Midweek Faith Lift
July 20, 2022
The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
July 11, 2022
Tennis star Nick Kyrgios, who morphed from being a bullied, overweight child into a Wimbledon finalist, hopes his story will inspire kids to dream big. Nick was taunted as a child for being fat and from an ethnic background. "I think any kid who's been outcasted can achieve something special if you believe in yourself. Just keep going. I believe in you.”
“Sometimes you have to kind of die inside in order to rise from your own ashes, believe in yourself, and love yourself to become a new person.” - Gerard Way, singer songwriter
Affirmative prayer: I hold myself in high regard, knowing that pure Spirit fashioned me in love and mastery when It cast me in the possibilities of life. I am made in the image of the One Life that brings energy, courage, and purpose to all. Infinite Presence, may I be a great encourager for others that they catch sight of their own spiritual mettle. Thank you, God, forever. Amen.
Today we are exploring the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, also the Law of Perception. It is the second one in the cluster of three in Matthew. Last week we studied the first one about the treasure hidden in a field. This week we move on to the Pearl of Great Price, also in Matthew 13: 45-46 and it reads like this:
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. (NRSV)
As in the previous parable, Jesus begins with “the Kingdom of Heaven is like” and again, he describes a process. This time it is a merchant in search of fine pearls. Presumably, he is looking for pearls that he can sell to others. But once again, the hero of our story is caught up short because he finds one of great value, which totally changes his game plan. And once again, as if to drive home the point, Jesus tells his listeners that the merchant sold all he had and then bought it. We have been down this road before, so what is the point here?
While the structure seems much the same as the parable of the hidden treasure, the actual content is different in many significant ways. We now have a merchant who is actually in search of fine pearls and finally “sees” the pearl of great price. What is the “pearl of great price?” Well we might be inclined to think it is when we make the connection between how we think and feel and what we actually manifest in our lives. We let go of the negative messages, the negative self-image and the negative experiences of our lives to realize, or make real something much better, something more in line with our true divine potential. I like to think of this as the “making lemonade out of lemons” phase of spiritual growth, and I have spent a lot of time and energy in that phase!
While that is a worthy and worthwhile effort, I believe there is more to be discovered. A perfect illustration of this is in the opening story about Nick Kyrgios, a professional tennis player from Australia. I had never heard of him, so I did a Google search and learned while he has made it to a lot of final rounds in big time tennis matches, he has not yet won the “big” match. I also learned that he has demonstrated a lot of really bad “tantrum” like behavior on the tennis court and has paid huge fines as a result. It was also noted that John McEnroe, another “bad boy” of tennis offered to be his coach! That is a some kind of measure of how badly he behaves, right?
When I first read this about Nick Kyrgios, I thought maybe this isn’t the right story to have for this talk. And then as I reflected on Nick, I realized, no it is the right and perfect story! While Nick has found his pearl in tennis that lets him express his human potential as a player, he has not yet found his “pearl of great price” that would support him in being a truly great player. And that is the rest of the story about this pearl of great price!
What Nick appears to be missing is a deeper understanding of the nature of pearls and specifically, pearls of wisdom. The growth of a pearl is an organic process just like the mustard seed and the leaven. Here we are again, searching and seeking to understand this process that creates the reality of the “Kingdom of Heaven,” a higher consciousness from which we engage our “I AM.” How does the pearl do this? How could Nick’s Intention and Attention result in the Manifestation of his highest good, his pearl of great price? And possibly a Grand Slam tennis win?
Well, a pearl begins with an irritation inside the oyster’s shell. Let’s think of that as an irritation inside our consciousness. And rather than focus on how irritating the sand or grit is in the soft tissue, the oyster mobilizes to minimize the irritation. It begins to coat the grit with layers of calcium, which over time, months and years, becomes a pearl. This pearl is much less irritating and allows a level of ease and comfort for the oyster. It does not destroy the soft body of the oyster, it just grows into something beautiful and if large enough, very valuable.
From a metaphysical perspective, a pearl is a creation. As Dr. Todd puts it on p. 123 of The Hidden Parables of Jesus:
(It is)..a life that has resulted from a person attempting to ease her own suffering, attempting to heal her own life of some challenging circumstance. A pearl is the wisdom gained from a prolonged and dedicated work…..The oyster that makes the pearl, including its sensitive tissues, is a person’s heart, which remains soft through the process of repeatedly overcoming obstacles.
That is a very profound and challenging statement about how in order to make the pearl of great price, our hearts remain soft, open and loving, despite all the aggression, hate, ugliness, unfairness, misery and injustice we might encounter in the process.
When we show up as this open-hearted pearl of a being, able to still love despite all the odds, that is when we have become the “pearl of great price.” It is that consciousness that sells everything, lets go of attachments to outcomes, attachments to being right, attachments to people, attachments to things, because the truth is that open-hearted loving matters more than anything. But it is a really challenging place to hang out and most of us can only manage it for a short time and under certain conditions. That is true for me, for Nick and for most of us.
What is it that keeps us from hanging out and living from that “pearl of great price” consciousness? Well, my take on this is that we don’t recognize what is getting in the way. Returning to the words of the parable, we read that once the merchant recognized the pearl as being of greatest value, he “bought it.” However, the understanding of the word “bought” is not the same as we understand it. This is not a transaction in the sense that we use the word bought. It is not even in the sense of “he bought into it,” although that gets a bit closer. The Scripture was first transcribed in Greek and the word normally interpreted as “bought” is heurisko, the root of which means to “find, get, obtain, perceive, or see.” So this merchant finds the pearl of great price and then he truly “sees” or perceives its value. Perception is our ability to grasp, make sense of and realize all the data that we get from both our internal and external experiences.
In getting it, that this Pearl is one of great wisdom, we then begin to see its value, what it has for us. Instead of railing against the difficulties and challenges and unfairness, we now really see what is truly of value, the higher value in each circumstance or experience we have. I don’t pretend to know or grasp the pressure that a world class tennis player like Nick Kyrgios faces each time he walks onto a tennis court. But I have certainly faced my own demons, my own human limitations time and time again on a daily basis. And like Nick, I may want to throw a verbal racquet at someone just to ease the frustration.
I want to remember that when I do that, I am an irritation for someone else’s pearl of wisdom to grow. Is there a better way? In my Divine/Human journey, sometimes I remember to pray, and sometimes I forget. I have learned over time that when I pause and pray, I most often perceive the circumstances more clearly, affording myself and all involved greater compassion and love. We are all a work in progress, an organic process whereby the worst of us provides a means whereby the best of us, our open-hearted capacity to love just deepens and grows. That is the pearl of great price, the capacity for open-hearted love.
One of my heroes is Congressman John Lewis who wrote in his book, Carry On, on p.104, the chapter on “Love”:
After the marches, protests, and struggle, there would be a time for reconciliation and harmony. When we marched, we walked in peace, without hate and with love. It was a nonviolent revolution. You may hit me, you may beat me, you may unleash your dogs on me and almost kill me. But I am still going to love you.
He went on to serve for 33 years in the US Congress as a beacon of love, civility, and hope. I stand in awe of his courage, his wisdom and his presence as a “pearl of great price.” And for me, for the rest of us, I offer the following from Kahlil Gibran:
“To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what s/ he has already achieved, but at what s/he aspires to.”
Blessings on the Path,