Sunday, August 25, 2019

11 Pentecost


August 25, 2019

Isaiah 58.9b-14; Hebrews 12.18-29

+ As we prepare for our new bell tower, which we hope will be coming in the next week or so, it’s kind of fun to look back at some of the things we have that we now don’t even realize are still new. No, I’m not talking about the windows are the altar.  

I was thinking of our baptismal font the other day. It has been six years since we dedicated and blessed our new font. And I am so happy we did it. It is a beautiful addition to our church. And I hear so many compliments on it from people who visit.

In these six years, we’ve had a lot of people baptized already in that font.  The baptismal font is a very important symbol for all of us  who live out our baptismal covenant on a daily basis.

As you all know, no doubt, one my personal heroes in the Church is one of the
greatest  (no, I would say the GREATEST) Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey.  One of my favorite stories about Ramsey is how, when, after he had become a Bishop in the Church, visited St. Andrew’s church in Horbling in England in which we was baptized in 1904. There, he asked to see the baptismal font. Standing there, he began to cry and was heard to murmur:

“O font, font, font, in which I was baptized!”

As Geoffrey Rowell wrote of that incident: “[Ramsey’s] deep sacramental sense and understanding of baptism as being plunged into the death and Resurrection of Christ, which was [and is] at the heart of the Church’s life, comes out in that moment of time.”

As you know, baptisms are one of those events in my life as a priest that I particularly rejoice in.

Last week in our Gospel reading, we heard Jesus talking about a baptism by fire.  In my sermon last week, I mentioned that when were baptized in those waters, we were also baptized in the fire of God’s spirit.

Today, in the Letter to the Hebrews, we hear another fire reference to God. We hear,

“indeed our God is a consuming fire.”

In baptism, we realize how much of a consuming fire God is. We realize that in those waters, a fire was kindled in us. God’s fire was kindled in us. And, to be a Christian, to be follower of Jesus, means being aflame with the fires of our baptism.

But if we left it there, we might still not understand the true ramifications of our baptism.

One thing you all know I enjoy doing here at St. Stephan’s is inviting people to explore other areas of the Book of Common Prayer, other than just our section concerning Holy Communion.  So, let’s do so again today. Let’s take a look at the Catechism again.  There we get the answer to the question:

“What is Holy Baptism?”

If you look on page 858—there you will find the somewhat definitive answer.  On page 858, we find this answer:

“Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and make us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God.”

It’s a really great definition.

Holy Baptism is not then just a sweet little service of sprinkling water on a baby’s head and dedicating them as we would a boat.  It is a service in which we are essentially re-born.  It is the service in which we recognize that we are children of a loving God. We have been washed in those waters and made alive in the fire of God’s love and made new—specifically we have become Christians in being baptized.

But, the one point I really want to drive home this morning is that last part of the definition from the Catechism. In baptism we become “inheritors of the kingdom of God.”

We are given a glimpse of this Kingdom of which we, the baptized, are inheritors in our readings from both Isaiah and Hebrews today. In Isaiah, we hear the prophet saying to us:

“If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.”

Now, that’s some beautiful poetry, if you ask me.

“…your gloom [shall] be like the noonday.”

But more than that, it’s just so wonderfully practical. When we follow Jesus—when we love God and love our neighbors—we are truly saying, “Yes, we are inheritors of the Kingdom of God.”

But, what does it mean to be an “inheritor of the kingdom of God?”
Being an inheritor of God’s kingdom means living out those promises we make in our baptismal covenant. It means proclaiming by word and example the Good News of Christ. It means seeking and serving Christ in all persons and loving everyone as we desire to be loved. And it means striving for justice and peace, and respecting the dignity of the every human being. And by doing those things, we are truly being the inheritors of that kingdom. This is what it means to be a Christian.

It is not just saying, “I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior”
It is not just saying, “I belong to the one true Church, and that there is no salvation outside of this Church.”

It does not mean just being nice and thinking good thoughts all the time.

Being a Christian means both believing and then acting like one. Being a follower of Jesus means that we understand fully that something truly wonderful and amazing happened to us when we were baptized.

In that baptismal font in which we were baptized we were truly “buried with Christ in his death.”  In those waters, we shared “in his resurrection.” And through those waters—and that fire of God’s love that was kindled in us in those waters—we were “reborn by the Holy Spirit.”

This is not light and fluffy stuff we’re dealing with here in baptism. It is not all about clouds and flowers and sweet little lambs romping in the meadow.
It is not just “feel good” spirituality.

