Aug. 7th, 2022
Rev. Rebecca Migliore
We start today right where we left off last week. Jesus is talking about being rich, not in possessions, but in God. If you remember, Jesus had told a parable about a man who had more than enough already, and when his business, his farm became even more prosperous, when he had so much that he didn’t know what to do with all his excess—he built more barns, more silos, more places to put his stuff, so he would be set for life. He laughed at all those other poor sots, and said to himself, “Self. You have more than enough. Eat, drink, and be merry.” In the parable, God calls the man home that very night. And Jesus asks, “What good did those possessions do?”
So as we start our reading today, Jesus is instructing not just the disciples but us. ““Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Yes, we are supposed to be rich in one thing—God. Our relationship with God. Our connection to God. Our participation in God’s ways. And if we believe that, we can give up some of what we might hoard if we thought that we could provide everything that we need. It reminds me of a bumper sticker: “Whoever has the most money, wins.” And oftentimes it does look like that. The rich and famous do seem to have “won” in our culture. And yet, are they the happiest people? Does all their wealth, their fame, their prestige protect them against family crises, or health issues, or tragedy? Are they better people because of what they have?
Jesus says no. Don’t put your trust in things that will wear out, or that someone can steal, or that can be eaten by moths. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Make for yourselves an unfailing treasure in heaven.
Jesus starts off by telling us what we can trust in, “it is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” And by trusting that God is giving us the kingdom, we can feel free to unburden ourselves of things that wear out, or can be stolen, or eaten by moths—we can actually give it away, or sell it and give it as a monetary donation, in other words we can share of our abundance.
Now this does require that we have trust, have faith, that God is good; that God’s good pleasure is to give us enough for the day (as the Lord’s prayer teaches us—give us this day, our daily bread); and that “the kingdom,” that sometime, somewhere, in the future, God will right the world, and that is our birthright, and our legacy.
And there is the rub for most of us. We easily say, “God is good.” We even use it as a greeting, “God is good/All the time.” Although when bad things happen then there feels like a dissonance between God is good and why that could occur. But even so, we are sure God is good.
We might even pray before meals, reminding ourselves that God has provided for this day. But most of us don’t really worry about where the next meal will come from. It might not be filet minion, it might not be lobster, but it probably won’t be dog food either.
But faith in that sometime, somewhere God realm—faith that what Jesus said was coming two thousand years ago (and still hasn’t really seen the light of day), weeeeellllllll. That’s why we hedge our bets. That’s why more of us than will admit have quite a few storage barns and silos and a few things that might wear out (if we used them) or might get stolen if a thief broke in, or might even be eaten by something that found our hiding place.
Because it’s hard to believe in something not seen. We are a “prove it to me” people. It’s hard to keep hoping when the hoped for thing doesn’t readily appear. And yet, that is exactly what the book of Hebrews calls faith—the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Maybe part of the treasure, part of what we are looking for God to give us, is that spark of faith that will allow us to push past our denial that there is anything left hoping for, and our insistence that everything good needs to be seen and held.
And just when we think Jesus will answer all these questions about treasure and how it ties into faith and our connection to God, he seems to pivot to a whole other story—about being ready, having our lamps lit, waiting for the Master to come home (at whatever hour).
What does this have to do with treasure? I wonder. Is this just a bad editing job? Did the connector between these two sections get lost? But the more I thought about it, the more I began to see that this riff on being ready might be treasure/faith, part 2.
So let’s recap. First we need to be willing to reevaluate what is treasure. We need to begin to let go of some of the stuff that we think makes us safe, but is flimsy in terms of eternal things. And why do we do that? Why might we be willing to sell what we have and give to others? Because we have faith. Because we trust in God. And we trust that God’s kingdom, God’s realm, God’s intention for this world is coming.
That is part 1. But there is a danger in becoming too attached to this part of Jesus’ argument. Too attached to the idea of putting it all in God’s hands. Too attached to the idea that faith is only a letting go, and that it doesn’t require anything more of us. I’ll give you an example. Early in the pandemic, when we were all shut down, there was a church somewhere that was still holding services. And when the media stopped someone leaving afterwards and asked “Aren’t you worried about catching Covid?” the reply was “No, the blood of Jesus will protect me.”
I am here to tell you that THAT is not what Jesus intended as trusting in God. That is not faith. That is willful ignorance. That is thumbing your nose at using the intelligence God gave us. That is disregarding the gift of scientific discovery, and the wonder of all that we have learned about viruses and vaccines.
What part of testing “the blood of Jesus” to see if it was an effective therapy is about “things hoped for” or “things unseen.” Jesus was talking about God’s kingdom, something that was dawning, awakening, emerging. And he wanted us to realize that being a part of that emerging was a treasure as well. And here is where we get to treasure, part 2.
If you have ever waited to see the dawn, you know that it doesn’t happen quickly. In fact, there are what seem to be hours where you might not even realize that the darkness is not quite as dark. And then there is that period where you know it is lighter than it was, but dawn hasn’t yet happened. And then it becomes brighter and brighter, and then, just when you think that you have missed it, dawn appears.
Be ready, Jesus says. Don’t think that you can just figure that you have let everything go, and you can sit back and wait in your faith. Have your lamps trimmed and burning. Be on watch. For you don’t know when the Master is coming. You don’t know when the sprouting of God’s time will come.
Alright, preacher. You said this was part of treasure, part 2. How is this idea to be ready a treasure? Imagine with me what it would take to be ready. What it would take to have the lamps lit. It would take having all the supplies. It would maybe require coordination—we don’t know how long we have to wait and someone should be on the look out while the rest of us get some rest. It might inspire us to get to know one another better, as we wait together. It might set off the telling of stories, the sharing of laughter and tears, the living of life together. It might push those waiting to fix up the place a bit. It might allow the time to think about justice and mercy and how they might be better implemented.
It just might require that faith be a verb instead of a noun. As the commentary of Seasons of the Spirit suggests “Rather, faith is about trust and loyalty and where we dare to invest ourselves…to have faith means to live a radically different way, trusting that tomorrow is taken care of in the providence of God.” (Aug. 7th, 2022)
Treasure is what we invest in. Treasure is what we hold dear. Treasure is what we discover as we stand at the ready, side by side with the community of followers. Treasure is what we make as we help bring in the coming of God. That is the purse that will not wear out. That is the unfailing treasure in heaven. That is where our heart is supposed to be. And we do it in faith. Not because we have seen, not because we have proof, but because we hope, and we trust.
And Jesus says that when the Master finally comes, whether it be in the middle of the night, or closer to dawn, Blessed will be those who are ready and waiting. They will already have their treasure. And yet, there is more. For what a banquet there will be—where all will sit down together, to eat and drink.
As we approach the Lord’s table today, let us give thanks for our faith (however small or great it may be).
The faith to let go.
The faith to trust.
The faith to do the work.
The faith to keep ourselves ready and waiting.
The faith to be a part of the treasure of life with God.
May it be so. Alleluia, Amen.