where temporary happiness is more important than lasting joy.
In the passage we heard from 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul gives a vivid contrast of some of these followers of Jesus who are looked down upon by the world but are true “hidden gems”:
God chose those the world considers foolish to shame those who think they are wise. God chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose those who are despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. (1 Cor. 1:26-9)
Who might these “hidden gems” be in our world today? Let me offer a few examples:
First, I think of those all those kids who are picked on or made fun of or bullied by their peers because they are seek as awkward or weak or nerdy or “different” or they just don’t fit in in some way with the mainstream kids.
These kids have so much to offer but they are never given a chance. They may just be late bloomers, but they’re written off prematurely.
Have you ever gone to a high school reunion and seen this classmate who was kind of shy and ordinary, and not part of the “cool kids” group, but they end up blossoming after graduation and do some amazing things with their life?
I have been to several of my class reunions, and I can think of a whole bunch of my classmates who fit that description.
Then there are those people who have so much goodness and so much to offer the world, but there’s some type of barrier that prevents them from being understood or appreciated.
For a person like Yong Riley, that barrier is language. Yong is the Korean woman I wrote about in recent newsletter who finds so much joy in gardening. Her generous spirit touched me because she moved my struggling tomato plants into the garden so they would survive and flourish.
To me, Yong is a hidden gem. But like many other people in our country whose native language is not English, many of whom are immigrants, their voices are not fully heard and they are often misunderstood because they don’t have command of the primary language in our society.
And then there are entire groups in our society who have been silenced or intimidated by the dominant and most powerful groups.
Like women who are victims of sexual abuse, or sexual minorities who suffer from bullying, rejection or worse if they come out and share their stories.
I think of the African American experience in our country, and how so much of their history and stories have been swept under the rug, hidden from view.
We need to make sure to hear those stories. And I was glad that at the Virginia Mennonite Conference annual meeting yesterday, an African American woman, Vivian Stevens Lyons,
shared her story about how her great-grandfather was a slave and her grandfather was as sharecropper. That brought racism a lot closer to home to us right here in our own denomination and conference.
Did you see the movie Hidden Figures that came out a few years ago. The tagline for the movie was: Meet the women you don’t know, behind the mission you do.
Hidden Figures brings to light a previously obscure story of three African-American women who were mathematicians, who rose through the ranks of NASA and became the brains behind launching astronaut John Glenn into space and making sure that he returned safely to earth.
Their names are Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Gobels Johnson. And they are true American heroes. But because of their race and their gender, their story was buried in the annals of history until the movie came out just recently. Now these hidden gems have been revealed & brought out into the open.
I saw in article this week that the city of Fairfax is taking this a step further. They just renamed Lanier Middle School Katherine Johnson Middle School. I think that’s pretty cool!
On a more somber note, I was shocked to just recently learn the story from African American history of the Tulsa Race Massacre. This tragic event occurred over 18 hours from May 31 to June 1, 1921,
where a white mob attacked residents, homes and businesses in the predominantly Black Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The event remains one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. history, killing hundreds of people and leaving thousands homeless.
This happened 100 years ago and I hadn’t heard about it until now? Why was this story not taught as part of American History in school?
This is an example of how racism rears its ugly head, where the dominant group oppresses those who have less power by glossing over or suppressing the injustices that have been committed and silencing the voices and stories of those who have been oppressed.
I want to close with one more scripture verse, and then an invitation, a challenge to us. The verse is Luke 8:17, where Jesus says “Nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light.”
Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God here. And in God’s Kingdom, in God’s timing, everything that is hidden will eventually be brought to light. I take this to mean that both hidden beauty, hidden gems, as well as hidden ugliness, hidden injustices, will both be exposed.
And I believe that we who call ourselves God’s people play a role in this process. We can partner with God is planting the seeds of justice and love, and help nurture those seeds so they can grow and flourish.
On the one hand, we have a responsibility to point out and work to end those things that diminish and devalue people like racism, and things that take advantage of people like all forms of abuse.
As painful as it can be, we need to hear the stories of those who have suffered from injustice and abuse, and make space for them to tell their stories.
And at the same time, we are invited to look for those hidden gems that have been buried but that are waiting, longing to be shared with the world. We need to hear their stories and tell their stories,
Point out their value, their goodness and their beauty, encourage them, and help remove whatever barriers are holding them back, so that they can flourish into the person that God created them to be, and be a blessing to the world around them. AMEN.
Here’s a question to think about as a response: What hidden thing, what hidden gem, is God inviting you, or us as a church, to expose and bring out into the open?
It could be beautiful hidden gem, or an ugly hidden injustice.