Sermon for 8/11/2013 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA.
32 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell 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. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35 ‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be 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.37Blessed 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. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
39 ‘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.40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
This last week, I was all set to go. I got off the Logan Express, golf clubs in hand, ready to go see my friends in Buffalo, New York and defend our Lutheran Charities of Western New York Golf Classic title.
There was only one problem, as I started to make my way to the baggage claim. I didn’t have my wallet. I frantically checked my pockets, my bags, and anywhere I could possibly think of, about 85 times, and I had nothing.
My mind was racing, where was the last place I had my wallet. I deduced that I had bought my ticket in Framingham, so I must have had it there. Then, I figured that it must have fallen out of my pocket, as I put my car keys in my bag so I wouldn’t have to worry about them in the security line. And, as I wondered how I could check to see if my wallet was indeed on the bus, it hit me that said bus would be coming around to pick-up people, before it headed off to Framingham.
The moments of waiting were anxious, but finally the bus arrived, my relief was overwhelming when the driver handed me my wallet.
The funny thing about this whole scenario, is that while my wallet was missing, I wasn’t concerned about losing money, because I didn’t have any in there. What I was most concerned about, the thing that I most treasured in my wallet, was my driver’s license. If I didn’t have this little card with my picture on it, I wouldn’t have been going anywhere.
And, when it comes down to it, this small scene, is analogous to our life. Ultimately, it is not losing simple things that worries us. What worries us as human beings is losing the things that serve in helping identify us to others. It is these things, that are our greatest treasures.
Think of it this way, when we are born, we don’t really know much about the world around us. Someone dresses us up, and as long as we don’t get too hot or cold, we don’t care what we’re wearing. As we get older, and start going to school, and become aware of those sorts of things, we start to become much more concerned, because what we are wearing doesn’t just keep us comfortable, what we wear serves as a way for the world around us to identify us, and we try very hard to achieve or control that image. We try very hard, as we grow-up, each of us in our own way, to be cool to all those around us, usually by trying to wear, or put in our backpacks the same things that everyone else has.
Now, this struggle, to make a good identity for ourselves with the world, usually begins with clothes, or shoes, or folders, but grows as we do. Before long in our lives, we start worrying about having the right video games, and phones, and cars; only to move on to the right colleges and careers, and on and on and on. All of this being done, so that the world around us will identify us by certain indicators as being great people. We as human beings, treasure, very, very greatly, our identity, and we spend great effort to build and preserve this identity.
In fact, we as human beings sometimes treasure this identity so greatly, that it leads our hearts, and our lives to tragic places. For instance, many of us may be wondering about baseball player, Alex Rodriguez, and what would have driven him to, allegedly anyway, use performance enhancing drugs, and now in the aftermath of getting caught, for the second time, what would make him seem to be such a delusional creep about the whole situation. But I don’t think that A-Rod is all that different from any of us. I think that he simply treasured his identity as a great baseball player so much, that he would do anything to keep it; even letting go of things he probably at one time valued. In order to keep up appearances, he let go of the same things that actually made his treasure worth something.
And in regards to our identity, Sin doesn’t just pick on the rich, and famous, and talented. Sin ensnares us all, and it tricks us into believing that the identity we create for ourselves, the identity that we let the world see is so valuable, that we human beings time and time again risk losing, and do lose, what’s really important in our lives for the sake of it.
Now, back to the airport for a moment. As I handed my driver’s license over to the person checking my bag, they checked to see that my name and picture matched the information that I had, and the person did that for everyone getting on the plane, because in the end, that’s all that’s needed; a person who matches. If I didn’t have that ID, I would not have gotten on the plane, even if I told them things like “I’m a pastor”, “I’m from Minnesota”, “I have both the smartest child and dog in the world”, or anything else I could think of to impress them. Nothing about me, even the things that are great treasures to me, could have mattered.
The Good News, is that as we hear Jesus say today, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” we remember that we are God’s treasure, and because we are so loved by this God, wherever we go, God will be there. And, we are God’s treasure not because of all the wonderful things we have done, or because God thinks we’re really cool. We’re God’s treasure because God has made us that way.
It is this fact, that we are God’s treasure that Jesus is warning us to stay alert for, to stay on guard for. You see, because of sin, we need to constantly be reminded of just how valuable a treasure we are to God, no matter what. We need to be constantly reminded that what is valuable to God is simply our lives, our bodies, our names, the same things that are valuable when trying to get on an airplane. We need to be constantly reminded of this fact, because we can very easily become lost as we treasure our own perceived identity, like a baseball player chasing after more years and numbers without regard for his own health, character, and the game which gave him so much in the first place. We need to be constantly reminded of how God values each of us, because sin will sneak up upon us, no matter who we are, to try and make us forget whose we are.
And we are reminded of whose we are We are reminded that we are God’s when we see God use simple water and loving words, the gift of Baptism, to declare us loved for all the world to see for all time. We are reminded that we are God’s when we hear God invite us to the table, to taste and see that we are so valued that God in the person of Jesus Christ will pay the ultimate price for each and every one of us. We are reminded of that we belong to God, when God tells us to do likewise for not just each other, but for all people that belong to God, like our enemies, and even Alex Rodriguez, so that our treasure, our hearts, our whole lives may constantly abide in the eternal life of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,