It is the greatest event in our lives. It was a life-changing moment in our lives. And this God we encounter today and throughout all our lives as Christians, as inheritors of the God’s Kingdom is truly, as the author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us today, “a consuming fire.”

God doesn’t let us sit back and be complacent.  God is like a gnawing fire, kindled in that holy moment, deep within us. God shakes us up and pushes us out into the world to serve others and to be the conduits through which God’s kingdom—God’s very fire of love—comes into this world.

Baptism is a radical thing.  It changes us and transforms us.  And it doesn’t just end when the water is dried and we leave the church. It is something we live with forever.

In Baptism, we are marked as Christ’s own forever.

Forever.

For all eternity.

And nothing we can do can undo that.

That’s why I love doing baptism so much. That’s why it’s so important to remember our baptism.

My hope is that when we look at the font here at St. Stephen’s (whether we were baptized in it or not) we will see it  with special appreciation and will be able to recognize, in some way, the beauty of the event that happens here on a regular basis. My hope is that, when we dip our fingers into that bowl of water and bless ourselves with that blessed water, it will remind us of that incredible day in which we too were baptized.

I hope we can all look at that place in which baptism happens here at St. Stephen’s with a deep appreciation of how, we too, on the day of our baptism, were changed, how God’s consuming fire was kindled in us  and how we  became children of a loving, inclusive God and “inheritors of the kingdom of God.”

We are inheritors of that unshakable Kingdom of God.  For that fact let us, as the author of Hebrews says to us today, “give thanks, by which we offer to God, an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.”







Sunday, August 18, 2019

10 Pentecost


August 18, 2019

Jeremiah 23.23-29; Hebrews 11:29-12.2; Luke 12.49-56

+ There has been a meme going around Facebook recently. It shows a young kid with his face in his hands, looking as though he were despairing. The caption to the meme was, “When I was young, I thought everyone in the Church got along with each other.”

Uh-huh. So did I, Kid.

Any of us who have been in the church for any period of time, know that is not quite the reality of the Church.

I hate to break this news to you, but… Every day in the Church is definitely not a love feast. We don’t all sit around agreeing with each other on this and that. In fact, it’s almost never like that.

I remember the first time I realized the Church can be fickle place. I sort of knew about it before, but the first time it happened was shortly after I had returned to Church and was intent on pursuing my calling to be a priest. Every time the doors of the church opened, I was there. I volunteered for everything, from Altar Guild to Wedding Coordinator.  As I stepped up to the plate, trying to do what I thought needed to be done, I found I was stepping on the toes of none other than a formidable woman by the name of Emma Ness.

Emma was a force to be reckoned with in her congregation for several years.  And, sadly, she had some major control issues…

I am not speaking negatively about her and if she were alive and with us this morning, I would remind her of this story. Of course, as happens times in my ministry, I believe without a doubt that Emma is, in fact, with us this morning. 

 And many other mornings.

Anyway, back then, I realized very quickly that there were certain responsibilities Emma had in the Church that she was not content in letting me, the young upstart—or anyone else,  for that matter—ado. At first, she defended what she did with an iron will. And I was on the receiving end of that iron will. Not a pleasant place to be.

Later, when I realized I had crossed the boundaries with her, I found the way to soften those iron boundaries. I became her friend and confidant and supporter, and later, her priest.  She needed love in her life and, I can say, I loved Emma.  We ended up being very close and dear friends. I was with her when she died and I preached at her funeral.

But Emma taught me a lesson about those divisions in the Church. They exist and they can be difficult to deal with. Difficult, but not impossible.  And, in her way,  Emma was like a fire. (I think she’d love to be compared to fire) A fire that burned away some of that innocence and naivety of what it means to work in this human-run (though divine-inspired) organization called the Church.

Yes, there are divisions in the Church. There are divisions among us, even in this congregation. Those divisions, at least here at St. Stephen’s, are, for the most part, little ones. Minor ones.

In the larger Church, they are much bigger ones. Issues of biblical interpretation and personal convictions continue to divine the Church.

I get pretty firm about such things, as many of you know. Although I am patient when it comes to people telling me there are certain things about the Church they might not like personally—trust me there are many things I too personally don’t like about the Church and the way things are—even then, you have no doubt heard me say, “this is not an issue of any one of us.”

