English artist, illustrator and author Kit Williams was born in 1946. He acquired almost unwanted fame in 1979, when he launched his book Masquerade, a picture book that sparked a national treasure hunt by concealing clues to the location of a jewelled golden hare, created and hidden somewhere in Britain by Williams. In fact it became almost a national scandal.
Even in those pre-internet and pre-geo-cache days, people became so obsessed with finding the treasure that they went around the countryside digging up lawns and flower beds hoping to just find something!
The hare was buried in Ampthill in Bedfordshire and the only witness was Bamber Gascoigne, the former host of University Challenge who went with Williams at night to bury the jewel. Bamber Gascoigne described how he took with him a cow pat in a Tupperware box to pour over the site to disguise it!
The original winner of the competition, who called himself Ken Thomas, turned out to be a fake, as he had found out the location from Kit Williams former girlfriend. Two physics teachers were later acknowledged as the real solvers of the puzzle.
The solution is complex, in each painting lines have to be drawn on the page through the eyes of each animal in the picture and then through their longest digits, leading to a letter in the border of the page. The letters lead to a final acrostic which says, “close by Ampthill”. The precise location was the spot at the edge of the shadow of the cross-shaped monument of Catherine of Aragon in Ampthill Park, at noon on the date of either the vernal or autumnal equinox.
Those who looked for the treasure had studied the book. They had watched the times and the seasons and even the stars. Those who looked had understood the riddles. They believed that if they followed what they had been told they would find a treasure hidden in a field.
St Matthew records the words of Jesus:
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field,
Which a man found and hid. In his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a merchant
seeking fine pearls, who having found one pearl of great price, he
went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13, verses 44-46, WEB)
The man “found” and the merchant “was seeking”. Beyond the phrase “the kingdom of heaven” each of the parables that Jesus tells details the work of individual human beings. God calls his people to join in the work of advancing the kingdom in the here and now, not in big, loud ways, but through small and seemingly insignificant acts.
Perhaps the kingdom of heaven is like the conversation you had with your neighbour when you rang to check if they needed anything, or the socially distanced conversation you have now been able to have with your grandchild? Maybe it’s shown in the support for members of your family who are keyworkers, or those who gave a word of comfort when someone close to you fell ill.
The kingdom of heaven is like …
How would you answer this today?
A song from the Taize community:
The reflections here are written by members of our congregation.