Sunday, August 4, 2013

Treasures Sermon given at United Church of Beloit Aug 4, 2013

Psalm 107
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story―
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
3 those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.
4 Some wandered in desert wastelands,
finding no way to a city where they could settle.
5 They were hungry and thirsty,
and their lives ebbed away.
6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
7 He led them by a straight way
to a city where they could settle.
8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
9 for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.
43 Let the one who is wise heed these things
and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.

Luke 12:13-21 (NIV)
The Parable of the Rich Fool
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”


I suspect a couple of you are thinking Oh NO! We give her a few consecutive weeks in the pulpit and It's a sermon on stewardship!

No it isn't. I am NOT going to tell you to give more money to the church! Well unless you want to!

I am using the Lectionary gospel lessons as I preach, the lectionary is the set of 'prescribed' readings that churches can use or not as they feel led. Each week there is are readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms, an Epistle, and a Gospel lesson. If one were to go through the entire lectionary, in a 3 year time span, you would have read/and or preached most of the Bible.

psalm is about those who have wandered, no home, no permanence (perfect for hands of faith week...) Their hunger and thirst is physical from being in the desert, but I suspect the Psalmist here is also speaking metaphorically, telling a story, about a spiritual hunger and thirst, which God satisfies!

The Psalmist reminds us to 'let the one who is wise ponder these things' and the Gospel lesson is about a 'fool'! Interesting contrast there, isn't it?

Gospel lesson from Luke, this one of many of Jesus' parables.
Parables. simply defined a parable is “usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle” Merriam-Webster online dictionary earthly story with 'heavenly meaning”

Jesus did not invent the parable, in fact rabbis of this era told stories like this all the time. Jesus did polish the art of story telling :)

Jesus' story here refutes the belief of that time that if you were right with God, you would be blessed materially. A rich person was viewed as being blessed by God. Jesus is not reinforcing this belief is he? In fact, when God says, “you fool!”...the word used here in the original Greek means not only someone who is not bright, acting unthinkingly, but it also means a non believer! Jesus' story equates the rich man with someone who is not believing or cherishing God. He is not wealthy because of his faith, but in spite of it.
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Is Jesus speaking to us about possessions or about our preoccupations?

treasures are not just material things! Also attitudes. That is why we sometimes pray for forgiveness for 'thought, word and deed'

Gerald May in Addiction and Grace
I am convinced that all human beings have an inborn desire for God. Whether we are consciously religious or not, this desire is our deepest longing and our most precious treasure. It gives us meaning. Some of us have repressed this desire, burying it beneath so many other interests that we are completely unaware of it. Or we may experience it in different ways―as a longing for wholeness, completion, or fulfillment. Regardless of how we describe it, it is a longing for love. It is a hunger to love, to be loved, and to move closer to the Source of love.

People are HUNGRY! Hungry emotionally and spiritually, Hungry for love, a sense of belonging, wholeness, fulfillment, for peace...for Shalom! The wholeness, peace and protection of God. People were hungry, physically, emotionally and spiritually, 2000 years ago, that's why Jesus referred to himself as the Bread of Life, as Living water! People are hungry today, literally going hungry, going without food, yet every single day 263 million pounds of food are wasted in this country. And yet people go hungry. And they are hungry, emotionally and spiritually, yearning to know that they are loved, cared for. That there is more to life than scraping by every day, that there is hope and rest. That there is shalom.

That is why we do Hands of Faith, VBS and Book Bag Bash, Meals on Wheels, why we support Caritas and other local groups and missionaries in this country and abroad. To help people know that someone cares! there is satisfaction for their hunger. Their hungers! the physical and the emotional and spiritual hungers!

Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness,
of understanding, of peace. Money will come if we seek first the Kingdom of God - the rest will be given. -Mother Teresa 


St. Lawrence was martyred in 258 CE, but we remember him not for his martyrdom. We remember him as the Archdeacon of Rome. His responsibilities included maintaining the sacred vessels of the small, struggling church and distributing alms to the poor. While he was Archdeacon, the Governor of Rome took Pope Sextus captive and demanded, "Where is the treasure of the church?" The Pope would not tell, and they tortured him to death. 

Next the Romans took Lawrence captive. "Where is the treasure of the Church?" they demanded, threatening with the same fate that befell the Pope. Lawrence replied, "Governor, I cannot get it for you instantaneously; but if you give me three days, I will give you the treasure." The governor agreed. Lawrence left. 

Three days later he walked into the governor’s courtyard followed by a great flood of people. The Governor walked out onto his balcony and said, "Where is the treasure of your church?" Lawrence stepped forward, and pointed to the crowd that accompanied him – poor families, the disabled, those considered to have no value to that society. "Here are the treasures of the Christian church."

these are the treasures of the Christian Church. The ones who hunger and thirst physically, emotionally and spiritually. The ones who God cares for and satisfies, through God's own followers! The ones called “the Least of these” are the treasures. And so are we, if we treasure others as God treasures us.

You do know that God treasures you, right?
There is a great quote by Max Lucado
“If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning… Face it, friend. He is crazy about you!”

God treasures each and every bit of God's creation, especially us! When we recognize that we are loved so well, so treasured, we want to live out that love. Love doesn't need to be saved up like a possession, love grows best when
we give it away!

Share a bit of that love today! Get to know one another! Reach out to someone you don't know at all, by helping with our church outreach events and with other opportunities in our area. Reach out, right here in church, to someone you don't know well, share a story or two. Sit down to coffee or tea together or a meal.

Henri Nouwen
When we invite friends for a meal, we do much more than offer them food for their bodies. We offer friendship, fellowship, good conversation, intimacy, and closeness. When we say, “Help yourself…take some more…don’t be shy…have another glass,” we offer our guests not only our food and our drink but also ourselves. A spiritual bond grows, and we become food and drink for one another. In the most complete and perfect way, this happens when Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist as food and drink. By offering us his Body and Blood, Jesus offers us the most intimate communion possible. It is a divine communion.

In a few moments we will share in that Divine Communion. We will pray together the prayer taught by Jesus. That prayer that helps us to recognize we pray in community, we reach out in community. We grow in love by giving it away, by giving of ourselves-- And yes, of our treasures.

Let us prepare for that Divine Communion by singing together Let Us Break Bread Together.  

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