We, as the Church, are a collective. And when one of us stiffens and crosses our arms and stands aloof off to the side, the divisions begin, and the breeches within the Church widen, and the love of God is not proclaimed. And the rest of us, in those moments, must simply go on. We must proclaim what needs to be proclaimed. We love what needs to be loved. We move forward.  And when it happens to me—and it happens to me quite a lot—I will occasionally speak out.
But for the most part, I realize: this is the Church. And we must plow forward together because that is what Jesus intends us to do as his followers. He makes this quite  clear.

Jesus tells us today in our Gospel reading that he did not come to bring peace, but rather he came to bring division.

What?

What did he say?

He didn’t come to bring peace?

The Price of Peace didn’t bring peace??

Not a nice thing to hear from Jesus.

We want Jesus to bring peace, right?

Let’s be honest: his message, of loving God and loving one another, is a message that does divide. We, who rebel against it, who inwardly stiffen at it, we rebel.

We say, “no.”

We freeze up.

But, Jesus makes this very clear to us. It is not our job, as his followers, to freeze up. It not an option for us to let our blood harden into ice. For, he came to bring fire to the earth. To us, his followers.

When we were baptized, we were baptized with water, yes. But we were also baptized with fire! With the fire of God’s Holy Spirit that came to us as we came out of those waters. And that fire burned away the ice within us that slows us down, that hardens us, that prevents us from loving fully.

That fire that Jesus tells  us he is bringing to this earth, is the fire of his love. And it will burn.

Now, for most of us, when we think of fire in relation to God, think of the fires of hell. In fact, if I believed in an eternal hell, which I do not, I think it would be a place of ice, far removed from the fire of God’s love.

Ah, but not so. Again and again in scripture, certainly for our scriptures for today,  fire in relation to God is seen as a purifying fire, a fire that burns away the chaff of our complacent selves. Fire from God is ultimately a good thing, although maybe not always a pleasant thing. The fire of God burns away our peripheral nature and presents us pure and spiritually naked before God. And that is how we are to go before God.

But this fire, as we’ve made clear, is not a fire of anger or wrath. It is a fire of God’s love. It the fire that burns within God’s heart for each of us. And that fire is an all-consuming fire. When that consuming fire burns away our flimsy exteriors, when we stand pure and spiritually exposed before God, we realize who we really are.
The fact remains, we are not, for the most part, completely at that point yet. That fire has not yet done its complete job in us. While we still have divisions, while we allow ourselves to stiffen in rebellion, when we allow our own persona tastes and beliefs to get in the way of the larger beliefs of the Church, we realize the fire has not completely done its job in us.

The divisions will continue. The Church remains divided.

For us, as followers of Jesus, we are not to be fire retardant, at least to the fire of love that blazes from our God. As unpleasant and uncomfortable it might seem at times, we need to let that fire burn away the chaff from us. And when we do, when we allow ourselves to be humbled by that fire of God’s love, then, we will see those divisions dying. We will see them slowly dying off.

And will see that the Church is more than just us, who struggle on, here on this side of the veil. We will see that we are only a part of a much larger Church. We will see that we are a part of a Church that also makes up that “great cloud of witnesses” Paul speaks of in today’s Epistle. We will see, once our divisions are gone and we have been purified in that fire of God’s love, that that cloud of witnesses truly does surround us.

And we will see that we truly are running a race as the Church. Paul is clear here too: that the only way to win the race is with perseverance. And perseverance of this sort if only tried and perfected in the fire of God’s love.

Yes, this is the Church. This is what we are called to be here, and now, as followers of Jesus. This is what we, baptized in the fire of God’s love, are compelled to be in this world.

So, let us be just that.  Let us be the Church, on fire with the love of God, fighting to erase the divisions that separate us. Let us be the prophets in whom God’s Word is like a fire, or a hammer that breaks a rock—or ice—in pieces. And when we are, finally and completely, those divisions will end, and we will be what the Church is on the other side of the veil.

We will—in that glorious moment—be the home of God among God’s people.




Monday, August 12, 2019

9 Pentecost


August 11, 2019

Luke 12:32-40


+ I don’t know if you can feel it, but it already feels like summer is nearing the end. Yes, I know it’s still hot, but it feels like summer is on the down-turn. And that makes me sad.

It’s been a good summer for us here at St. Stephen’s It’s been a very busy summer, with weddings, funerals, and parishioners’ (especially musicians’) health issues, the bell tower 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 has been a very violent summer—a summer of shootings and domestic violence. We are still reeling from those massacres in Dayton and El Paso last weekend. We are still shaking with pain and, I hope, righteous anger, over those murders. 

