"Where Treasure Resides"
August 7, 2016
East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Cell phones are marvelous things.
(I know I just made three-quarters of you groan.)
My cell phone brings out the inner techie in me.
It has more computing power than the building sized IBM computer
I learned to program when I attended college.
It has removed
The telephone, calendar, and most of the books from my desk.
It has opened up to me the world of scholarship and information
That I couldn’t even imagine twenty years ago.
Which is leading me to tell you about an app that I have.
An app - short for application - is a program that launches
As soon as I touch it’s identifying picture on the screen.
The app I want to tell you about is called “Mint.”
I started an account with Mint in August 2010.
I entered into Mint
Secure information about
All our bank accounts,
All our credit card and loan accounts,
All our pension accounts,
And all our property.
Whenever I launch the app,
The computer goes out to all the secure sites and accounts
And brings back a real time status of everything.
At the bottom of the list is the sum total, called “Net Worth.”
Net worth, I’ve discovered varies greatly day-to-day,
Mostly due to the securities value of pension funds.
Initially, I looked at Mint a lot.
It was reassuring that our nest egg was growing just right for retirement.
On the other hand,
The daily fluctuations could make me groan!
“Yikes!” Cynthia would often hear me complain at the dinner table,
“we lost eight thousand dollars today.”
In recent years, I’ve learned to look at it less.
Unless I’m checking for an account balance,
There isn’t any need to watch short term fluctuations.
We are all at the mercy of global markets and the financial world.
Since signing up for Mint six years ago,
A lot has changed in my life.
I’ve experienced a lot of spiritual growth.
I’ve been on three mission trips,
Started out new at East Rochester,
And have made some significant, healthier choices.
Even in middle age,
The Spirit is stirring, shaking, and prodding me to grow.
I’m beginning to think that I need a new app for my cell phone,
One to replace Mint.
I haven’t found it yet, so I might need to create it.
If I do,
Instead of defining net worth as the measure of success,
I’d like to quantify treasures in heaven as the measure of success.
What would I call this app?
TIH, or Treasures in Heaven, of course.
It is my experience that
The sum total of life is not measured by net worth.
This may be one way to measure success,
That’s not the success Jesus is advocating.
I’d like to suggest other ways to build up your eternal purse,
To grow your TIH,
Your treasures in heaven.
1. Success begins with the people each of us associates with.
Each of us have multiple people in multiple rings that we allow into our lives.
Our closest ring is often our family.
Next are our friends.
We chose our friends;
Those we get along with, we invite closer;
Those we don’t get along with, we naturally distance ourselves from.
We have acquaintances further out, and so on.
Our friends and our family are the people
We retreat to when life hits the skids.
They are our go-to people in our lives.
They are easiest to relate to,
To serve, and to be served.
They could show up at your door
Without makeup, mixing plaids and stripes, at three o’clock in the morning
And it wouldn’t make a difference.
These people are the heart of our comfort zone.
Yet, just as a doctor isn’t called to serve those who are well,
Jesus isn’t calling on us to serve our family and friends.
Love them, yes.
Jesus has bigger fish to fry.
Jesus is calling us to go one step further
To enlarge our circle of relationships a litter bit bigger:
“Sell your possessions, and give alms,” he says.
This is a two part request.
First, sell your possessions.
In other words,
Disinvest in things.
Unclutter and simplify.
Less is better.
Put up a yard sale.
Advertise on Craig’s List.
(Yes, there is an app for that)
Or, let’s pool our stuff together at the church and have a rummage sale.
Get rid of possessions.
Given time and opportunity
Possessions can become the focus of idolatry or greed.
Secondly, give alms.
Alms are money and property that are given to the poor.
This implies that we are being encouraged to stretch our social boundaries
Beyond mere family and friends.
Jesus is asking us to associate with the poor.
Writing a check doesn’t cut it.
Dropping an Andrew Jackson in the plate only goes part way.
Giving alms implies a personal relationship;
Making new friends,
Building something new.
Jesus isn’t cutting bait between
Giving a person a fish or teaching a person to fish.
Giving alms to the poor is both
Tiding them over the short term crisis
And helping to get them set on their own two feet for the long term.
