Sunday, August 11, 2013

12 Pentecost

August 11, 2013

Luke 12:32-40

+ There is a word I use very often. Any of you who know me, know I use this word a lot. The word I often use is “gauntlet.” As in, I feel like I’ve gone through the gauntlet.

“Running the gauntlet,” of course, is an old punishments in which a person runs through two lines of people who pummel them as they run.

Well, I’m going to be honest with you this morning. I’ve been run the gauntlet these last few days. These last several days have been exhausting. They have been emotionally draining. Two funerals in two days. And my brother’s funeral yesterday really hit me at my core, in a way I didn’t initially think it would.

In fact, I’ll be even more honest. I felt pretty brave in the days leading up to the service. Several friends and fellow clergy asked me: “I don’t think you should do this.” What did I do? I poo-pooed them, as I often do.

Then, just as I was about to announce the first hymn at the funeral, I suddenly panicked. I realized, “You know what, I don’t know if I can do this after all.”

Pastor Strobel was there and there was a very brief moment in which I thought, “Maybe I can pass off my cassock, surplice and stole to him real quick.” Of course, I wouldn’t have done that to him.  But it was a good lesson for me.

So, yes, I feel like I’ve been through the gauntlet. But, for all these difficult times, there is a some good in the midst of it all. One realizes that, in moments like, it’s very obvious where the rubber meets the road. And it is moments like this wherein one truly knows where one’s treasure lies.

As I was preparing for this sermon this past week, I found myself really hearing our Gospel reading for this morning anew.  I really let the Gospel reading sink in and I realized that Jesus was telling me—and all of us—two things that strike us at our very core:

First, he begins with “Do not be afraid.” We love hearing that. This past week, those words never sounded sweeter in my ears. Those are the words we want Jesus to say to us and those are the words he tells us again and again in the Gospels.  And those are words I love to preach about. If I could peach on nothing else but Jesus’ commandment of “Do not be afraid” I would be a very happy priest. (Actually, I am a pretty happy priest anyway)

Do not be afraid.

Second, he tells us “where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.”  At first, we might find ourselves nodding in agreement with this. But when we start thinking about what he’s truly saying, we might find it a bit more difficult to accept.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Now, to be clear, when we hear Jesus talking today of where your heart is there is your treasure, he isn’t talking so much of our material treasure. He is saying that where your heart is, that is where your passion will be. There is where your attention and your fulfillment will be found.

Now, for me, I have two passions in this life. They are not secrets.  I have, of course, my vocation to the Priesthood.  And, of course, my other passion is poetry.  If I was asked where my treasures are on earth, I would say it was squarely within those two areas. Not too bad of places for one’s heart to be.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

This might not be as easy for us to accept, because we know it is a very true statement. And few of us can say with all honesty that our treasures are built up enough in heaven that there too is our heart.  Our treasures, for the most part, are here on earth.

So, we do have to ask ourselves that very hard question: where is our treasure?  Or maybe the questions: what is our treasure? What is our passion?  What is that drives us and motivates us? Is it money? Is it fame? Is it our job? Or is it something like family and spouse? They are hard questions to ask and they are hard questions to answer.

But Jesus is clear here that we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about what our treasure is. Rather, he says, we should simply shift our attention, shift our focus, and center ourselves once again on the treasure that will never disappoint, which is, essentially, him and all that he stands for.  When we find our treasure in Jesus, we find that that treasure is more than just a sweet, pious, Jesus-and-me kind of relationship. Recognizing Jesus has our treasure means making all that Jesus loved and held dear as our treasure as well—primarily, loving God and loving others as we long to be loved.

It seems that when do that, it all falls into place.  I don’t mean that it falls into place in a simple, orderly way. It definitely does not ever seem to do that. More often than not, when we recognize all that Jesus encompasses it only frustrates us and makes our lives more difficult.

Rather, even despite the frustration and the difficulty in seeing Jesus as our treasure, we find ourselves strangely more fulfilled. Despite its up-in-the-air quality, we quickly realize it’s a treasure that sustains and lifts up when we need it.

“Where our treasures are , there our hearts will be also.”

For us here at St. Stephen’s, we know how to build up that treasure in heaven. We do it by following Jesus, and in following Jesus, we love God and love each other. We build up our treasures by doing what we do best. We do it by being a radical presence of love and peace and hospitality in this community and the Church.

We are doing it today, by marching and being a very visible presence in the Pride Parade. That presence means something to those people who see us. They know we are a congregation of radical love and acceptance.  And we are a place of radical love and acceptance, because Jesus, the One we follow, was the personifications of radical love and acceptance.  And because he and all he stands for is our treasure, we know we are heading in the right direction in what we do.

Jesus is where we should find our treasure—our heart. But even if we are not there yet, spiritually, it’s all right. We should simply cling to that command he made to us: “do not be afraid.”

Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid of where our passions and treasures lay.  Do not get all caught up in the things of this earth. Instead, just love your neighbor as you would love yourself. And love your God who provides for you everything you can possibly need. And know that that Jesus, our true treasure, whom you love and who loves you in return, has a place prepared for us with him. If we do, out treasure is here with us.

So, let us build up that treasure. Let us move forward to building up our treasures, even when we’re tired, even when we’ve gone through the gauntlet, even when we are weary and beaten by this world. Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms,  “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

The Kingdom is here, in our midst. We are bringing it forth, increment by increment. Step by step. Loving act after loving act. Truly, the Kingdom is just that close.

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