Sunday, August 7, 2016

12 Pentecost

August 7, 2016

Luke 12:32-40

+ I don’t know about you, but I have to admit this this morning…I am kind of mourning summer already. It feels like summer is kind of winding down.
Yes, I know it’s still hot, we’re still getting bad thunderstorms and all, but it feels like summer is on the down-turn. And that makes me sad. It makes me sad because I didn’t really get to enjoy it much.

It has been a very busy summer here at St. Stephen’s, with weddings, funerals, and parishioners’ health issues and all the other issues that normally don’t seem to happen during summer.  I remember when I first came to St. Stephen’s. Summers were very quiet. Nothing much happened, it seemed.  Not so anymore.

And let’s not even get started on what this summer was on a larger scale. It was a violent summer—a summer of shootings and murders. It doesn’t seem like that is letting up as summer winds down.  And then…don’t even get me started on the political situation raging around us this summer.

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

First, he tells us something that is essential. It is, by far, the most important thing we can hear.  He begins with “Do not be afraid.”  With all the violence and uncertainty going on in this nation, with our collectively uncertain future, those words never sounded sweeter in my ears, and hopefully in yours as well.  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 something else that is so vital. He says, “where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.”   Now, at first, we might find ourselves nodding in agreement with this.  But don’t nod too quickly here.  Let’s listen very closely to what he is saying.

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

When we hear him 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.

So that poses a very hard question in all of our lives this morning, that really does cut through all the violence and political uncertainty in this world.

Where is your heart this morning?

Where is your treasure?

Where is your passion?

Now, for me, I will tell you where mine are. I have two passions in this life.  They are not secrets.   The first, of course, is 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.  Maybe that’s not too bad of places for one’s heart to be.

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

So, where is your treasure? 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. But I’m not going to let you off the hook this morning. I really want you to carry this with you. I want you to truly ask yourself these questions.

Where is your treasure?  

Or maybe the questions: what is your treasure? What is your passion?   What is it that drives you and motivates you?  Is it money?  Is it fame?  Is it your job?  Or is it family or spouse?

It’s important to be honest with ourselves in regard to this question and to embrace and accept the answer.  They are hard questions to ask and they are hard questions to answer. 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, God and all that God stands for.  

Now, either that sounds really good to you or really bad to you.  But bear with me for a moment.  When we find our treasure in God, we find that that treasure is more than just  some sweet, pious, God-and-me kind of relationship.  Recognizing God as our treasure means making all that God loves and holds dear our treasure as well.

I’m going to repeat that:

Recognizing God as our treasure means making all that God loves and holds dear our treasure as well

To love God means to love what God loves as well.

And striving to see that and do that is where our real treasures lie.  It seems that when do that—when we love as God loves—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. God does not work in that way.  (Sometimes I wish God did!)

More often than not, when we recognize all that God loves it only frustrates us and makes our lives more difficult. You mean, God loves that person I can’t stand? You mean God loves that person I think is vile and despicable?  God loves even those people we think God shouldn’t love? Oh, this is a lot harder than I thought.  Yup. It is a lot harder than we thought. Because that’s what it’s all about.

Loving God means loving all that God loves. And God loves fully and completely and wholly. And realizing this is truly the greatest treasure we will ever find.

“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 strive—honestly—to love all that God loves.  We try to make that our goal. Sometimes we fail, but we always keep on trying.  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 a violent world or in an uncertain political environment or in a Church that sometimes truly does ostracize. We do it even when it’s really hard. We do it even when we don’t feel like it. We do it even when we would rather be doing our own thing, sitting by ourselves over here, all by ourselves.

For us a St. Stephen’s we are a place of radical love and acceptance, because Jesus, the One we follow, was the personification of radical love and acceptance.   And because the God he represents and loved and stood for is our treasure, we know we are heading in the right direction in what we do. God and God’s radical, all-encompassing love 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 that God continues to make to us again and again, when the world around us rages and our futures seem uncertain and frightening:

“Do not be afraid.”

Do not be afraid.  Do not be afraid of where our passions lead us and where our treasures lie.   Do not get all caught up in the things of this earth.  

Instead, just love as God loves.  Love your neighbor as you would love yourself. And love your God who loves you in return.

 So, let us build up our treasure.  Let us embrace our passions.  Let us move forward so we can build up our treasures, even when we’re tired, 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.  Right here. Right now.  We are bringing it forth, increment by increment.  Step by step.  Loving act after loving act.  Truly, the Kingdom is just that close. And within it, all our real treasures lie.

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