We can best help those with whom we have a relationship.
Please don’t punt
With the excuse that “I’m too poor to help someone else.”
There is always someone more in need than you and me.
If you insist otherwise,
Let me take you on my next trip to Central America.
I’ll even pay for your airfare.
Being an introvert,
I think I’m doubly cursed!
(Not really, I’m being sarcastic)
My point is, however,
It isn’t easy for me to make new friends;
To walk up to someone new and strike up a conversation,
Especially someone who is different than me.
It’s even harder with someone who might be homeless, struggling, or poor.
Life is complicated enough for me,
Why should I complicate it more by taking on a new friendship
And accepting new responsibilities for supporting someone else?
Because Jesus asks us to,
I force myself to be extroverted.
When we take on new friendships
And accept new responsibilities with the poor,
We break our dependence on things,
We lose our worldly sense of success by reducing our net worth.
At the same time,
We increase our eternal sense of success by investing in our
Unfailing treasure in heaven.
We also have an opportunity to expand our network of relationships.
Those individuals we’ve helped through a tough time and we’ve assisted in getting them back up?
They are now paying it forward for someone else.
They are now engaged in breaking their dependency on things,
Selling their possessions,
And giving alms.
This kingdom of God,
Is now expanding.
2. It is important to remember our Lord’s promise:
God has already given you the kingdom.
You’ve already won;
You’re a winner.
You and I have already been given the kingdom.
There is nothing more to earn.
God has already given his kingdom to us.
This gift is called grace;
An elemental characteristic of our generous and loving God;
A God who knows our needs and meets them
Even before we are aware enough to ask.
Therefore, Jesus isn’t telling us to sell our possessions and give alms
As a means of earning the kingdom.
He is telling us to sell our possessions and give alms to the poor
Because it is the only appropriate, faithful response
Of disciples who are aware
That we are recipients of God’s grace.
We respond with worship and good works on God’s behalf
Because we’ve already been given his kingdom.
3. Success in life
… I’m talking true value here …
Comes from what you have done and what you are doing.
People have a lot of motivations for their behavior.
Some is self-serving.
Some self-serving behavior can be good and some can be bad.
Other behavior is for serving others.
Again, some can be good and some can be bad.
Yet, the finest behavior is reserved for serving God.
This is always good.
It is called “faithfulness.”
Our most valuable behavior is being faithful
To discern and follow God’s will.
The key, of course, is accurately discerning God’s will
Without being influenced by our own selfish motives.
This is why so many prayers begin with
“make me a pure heart, O God”
Or “cleanse my heart, O God.”
Just as importantly, is following through on God’s requests;
Putting faith into action,
As it’s often stated.
It’s not enough to talk about it.
Our Lord is asking us to get out of our easy chairs
And push away our plate,
And to get to work!
Worship on Sunday
Must be balance by faithful service the other six days of the week.
4. Lastly, I think it is important to highlight Jesus’ statement:
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Notice, it isn’t the other way around.
Jesus doesn’t say, where your heart is, there will be your treasure.
He says, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
So, where is your heart?
Pull out your check book and read the ledger.
That’s where your heart is.
Where is my heart?
I have an app for that!
It’s called Mint.
I get a regular breakdown of where all our money goes.
That’s where our heart is.
Food and shelter represents hearth and home.
These of course are the top categories of where our money goes.
Then there are a lot of other categories.
Charitable giving needs to be bumped up
If it’s much further down the list.
If my Treasures in Heaven app was up and running,
It would look something like my calendar.
Where do I spend my time?
Am I taking the time to fulfill God’s will?
Am I taking the time to sell my possessions,
Giving alms to the poor,
Serving the needs of those God has called me to serve?
Or, is my time spent in self-serving, self-indulgent activities?
The unfailing treasure in heaven comes when faith is put to action.
I have only focused on a portion of our Gospel lesson,
Yet, I believe it is vitally important for every Christian
To carefully consider our Lord’s stated intent.
Fear not, you’ve already been given the kingdom.
Sell your possessions.
Give alms to the poor.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Give your treasure,
Your money and your time,
To the poor.
Surround yourself with the poor.
Meet their needs.
They will be your heart,
And the heart of God.