November 19-20, 2016
Christ the King Sunday
“Your Treasure, Our Hope”
As we prepare to read the Gospel scripture, let me share with you that this Sunday marks the end of the Christian year in the life of the church and is known as Christ the King Sunday. It is this Sunday that we celebrate the reign of Christ and celebrate Christ as king.
Next Sunday begins a new church year with the start of the season of Advent in which we begin our journey toward the coming of the Christ child as Emmanuel…God with us.
This is also our Celebration Sunday in which we are making our annual commitments to the life of this church for the coming year and to our three-year Hope Is Our Future building campaign commitments. We are making both these heart-felt commitments from the treasure of our lives.
You’ve heard the riddle, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Our Scripture passage today is a bit of a riddle that could go like this…Which came first, where your treasure is, or where your heart is?
We usually think that where our heart is, that is where we will invest our treasure. But so often Jesus seems to be talking in riddles or asks us to think differently. And when it comes to our treasure and our heart there is no exception.
When we invest our treasure where our heart is, we usually do so based on our preferences; which usually has to do with what I agree with, or where my interest is, or who the people or causes are that I prefer to help.
But when we see things the way Jesus did and put our heart where our treasure is, especially when it comes to the life of faith and the church, we are acting more on purpose rather than preference. And purpose is based on who we are and why we exist.
We are all children of God…that’s who we are. And we exist to serve God together with the church as we reach out with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness so others will know the love of God and be in relationship with God and neighbor…That’s the treasure. That’s the treasure based on the teachings of Christ and God’s kingdom values.
So, if the treasure is our relationship with God and each other, then the challenge becomes thinking through the question of where my heart is and evaluating if my heart is seeking after the things of self; or after a real and living and vibrant relationship with God and one another.
In our Scripture passage, Jesus directly addresses the heart by asking the question, “Where is your treasure?” And he answers by saying, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
What Jesus is not saying is that the things we value in life are bad…he’s not saying that. We all have the necessary and useful things in life that we value, like food, shelter, a bed, clothes, and few toys. And we also have the nostalgic and memorable things we hold onto.
I remember it was after I had purchased my first house a few years after college that when I went to visit my parents, and as I was packing my car to leave, my mother handed me a rather heavy cardboard box. This became a custom at the conclusion of the next several visits…the handing over of a rather heavy cardboard box.
I caught on after receiving my second box. What she was doing was cleaning out the attic, basement and closets and labeling boxes with my name and the names of my brothers. And each box contained our treasures from the first 18 or 19 years of our lives.
When I opened the boxes, memories would flood over me. One box was my letter jacket and trophies. Another box was filled with unfinished sewing projects. Another box had pictures; another notes and cards and letters to and from pen pals, friends and family; another newspaper clippings and magazines.
The stuff that had been cluttering my parent’s home was now cluttering mine. A lot of that stuff has made several moves with me…it’s hard to part with stuff, especially when memories are attached.
What we learn in our Gospel passage is that our treasure is not found in stuff. It’s not that the stuff we have is bad; rather, it’s about holding a perspective that those things are not our treasure.
Jesus seems to be talking more about the things that make for valued and loving relationships with God and God’s people. Moth and rust cannot touch these things and thieves cannot break in and steal them.
Still, we all have anxiety about giving from the resources of our lives. Most of us really do want to be faithful with where we in invest our time, energy and money, but often it’s the ‘what ifs’ that give us the anxiety.
The ‘what ifs’ may be…what if the car breaks down and repairs are costly; what if we get ill or injured and can’t work, what if we lose our job; what if our adult children move back home and we need to help support them again; what if our retirement funds take another hit; what if our house goes into foreclosure; what if we don’t agree with the leadership or direction of the church…what if?
Life is made up of ‘what ifs,’ both bad and good, that give us the opportunity to rely on God.
I believe the ‘what if’ problem is reduced if we remember proportional giving. When we give in proportion to what God has entrusted to us, then it is understood that if that income, or available time or energy goes down, the percentage given may be a smaller amount. If that income, or time or energy stays the same or increases, the percentage could be a larger amount.
Stewardship is about spiritual growth and generosity based proportionately on what we have been blessed with. I am convinced that people want to be generous and that we want to belong to a generous church. And for us as Christians to be generous, we need the teachings of Jesus when it comes to love, relationships, compassion, and yes, money.
We need the examples and encouragement of other people of faith and we need the help of a church, like ours, that has its mission and vision focused on the Gospel message of hope. When we focus on sharing the Gospel message of hope as our future, then giving becomes a joy and not a hardship. When we invest our heart in God’s kingdom treasure of relationship with God and neighbor, then we are part of something bigger than ourselves and we are doing something more than we can do on our own.
I believe it is true that the mind pursues what the heart desires. So, if our minds are set on and pursuing the treasure available to us in Christ’s teachings and God’s kingdom values, then our resources of time and talents and money will follow.
Another way to put it is how the writer of Philippians put it in the Scripture we heard earlier. When we are setting our minds on the treasure of God’s kingdom in all that is true and holy and just and pure and lovely and worthy of praise, then our hearts will follow.
During October and November, we have heard testimonies from people within the life of this congregation whose hearts are where their treasure is. The consistent theme through each testimony has been the feeling that this church is like family. The other theme has been love of God and love of neighbor. And as the treasure of those relationships has grown, the heart has followed.
Where will your heart be found? Bound up in fear by the ‘what ifs,’ or where your treasure is…relying, even if unsteadily, on the promise and grace of God.
The heart is really the control center for life. We know how important the healthy beating of the heart is to our literal existence. Any of you who have experienced heart surgery, know the importance of a healthy heart and have probably had to make lifestyle changes to maintain that healthy heart.
Back when I was coaching and teaching in the department of physical education and athletics, there were many years when we in the department would be called upon to defend keeping physical education as part of the school curriculum.
Not meaning to minimize any of the other academic disciplines, the bottom line is, you can be the most intelligent and the most gifted in things like literature, or math, or science, or music; but if you don’t tend to the health of your heart…if your heart stops…you’re no longer alive!
That thought can also holds true as a good metaphor in our stewardship and a metaphor for what Jesus was talking about when he said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
If your heart has stopped caring; if your heart has stopped reaching out; if your heart has stopped showing compassion for the least, the lost, and the left out; if your heart has stopped being invested where you invest your treasure; if your heart has stopped giving…you’re no longer alive…at least in a spiritual sense.
The secret to this life of ours is to treasure the things Jesus treasured…it is then that we are in unity with the heart of God.
May the commitments we make this day from the blessings of our lives reflect that unity.
May it be so for each of us.
Thanks be to God.