Sunday, August 11, 2019

where is our treasure?

In today’s gospel God is sharing something new and unique.  “Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem, teaching his disciples - and occasionally the crowds he attracts - along the way. After sharing the parable of the rich fool, Jesus urged his disciples to dwell on no earthly concerns: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear...Instead, strive for God's kingdom and these things will be given to you as well." (12:22-23, 31). In today's passage, and in light of such faith and trust, Jesus now invites them to give all they have away and, in the verses that follow, to look for Christ's imminent return. The edge in the last verses - reward for those who were ready and what feels like a thinly veiled threat to those who are not - only heightens the sense of expectancy for, and tension around, Jesus' instructions.”[1]

Jesus is coming Look busy!

There seems to be a lot in these three paragraphs.  We have been walking this road with Jesus for a while now.  We have heard his message. We have seen his acts.  We kind of know what this Jesus is about and yet he feels it necessary to remind us “Do not be afraid for it is the creator’s good pleasure to grant you the kindom!”

Whew, we can relax…all these confusing teachings, these huge miracles, these strange parables of fools and riches and Bread needed for visitors at odd hours oh and that story of the Samaritan, yikes! who can forget that one?

Do not be afraid.

Words like 'do not be afraid', 'fear not', etc. occur over three hundred times in the Bible and arguably 365 times, one for every day of the year

Oh, do not be afraid, Whew! Sell everything!  Wait what???

Maybe if we here it rephrased it’s not so daunting.

Luke 12:29-40 The Message (MSG)

29-32 “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way God works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how God works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Creator wants to give you the very kindom itself.

33-34 “Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bank robbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being, when the Master Shows Up.

35-38 “Keep your shirts on; keep the lights on! Be like house servants waiting for their master to come back from a honeymoon, awake and ready to open the door when he arrives and knocks. Lucky are the servants whom the master finds on watch! He’ll put on an apron, sit them at the table, and serve them a meal, sharing his wedding feast with them. It doesn’t matter what time of the night he arrives; they’re awake—and so blessed!

You see in these passages Jesus is trying to shift the movement of the disciples and his followers. This message is just as true today as it was then. Luke’s message is really about the poor and Jesus’ vision of the Christian community is one which the poor, the widowed and the sick are cared for by those who can.

Yes, the message is hard when we hear sell everything and give it to the poor yet, if you can do that, then you are very blessed for that is a particular and sacred calling. Yet if you think about it, I bet most of you would say you are not striving for the paycheck to eat and clothe yourselves.

There is nothing wrong with eating and dressing ourselves.  I would venture to say there is nothing wrong with treating ourselves good now and then. We all love time spent with family and friends on vacation, at a dinner, or a movie. But Jesus says where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I suspect the treasure is not in fancy clothes, a good steak, a great movie nor a long road trip.  The treasure is the love of the people we share it with. It is through that love of our closest friends and or family that we learn how to share what has been gifted us. It is then in turn through love of each other that we can educate and learn of what the Love of God looks like and what the kindom of heaven looks like. We learn that we are called to spread that love even to the oddest of strangers in order to help bring heaven here on earth.

Sell everything…

My everything I can’t sell.  I can give it away but I can’t sell it.

I had the opportunity to serve as a chaplain after the devastating fires in northern California. I was part of a group of 8 that were allowed in a neighborhood as the residents returned to try to find anything left. It was an astounding site.  Nothing but ash.  Burnt out cars, a few trees an odd pipe going a story high with a bathtub still attached all else was rubble.

People were seeking any remnants of their lives. They were not looking for anything of monetary value.  They were not looking for their prized coin collection or their trophies.  They were looking for grandmas tea cup, or a wedding ring.  Oh,a few times I would here I found Jesus.  Usually referring to a figurine from their nativity set.  I am not sure how much sentimental value was in that or people brought it to my attention because I was wearing a collar.

What people were looking for were symbols of love shared.  They were looking for any sign of love in what was pure chaos.

Any sign of Love in the midst of Chaos.

One commentator shares this story…

“I led 31 students on a trip to the Holy Land. One of the most memorable experiences was at the Church of the Beatitudes, the place where “possibly” Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount. During the reading of the Sermon on the Mount, specifically 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” this gorgeous green, tropical-looking bird emerged from a hole in one of the trees.

Suddenly, this verse made sense. Jesus’ sermon was not hypothetical. He stood in a place such as where we were, thinking about what his disciples needed to hear. Not advice, not memory verses to be tested on later, not WWJD proverbs, but words that when heard again, when the disciples are sitting around wondering what to do, they might look up, see a bird such as the one we saw that day, and say to each other, “Remember when Jesus said…?” And the words they remember Jesus saying will not just be words from way back when Jesus was around, but words that continue to impress, inspire, uphold, and matter.”[2]

In that moment of Chaos, as people returned to the scene of the fires we, other human beings, became the provider.  These people who lost everything were suddenly the birds in the air and we offered comfort, companionship, food and resources.  I can’t sell my everything because my everything in realty is love and that we can give away.

