The attic, like any other, smelled musty.
And like any other attic, there was stuff piled everywhere – dusty, musty junk. Anyone who‘s ever been up there knows the smell and the sight. You look around and you don’t know where to begin. It is an experience of overwhelming fascination. Or perhaps just overwhelming.
For Karl Kissner, the journey to his late grandfather’s home in Defiance, Ohio was both sentimental and necessary. The old house was bulging with a hundred years of accumulated clutter.
As Karl stood in the old attic, surveying the task before him, he spied a small cardboard box in a corner. Opening it, he was startled. The box was filled with old baseball cards, all of them in pristine condition. Staring up at Karl were the virile, robust images of long-departed legends.
There was Ty Cobb, “the Georgia Peach”, who spent twenty-two amazing seasons with the Detroit Tigers. There was Cy Young, the gifted pitcher who played for five teams during his career, compiling a record 511 wins. And Karl found a Honus Wagner card too. Known as “The Flying Dutchman” for his incredible speed, Wagner is considered by most baseball historians as the greatest shortstop who ever took the diamond. These men were among the first players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in the 1930s.
Karl Kissner counted seven hundred perfectly preserved baseball cards that day in his grandfather’s musty attic.
He did what anyone would do after making such a discovery. Karl located an expert. It turned out that Karl’s grandfather had owned one of the rarest collections of baseball cards ever found – a long-lost series that had been issued around 1910.
It’s estimated value? Three million dollars.
Karl couldn’t believe it. “It’s like finding the Mona Lisa in the attic,” he enthused.
Or perhaps it’s a lot like finding a treasure hidden in a field or discovering a rare pearl in an open market. You don’t expect to find it. You’re not looking for it. In fact, just like Karl Kissner standing in that old attic, it’s probably the very last thing you thought you’d ever find. But you’ll never forget the day you found it.
When Jesus went down to the sea, a large crowd, eager to hear him, gathered so intently that Jesus had to get in a boat, push it slightly off shore, and speak from there. According to Matthew, he shared with the crowd seven parables that day. All seven of these stories Jesus told illustrated the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 13: 1-52).
Two of them spoke to the supreme value of spiritual discovery.
“The Kingdom of Heaven,” Jesus told them, “is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field.” (Matthew 13: 44, NLT). The man, likely poor, is plowing this field for someone else. He expects nothing for his labor except dirt, sweat and a modest payment. Instead, Jesus says, the man discovers “a treasure” hidden in the field.
And what does this poor man do? He does just what Karl Kissner did. He immediately recognizes that this surprising discovery is of such great value that it could change his life forever.
He must have this treasure.
Jesus said that “In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.” (Matthew 13: 44, NLT, emphasis added).
This man, making his unexpected discovery, instantly knew the value of what he had found hidden in the ground. He wanted this treasure more than he wanted anything else in life. And so the man gave up everything else in order to have this one great thing. He discovered, then he decided, he acted, he sacrificed and he gained what mattered most to him.
And so it was also with the merchant seeking “choice pearls.” Finding the one “pearl of great price”, the shrewd merchant recognizes the true value of his discovery. Jesus says “he sold everything he owned and bought it!” (Matthew 13: 45-46, KJV, NLT).
Very different in background and life experience, both the plowman and the merchant understood the true value of things. They wanted what mattered most. And they willingly gave up everything else in order to get it.
To Jesus – and to those who would be his followers – this means the Kingdom of Heaven. It means eternal life. It means possessing Jesus himself, being his disciple and putting him first in our hearts and in our lives. It means, as Paul told the Philippians, giving up all that the world holds dear but cannot keep in order to gain all that truly matters and can never be lost.
Living for Jesus – discovering in him our greatest need and greatest treasure – is worth more than anything else.
Even a box of old baseball cards gathering dust in an attic.
May God bless you and your family.