Socially, racially, and politically, we are all dealing with so much anger and division raging around us this summer. In fact, I don’t remember seeing so much division in this country as we have right now.  It is enough to make one almost despair.

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 us
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 those essential words:

“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 let’s not 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.  

And…yes, there’s a third…midcentury century furniture.

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

So, where is your treasure?

This might not be as easy for us to answer.   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 should be: 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, that will never be taken away.  

And what is that, for Jesus?

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 does truly fall into place.   I don’t mean that it falls into place in a simple, orderly way, like Tetras or a puzzle.   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?

See, it’s 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—capital C— 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, especially during this Pride weekend, 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.  

And not just a private treasure, we hoard and keep to ourselves. No. But a treasure we share. A treasure we freely give and share to others.

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, when violence flares, when racism and white supremacy makes its ugly come-back, 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.  

Do not think that we can do nothing at all in the face of evil and violence and white supremacy and Nazism and homophobia and sexism and all those horrible things in this world.

Do not think you or I are completely helpless.

Because we are not.

We are powerful because it is God’s love within us—this treasure we share with others—that we have as our secret weapon in the face of all those dark, vile things in this world.

In the face of darkness and violence and fear, love as God loves.

Love your neighbor as you would love yourself.

Love your enemy, even when that enemy is the most disgusting thing you can even imagine.

And love your God who loves you in return.

By doing so, we defeat fear.

We drive out hatred.

We outshine the darkness.

 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, even we are wounded and bleeding 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.






Sunday, August 4, 2019

8 Pentecost


Senior Warden Steve Bolduc's fabulous 1950s aqua blue couch
August 4, 2019

Luke 12:13-21

+ I’d like you to take a look at a section of the Prayer Book that I’ve showed you before, but I’d like to draw your attention to once again.  On page 445, you will find something very interesting.  It says this,

The Minister of the Congregation [that’s me] is directed to instruct the people [that’s you], from time to time, about the duty of Christian parents to make prudent provision for the well-being of their families, and of all persons to make wills, while they are in health, arranging for the disposal of their temporal goods, not neglecting, if they are able, to leave bequests for religious and charitable uses.

I always encourage people—no matter where they are financially in their lives—to make out a Will.  Wills are more than just a means of giving away our earthly possessions when we die. They truly can be a practical expression of one’s faith and a positive acknowledgement of our own mortality and dependence upon God.

 I was inspired by this suggestion from the Prayer Book and had my original Will way back in 2003, not long after I was diagnosed with cancer.  I then revised that will about six years ago or so.   

For me in having a will, there was a sense of accomplishment in knowing that what I have will be distributed to those people and those organizations that I know would appreciate them and benefit from them.  And it was also a relief to be able to put in that Will such practical instructions as my funeral arrangements (which, as you me say time and again, I highly encourage everyone to consider and write down in some way or form).

But the real reason we make out a will is because of this one simple fact: we cannot, whether we like it or not, take what have with us when we shed this mortal coil.

I hate to break that news to you. None of the money we have made and saved and invested will go with us when we pass from this life. Our cars, our houses, our books, our art, our stocks and bonds, our fabulous 1950s furniture will not go with us as we pass through the veil.  OK, maybe that part about the fabulous 1950s furniture only applies to me and Senior Warden Steve Bolduc.

But you see where I am going with this.  Which the whole reason we make Wills.   We make Wills to give us a sense of security about what we have and where it will go when it is no longer ours.  We like to know where these things we worked so hard to get will go.

Still, having said all that, I have never been comfortable talking about Wills and money.  It’s such a personal thing.

Maybe it’s because I kind of fret over these things.  I fret over my possessions and what is going to happen to them when I’m gone.  Which, I know, is completely pointless. But, still…I do it.

I fret.

In this morning’s Gospel is the fact that this “someone” in the crowd is also fretting, it seems.   And this “someone” just hasn’t quite understood what Jesus is saying when he says “do not be afraid,” which is what he was telling them right before this particular incident.  But as easy as it is to judge this poor person quarreling with his brother—as much as we want to say—“look at that fool, bringing his financial concerns before Jesus,” the fact is, more often than we probably care to admit, this is the person we no doubt find ourselves relating to.

I certainly do.

In this society that we live in, in this country in which we live in, we naturally think a lot about money and finances.  We spend a lot of time storing our money, investing our money, making more money and depending on money.  None of which, in and of its self, is bad.

But, we also worry about money quite a bit.  And that is bad.  For those who don’t have much, they worry about how to survive, how to live, how to make more.  For those with money, they worry about keeping the money they have, making sure their money isn’t stolen or misused.