The call to be dressed for action is in many ways what we do as a congregation.  We are dressed for action.  People come to our door seeking food, comfort and assistance.  We, when we are in need, we know that our congregation will reach out offer comfort, food and assistance.  We feed the hungry, visit the sick and infirmed.  We seek to offer care and support as needed sometimes beyond what is asked for if we can.

Be dressed for action.  Many of us are dressed for action and do not even know it.

In my research I read; “When Jesus declares “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” he says that we can train our wills and our ways of thinking (for that is what the heart symbolized in his culture) through the ways we use our money. Spend it all on yourself, guess where your heart will go. Give it to those in need, your heart will go where God wants it to go. Moreover, your heart will find God in the process. For there is a sacramental aspect to charity, in which God becomes present to givers through those who receive and need their gifts.”[3]

Uh oh! The pastor is preaching about giving money and he said he never would…

Hear this those who will listen …I disagree with this statement. But if we rephrase it to Currency hear the shift…

“When Jesus declares “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” he says that we can train our wills and our ways of thinking through the ways we use our Currency. Spend it all on yourself, guess where your heart will go. Give it to those in need, your heart will go where God wants it to go. Moreover, your heart will find God in the process. For there is a sacramental aspect to charity, in which God becomes present to givers through those who receive and need their gifts.

Sounds the same or does it?

What is currency…let’s here form Eric Law…Eric Law is an episcopal priest who provides comprehensive training and resources for churches and ministries.  He is the founder of the Kaleidoscope institute in Los Angeles.  I have had the opportunity to hear him speak a few times.  Here is what he says

“The word currency comes from the Medieval Latin word currentia, which literally means "a flowing," and from the Latin word currere, which means "to run or flow." It was John Locke in 1699 who first used the word currency to refer to circulation of money. Since then, the word currency in the English language has been used most often as referring to money. defines currency as "something that is in circulation as a medium of exchange." I would like to ride on the word something in this definition and explore the concept of currency beyond just money. From the example of my family business to the formation of the Kaleidoscope Institute, there were certainly other currencies besides money that were in circulation as mediums of exchange, which made these ministries sustainable. When I researched different sustainable ministries and how they functioned, the key question was: "What other currencies are flowing through this ministry?" As I learned more and more about what made these ministries sustainable and missional, several currencies-mediums of exchange-kept surfacing as keys to their successes. They are:

Time and Place
Gracious leadership

Currency of Time and Place: Paid and volunteer time that leaders and members offer to the church or ministry. Properties from which a church and ministry operates, and other properties owned or which can be accessed by the church and ministry.

Currency of Gracious Leadership: The ability to use skills, tools, models, and processes to create gracious environments (Grace Margin) within which mutually respectful "relationships" and the discernment of the "truth" across differences can be built internally, among existing members, and externally, with non-members. Differences can be racial/ ethnic, age, gender, sexual orientation, class, political affiliation, or simply those existing between church members and other folks in the neighborhood.

Currency of Relationship: The internal and external networks of mutually respectful connections that leaders and members of a church and ministry have. Internal connections include constructive relationships among members and leaders, area churches or ministries of the same affiliation, area denominational organizations, and national and international denominational structures. External connections include constructive relationships with non-members, different racial, cultural and ethnic groups in the neighborhood, people with resources and people in need in the community, civic community leaders, ecumenical and interfaith partners, community and civic organizations, and local businesses.”[4]

Currency of Truth: The currency of truth is unique as it speaks of being able to articulate individual and corporate truths. So being able to express the experience of different individuals and or groups that one encounters in ministry. Speak the truth of their internal experience their personal experience.  Truth is also about being able to speak to a group or cultural experience of particular groups. I can speak the truth of what I experienced and saw at the fire site I cannot express what the neighborhood experienced as a community I had to rely on others to express that to me.

Currency of Wellness: This is the currency of being whole, wholly present and fully engaged.  If you are an anxious presence in the face of a disaster then being at the site itself is not a place for you but if you bring a sense of excitement and cheer fullness when collecting clothes or food then that is where you can bring your currency of wellness.

And finally, he does mention the currency of money but he says it is the “flowing of these currencies that give them value.”[5]

Be dressed for action Christ says…Lets use our currencies to build up our ministries…Eric law says we have to allow our currencies to flow, our time talent and money…I say, simply put, we have to let our love flow. Love, that sums up our currencies and our treasures into one big overflowing world of possibility.  Let’s let our love flow, increase our current flow and seek out new ways to let our Love flow for that is our greatest treasure and then that is where our hearts will be as well.  Amen.

[4] Law, Eric H. F. Holy Currencies: Six Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries. St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2013. Page 11-12

[5] ditto

[4] Law, Eric H. F. Holy Currencies: Six Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries. St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2013. Page 11-12

[5] ditto

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