Meadowbrook Congregational Church
“Where Your Treasure Is”
Rev. Art Ritter
August 11, 2019
“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.”
My daughter Amelia called me this week to share some news. She told me that her friend Emily Weibel was expecting a baby early next year. While we were living in Salt Lake City, Emily was almost like a member of our family. She and Amelia were constantly together. It seems that Emily was always at our house or I was always driving Amelia to Emily’s house. When we watch videos of any birthday celebration while we lived in Utah, Emily is right there with us, singing “Happy Birthday” and eating the cake. The Weibels attended our church and our families shared in many social activities. I went to a lot of minor league baseball games with Emily’s father and her brothers. I think that all of the Weibels, with the exception of Emily, have visited us a couple of times since we returned to Michigan.
My first reaction to the news that Emily was pregnant was that it was quite impossible. Emily is twelve years old, or at least in my mind she is still twelve years old. When I mentioned this to Amelia she quickly assured me that Emily was now 28 years old and that she had been married for nearly five years. It really is hard for me to get my mind wrapped around the fact that Emily is that old and is in such a place in her life. My experience with her is that of the childhood friend of Amelia and it is frozen in time. While my rational mind tells me that my memories are over 15 years old, such logic doesn’t change the strength and reality of those recollections. But Emily’s news also reminds me again of the fleeting nature of life and of the opportunities to create other important memories that might be moving by even now.
Asked about the difficulty of playing left field in Yankee Stadium in the bright sun of early autumn, Yogi Berra replied, “It gets late early there.” As usual, Yogi’s wisdom was unintentionally most profound. It gets late early in our lives. Everyone knows that life is short and that we are to treasure each and every moment but perhaps it is just part of our human nature to act as if we will always have plenty of days left to spend. We look forward to some things: vacations, graduations, weddings, retirement- and we often look past other things. We sometimes think that the best part of our life is yet to come, once we get some bills paid, some business concluded, some projects finished. We are guilty of throwing time away, minute by minute or hour by hour- even as we understand the precious nature of each moment and how quickly the late afternoon hours of life arrive.
Dr. Seuss wrote this poem, “How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”
Dr. Brett Younger, pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn NY and Bible lecturer at our last national meeting in Cleveland tells of a trip that he and his wife took to Washington DC. They only had one day left in their visit and it was an extremely hot and humid afternoon. They had finished a tour of the Capitol building and they had walked about ten miles along the national mall. Brett said to his wife, “What should we do next? We could go to the National Archives and be moved by the sight of the Declaration of Independence. Or we could go to the National Portrait Gallery and gain some inspiration through paintings of great Americans. Or we could walk over to McDonald’s and buy a couple of Cokes.” Younger concludes the story by saying, “Those Cokes were really cold!”
We know that feeling don’t we? Figuring we will have plenty of time and plenty of opportunities, we made poor choices of how we have used both. Younger continues by saying that “Life is too short to skip the Declaration of Independence. Life is too short for fantasy baseball, computer solitaire, or The Bachelor. Life is too short for microwave pizza, bad novels, or having the cleanest gutters on the block. Life is too short to keep waiting for a vacation, a special occasion, or a better day. Life is too short to be bitter over things you can’t change, want to go back to what was, or always do the same thing. Life is too short to be bored, to always blend in, or to sit in the corner while the band is playing. Life is too short to intend to live a new life, but never get around to it. We shouldn’t give ourselves to things that are less than God’s best or surrender ourselves to the worldly values, because life is too short.”
As the movie character Ferris Bueller said, “Life goes by pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
In the 12th chapter of Luke, Jesus continued to teach his followers about the nature of discipleship. Last week his lesson was about stewardship of possession, of sharing from our bounty instead of hoarding or accumulating for tomorrow. This morning’s lesson is also about stewardship but stewardship of a different kind. Jesus’ teaching seems to be on the stewardship of time. The disciples treated time much like we do. They acted as if life’s opportunities are endless. They worried about the wrong priorities. They chased after unimportant things. In the day to day problems they faced and issues they encountered, the disciples seemed to forget why they were doing what they were doing in the first place.
Jesus, on the other hand, was focused. A couple of chapters earlier in the gospel the author tells us that “his face was set upon Jerusalem.” Jesus was probably aware of the fate that awaited him in Jerusalem. He knew that this time was short. He knew that he and his followers had to concentrate on what was important in the building of the Kingdom of God. He and they had to use God’s gift of time very well.
Jesus said, “Do not be afraid. It is God’s pleasure to give you the kingdom. You don’t have to be frightened and worry about what is coming tomorrow and if you are adequately prepared for it. Live in God’s day, and in God’s way. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Jesus urged his followers to celebrate what God had given them in each moment, living with generosity and with grace, rather than with anxiety and regret, attitudes that waste the precious gifts placed in front of us each day. It is God’s pleasure to offer us God’s presence, a gift to be celebrated each and every moment, through trials and celebrations, through sorrows and success. Do not live waiting for tomorrow or fretting over wealth and security or how we appear to look to others. The value of our lives is found simply in God’s loving us enough to bring us opportunities for joy in each and every moment.
Then Jesus told a short parable about those who kept their lamps lit waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet. They were ready to open the door for him when he knocked. They were alert to the meaning in each and every moment of time. Jesus used them as an illustration of those who were awake to God’s presence in each moment of time and those able to understand that each and every minute of life is filled with the possibilities of God.
Dale Miller tells the story of a wealthy family from Massachusetts who took a month’s vacation each summer at the coast of Maine. They brought their housekeeper with them. She had a ritual for the beach. She wore an old-fashioned bathing suit, complete with white hat. She would bring along an umbrella, a chair, shoes, and a wrap. She would then journey down to the edge of the ocean, take a few deep breaths, and then extend one foot very daintily and slowly, putting her big toe partially in the water. Then she repeated the act with the other foot. Then, having satisfied her urge to swim, she would retreat to the chair with her umbrella and shoes and spend the rest of the vacation curled around a book.
Brett Younger concludes with this advice, “Life is short, so live each day as if it were your last, because some day you’ll be right. Life is short, so wake up, stay alert, be prepared, light the lamps, get ready. Listen for the knock, answer the call, serve where you are sent. Life is short, so do what you love to do and give it your best. Life is short, so recognize that today is the only day you have, eat dessert first, read good books, go to church and worship, stay awake and sing, tell the truth and dance. Life is short, so listen to the people you love and tell them how much they mean to you. Life is short, so surround yourself with gracious people, hug your friends, care for someone you haven’t cared for. Life is short, so be courageous, take a chance, live so that when your life flashes before your eyes, you’ll have plenty to watch. Life is short, so embrace the possibilities, try something new, see that every day is an opportunity, dream but don’t just dream, follow those dreams. Life is short, so celebrate God’s eternity, make time for the things that matter, don’t leave yourself regretting things you didn’t do. Life is short, tell others how God’s love has changed your life, be a person who talks about the good news of Christ.
Celebrate time. How you spend each moment will tell the world where your heart is and where your heart is, there is your treasure. As God takes pleasure in sharing God’s presence with us, let us take pleasure in finding God’s presence in each and every moment.