Sunday, August 19, 2018

Treasure Hunting: Our Hearts and Worry

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.Grace and peace to you from God, our abundant Creator, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Matt. 6:19-34 (NRSV)

Money. That is central to what we are talking about for the next three weeks. Money. Does this subject make you as uncomfortable as it makes me?

Our focus during this time will center around this overall theme of “treasure in heaven.” And, then, each week, we will look at a different text from each of the three synoptic gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke. We’ll be looking at three different contexts, three different emphases, and then, in particular, three different challenges. Three different things that challenge us in our relationship with God and with money and, especially that challenge our generosity. These three things are worry, grief, and fear.

Does anyone here have a dollar bill on them? Or it can be a bill of any denomination? (In today’s cashless world, these is getting harder and harder to find, isn’t it?) When you look at the bill, what do you see? Amount of bill, former leader, words “In God We Trust.” 

In God We Trust. (Just a little bit of trivia here, but did you know that the requirement to use these words on every denomination of American currency was passed in 1956, not really that long ago.) Isn’t it a little ironic that, on the very thing that causes so much tension and conflict in our lives, in our relationships, in our work, and, yes, right here in our church--on the actual money we use day in and day out are these words: In God we trust. Because it is money and the power of money that is one of the things that we struggle with the most in our relationship with God. 

We worry about money constantly, don’t we? What worries you most about your money? We worry about how much we have. Or don’t have. We worry about the power it has in our lives. We worry about how much time we spend earning it. As we get older, we even worry about what we will do with it after we die. Money or our worry over money is one of the highest causes of anxiety and conflict in our relationships.

We worry constantly about money. It’s why Jesus talk about money ALL THE TIME. 

I really dislike preaching about money. Maybe it would be different if I had it all figured out. But, I don’t. And I worry about it. I come from a long line of worry-ers, in fact. And I have graciously passed my practice of worrying onto my son. It is just easy to worry over it, isn’t. This constant question of how much I should save. Or how much, especially for us in the church, I should give away.

And, then, as though the answer was easy, Jesus simply says, “Don’t worry!” Yeah, right!

And, yet, it really comes down to whether or not we believe the words we find on our own currency--the words, ”In God We Trust.”  Because to trust in God is to believe that there is enough in our world. That God cares abundantly for our world and has provided enough for each one of us. The word we often uses to talk about this is “providence,” God’s providence. To believe in God’s providence is to believe, no matter what, God will care for and protect us. That God will provide for us what we need. (Notice, I said need. Not want.) It’s what we pray for each time we say the Lord’s Prayer. “Give us this day our daily bread.” Notice that the focus in this prayer given to us by Jesus is on today. Not tomorrow, but today. Give us this day our daily bread.

Haven’t you experienced this? Haven’t you experienced God’s providence in your own life? I know I have. In my late 20’s, after my husband and I separated, I had physical custody of my son. It was expensive to pay for rent and utilities for us and for food and clothing for us all by myself. There were many times that my paycheck ran out days before my next payday and I had no idea where our next meal might come from. Where my next tank of gas might come from. Or how I might keep the lights on over our heads. And, yet, there was never a time that we didn’t have enough to survive. That somehow, something or someone would show up in our lives at just the right time with just what we needed. Coincidence? Maybe. But it happened so much then and throughout my life that it is way beyond coincidence. That I can attribute it only to God and God’s providence. That it is a God-thing.

God cares abundantly for our world. God has provided enough for everyone. What then, we might ask, about those who don’t have enough in their lives? About the poor? Or the disadvantaged? After all, we see them all the time here at Grace & Glory. Our food pantry clients. Others who come to us asking for money or for a tank of gas. If God provides enough for everyone, then, why are their people like this in our world.

The simple answer? Sin. Because sin tells us that there isn’t enough in our world. That there isn’t enough for everyone. Sin leads us to worry, to live in anxiety. Sin leads us to a mindset of scarcity. That we need to hold onto our stuff. Sin leads to hoarding. Sin separates us from right relationship with God.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…” Jesus says in our text today. “...[B]ut store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”

Jesus tells us to “strive toward the kingdom.” To trust in God’s providence and to strive for the kingdom. To trust that God will care for us. That God has created enough for us and for everyone else. To stop worrying. And to move from a place of scarcity to a place of abundance. From an orientation of hoarding to an orientation of sharing.  To think, “If I have too much, it means that someone else probably doesn’t have enough.”  

At the beginning of our service today, you made a list of things that belong to you. Pick one now. Think about how you might use that one thing right now to help other people or to worship God. 

When we change our heart. Or our minds. When we change our orientation from one of scarcity to one of abundance and of trust in God’s providence, this creates a whole new appreciation of how we hold things in common with each other. It is a system of economics that we may not understand or that might not seem at all reasonable according to the ways of our world, but it is one that, as Walter Brueggemann writes, will eventually “blow our socks off.”  

Because God is abundant. God is gracious. And God loves us and proves that love for us on the cross. That, my friends, is our treasure. That is what are to seek and what we are to strive for--a deeper faith in a God who has given us everything. Everything. Including God’s very own life. For us and for all people.

Strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. And all these things will be given to you as well. Amen.

Preached August 19, 2018, at Grace & Glory Lutheran Church, Goshen, KY
13th Sunday after Pentecost
Readings: Matthew 6:19-34 (Psalm 51:6-9)

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