August 7, 2022
Genesis 15:1-6 Psalm 33:12-22 Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 Luke 12:32-40
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” Jesus says. “Do not be afraid,” is a comfortable way to begin his teaching. God wants to give us the kingdom. What he says next; however, is challenging, “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.”
In another scripture Jesus tell a man that he needs to sell all that he has and give the money to the poor in order to receive salvation. He leaves unsettled, we are told, for he had many things. I do not read these passages literally; I do not believe God is calling upon us to sell all our possessions and give the money to the poor. But I do believe this lesson challenges each of us to re-evaluate our priorities.
If we place a greater value on our possessions or our bank account balances than we do people, we give away some of what we have. Even if we value our relationships with God and one another more than our treasure, we need to examine when and how we spend it. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Sharing what we have with others, the church, and other worthy causes can be freeing.
Here’s where this lesson makes me uncomfortable. Cathy and I now have four vehicles. One for her and three for me. The value of my three vehicles (which includes my motorcycle) may not total as much as the value of the one she drives – but the cost of maintaining mine which range in age between 25 to 37 years old, is definitely higher. Each time I repair something I think that will be it for a while . . . but I’m still waiting for that to be true.
So, do I possess three classic vehicles or do they possess me? So far, I haven’t had to decide between paying my church pledge and vehicle maintenance – but if I ever do, it will be time to remember what Jesus teaches, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Where is my heart? If I take this teaching seriously, I need only look at where I am spending my money.
Over the years I’ve learned how easily our hearts can be swayed. In the time of Jesus, devout people of faith emphasize the importance of being disciplined. They began and ended each day with prayer – and they offered prayers throughout the day. As Jesus continues his teaching, he says we need to “be dressed for action and have [our] lamps lit.” We are to be alert for we will not know when our master, God, will come. He also tells us to “be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
This passage refers to the end of our days on earth; we do not know when it will be. It also refers to the need to resist temptation. The temptation to become complacent. To be ready requires us to be alert and maintain our focus on that which is treasured in heaven – relationships. Healthy relationships require time and effort. Relationships also require commitment. “Blessed are those whom the master finds alert when he comes,” Jesus says. We all know that some of the servants in this parable – many perhaps, will have fallen asleep. Relationships often fail when we fall asleep and fail to keep focused on the needs of those involved. Whether this is a relationship with one person or many, relationships require us to be alert.
Our attention span is limited, that is why developing the discipline of setting aside time for prayer and worship and time for our relationships with others is so important. Making a conscious decision to practice our faith and our faithfulness to one another helps us guard against turning our focus away from that which gives our lives meaning.
Possessions are a temptation that can turn our hearts toward what is temporary, away from our love of God and others. Time, too, reflects our priorities. Where do we spend, not only our money, but our time? There will be our hearts also. Do we make room in our day for prayer? Do we make room to deepen our relationship with God and with others? Or, do we isolate ourselves with our stuff?
These are difficult questions to answer. I have to make a conscious effort to invest my time and money in what I value most. Investing my time here at the church is easy, but if I’m not careful I can focus too much on the business of church and not enough on mission, worship, and prayer. As I am sure everyone here knows, it is possible, if not probable, for our minds to wander while we pray.
I have to make a conscious effort to invest my time on being truly present with people and in leading worship. I also have to make a conscience effort to be with my family. Being a priest can be all consuming, so making time to be with my family and friends requires effort. It is possible to be with them in body, but thinking about you and what the church needs.
Being alert, not allowing ourselves to be distracted from what we value in our hearts, is what Jesus is teaching here. If you, like me, find yourself falling short, don’t forget the first part of this lesson: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” Jesus says. God is forgiving, God understands, and God welcomes us back whenever we remember what is truly important in life – what offers us true life. So let us all work to build treasures in heaven, treasures which we can experience here and now.
Let us pray,
Loving Father, have patience with us when we get distracted and lose our focus on what is important. Help us to remember that it is your good pleasure that we find our way back to you and come into your kingdom of peace. We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.