And we don’t just worry about the money in our lives.  We worry about all our material “treasures.”  We worry about protecting our possessions from robbers, or fire or natural disaster.  We insure them and store them and we spend time planning how to pass our treasures on after we die.  We are concerned about what we have and we might even find ourselves looking for and seeking those things we don’t have.  

And there is nothing inherently wrong with any of this either.  It’s good stewardship to take care of that with which God has blessed us and take care of those things.

What Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel is not so much these issues—it’s not money per se, or the “things” in our lives. What Jesus is talking is something worse. He is talking about greed, or as older translations used, covetousness.

Greed and covetousness are not the same thing.  They are actually two different things.

Greed involves us—it involves us wanting more than we need.

Covetousness is wanting what others have.  Covetousness involves envy and jealousy. (And envy and jealousy are two different things as well, but we won’t get into that today) Covetousness involves looking at others and wanting what they have desperately.

And at times, we’ve all been guilty of both of these things.

I’m certainly guilty of covetousness. I want to covet Senior Warden Steve Bolduc’s very cool 1950s aqua blue couch that he found in his basement.

In our society, we are primed to be a bit greedy and we are primed to covet.  Look at some of the ads we see on TV.  We are shown products in such a way that we actually come to desire them.  And they are shown in the context of some other person enjoying them so much that we should want them too.

And, in this society, we are primed to want more than we need.  We’re all guilty of it.  And we should be aware of this fact in our lives.  

And in being aware of this, we need to keep Jesus’ words close to heart. Because Jesus is clear here.  There are two kinds of treasures.  There are those treasures we have here on earth—the ones we actually own, the ones we might need and the ones others have that we want (like 1950s aqua blue couches)— and the ones we store up for ourselves in heaven.  And, let’s be honest, those treasures we are expected to store up for ourselves in heaven are not the easiest ones to gain for ourselves.  They are not the ones we probably think about too often in our lives.

Jesus isn’t too clear in today’s Gospel exactly what those treasures are, but it won’t take much guessing on our part to figure them out.  The treasures we store up for ourselves in the next world are those that come out of loving God and loving each other.  But we have to be careful when considering what it is we are storing up for ourselves.

It is not the idea that good deeds will get us into heaven. We need to be very clear here.

Jesus is not at any point saying to us that what we do here on earth is going to guarantee us a place in heaven.  But what he is saying is that we don’t get to take any of our possessions with us when we leave this world.  All of it will be left behind.

Every last thing we have right now in our lives—every previous thing—will be left behind when we die.

However, Jesus says, if you do these good things in your life, you will be closer to heaven.  You will not “win” heaven by doing them. But…by doing good things for one another, you will be bringing heaven closer into our lives.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to take care of the treasures we have on earth.  We should always be thankful for them.  And we should be willing to share them as are needed.

Our job as Christians is to take care of our possessions here on earth—with whatever God granted to us in our lives.

Considering what we heard from our Book of Common Prayer earlier we know that we are encouraged to look after our earthly treasures and to share them in a spirit of goodness and forbearance.  By arranging for our Wills to be made, by being generous with our gifts and with the instructions we give our loved ones who survive us, we are truly responding to today’s Gospel.  By being generous with our gifts , and by being generous to those who share this earth with us, we are building up treasures in heaven.

We are not “buying” our way into heaven. We are just striving to do good on this earth, as faithful followers of Jesus and as beloved children of a loving God.  And striving to do good does build up those treasures in heaven.

In all of this, let us listen in a way the anonymous person in today’s Gospel did not.  Let us listen to Jesus’ words of “do not be afraid.”

Do not be afraid.

Do not be afraid of what will happen to the possessions you have on earth.

Do not let fear reign in your life by letting greed and covetousness rule your lives.

Do not get all caught up in the things you have, or the things your neighbors have.

Instead, let us love our neighbor as we would love ourselves.  And let us love our God who provides for us everything we can possibly need.  And let us know that that same God whom we love and who loves us in return has a special place prepared for us which is full of riches beyond our comprehension.

For, as Jesus makes clear in pointing out, our lives do “not consist in the abundance of our possessions.”

We are more than our possessions.  We are more than what we have.

In that place to which are going, we will go naked and empty-handed.  We will go shed of all attachments and possessions.  We will go there shed even of our very bodies.  But we will go there, unafraid. And we will go there gloriously and radiantly clothed with hope and joy and love.