Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 12, 2001
The Gospel: Luke 12:32-40
Sermon: "Treasures from Heaven"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
Jesus said, "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. Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."
Treasures from Heaven
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost - August 12, 2001
Steve is a very important man. He runs a multimillion dollar company. His annual salary is in the high six figure range. He travels extensively in the corporate jet and the corporate limos to various destinations. Personally, he is married and has two children. He is a member of all the right organizations and country clubs. Steve is considered to be a very influential person in large number of circles. In short, when Steve speaks people listen.
To achieve this status and position Steve works long hours. His workweek averages 60-80 hours. He has very little time with his family. He has lost touch with his children's likes and dislikes. He does not know their hobbies. He does not attend their activities. In fact, he does not speak to them very much at all.
One day Steve has a few minutes between appointments. As he relaxes in his chair he begins to wonder. He asks himself what is life all about. He lists his accomplishments in his mind. He goes down a checklist of the people he knows and the places he has been. Steve thinks about his net worth. After he goes through all of these thoughts he finds himself asking one question. Is this all there is? Is this all there is to life?
He begins to think about his family. He realizes he has not really been with them for a long time. Oh, he has come home and spoken a few words. He has taken them to the country club while he played golf. He realizes he has lost touch. He really does not know who they are anymore.
That night Steve goes home. He has dinner with his family. After dinner he sits down with his teenage son and has a long talk. They just sit and chat about what is happening in his son's life. As the time approaches for them to go to bed, Steve turns to his son and says, "I'm sorry I have not taken the time to be with you. I'm going to make some changes so we can be together more often. I love you."
His son starts to cry. Steve is taken back. His son says, "Dad, I have been so upset. I don't remember the last time you told me you loved me. Tonight, after we all went to bed I had decided to commit suicide. Please be here for me and help me. Please keep telling me you love me."
I have taken some liberties with this story by changing the names, but this story is true. Steve almost lost his son. Luckily, or probably more accurately, providentially, a tragedy was averted by a single event and three words.
The single event was not the conversation Steve had with his son. The single event was the moment of realization Steve had in his office. There is more to life than gathering material treasure. There is more to life than building up material treasures.
We live in a very materialistic world. Our society has become more and more focused on the material goods around us. We are expected to live in the right neighborhoods. We are expected to wear the right clothes. We are expected to attend the right schools. We are supposed to drive the right cars. We are supposed to have the right amount and the right make of toys. Stereos, CD's, DVD'S, satellite dishes, SUV'S, ATV'S, jet skis, Jordache, Gucci, and Ping are a few of the toys and names that might be familiar.
Attaining all of these possessions takes time and money. These items are becoming more and more expensive. Single parent families are struggling just to make ends meet. Couples are working harder and harder to try and get ahead. The result is stress, anxiety and worry.
Over the last two decades stress and anxiety have become identified as the source of a large number of illnesses. Recent studies show 43% of adults suffering from stress and anxiety related illnesses. Almost half of American workers suffer from symptoms of burnout. Stress is linked to all major causes of death including heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents and suicide.
We have become a culture of worriers and chasers. We worry about our future and we get caught in the chase for material needs.
In some respects it is hard not too. Worry is a part of being human. We worry about the bills. We worry about our family and our children. We worry about our health. These worries are normal. Don't we tend to worry about other inconsequential things? We worry about what someone thinks of us. We worry about how we look. We worry about what someone else might say about us.
Similarly, we worry about our material possessions and needs. We want to be sure we have everything we need. That's fine. We do need a roof over our heads. We do need food and drink and clothes to wear. We do need transportation. We tend to worry about our wants. I'll use myself as a classic example. I want a suburban. Now, I just proved to myself that the small blazer I have is just fine. But I want a suburban. I can tell you everything about the suburban I want. I know the engine make, the interior, the type of sound system and the color. Ask me about any detail and I'll give it to you. I have spent a great deal of time and energy planning my wants instead of being thankful for having what I need.
The problem is we can get so caught up in the worrying about our wants that we lose sight of what is really important. We can get so caught up in the ideas of power, influence and money that life passes us by. We can get so caught in the worldly idea of treasure that the treasures of heaven are lost. We forget that we have a God who loves and supports us. We forget we have the majority of the things we absolutely need. We forget about the people who love us from time to time. We even forget to be thankful to God and to our loved ones.
Jesus tells us in our lesson to build up treasures for ourselves in heaven and not on the earth. The treasures of heaven are a relationship with God. The treasures of heaven involve building loving relationships with our family, with our friends, with our neighbors. By contrast the treasures of earth are material. Steve's life was an example of building treasures on earth. Steve's treasure in heaven began with the love he shares with his son.
I have a suggestion for all of us . Like Steve, when we have a few moments we might make a list for ourselves. We might take a moment to list what we believe is important to us. Then we might take a moment and see how much time, energy, and money we place towards the things that are important. We might be a little taken back by what we learn. We may find we are really worried and focusing on aspects of our lives that we shouldn't. We may find like Steve that we are losing or we might lose the heavenly treasure for the worldly treasure.
Jesus says, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." We already have the kingdom. Have we recognized it?