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Where Your Treasure Is, There Your Heart Will Be Also (w/audio)

. Posted in Sermons

Matthew 6:19-21

 Sermon:

It’s a lovely and catchy verse from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that our Stewardship Emphasis Task Force chose as the theme of our fall stewardship emphasis this year: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” It lends itself to cute little heart cut outs on strings (that we have already seen), and hearts with our theme on it that each of us will be given later in our worship to take home with us. I appreciate the task force’s creativity and hard work. But I find the verse that they settled on for our theme a difficult and challenging one: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Last Monday evening I was rolling our recycling bin out to the front where it could be emptied the following morning. Usually it contains a few cans, bottles, and papers, along with some other recyclables. But last Monday evening it was full to the brim, heavy, and hard to maneuver and pull up on the curb where it could be picked up the next day.

“What in the world was in that thing?” I asked Linda.
“I’ve been doing Swedish Death Cleaning,” she answered.

“Swedish Death Cleaning? What is that?” I responded. It sounded ominous and dire. But it turned out that Swedish Death Cleaning is the sort of thing that people our age do in order to save our children from having to do it after we die. It’s a getting rid of “stuff” that we no longer need, that’s just been taking up space and continues to take up space. But that we have been holding on to for reasons that we can no longer explain or make sense of.

I’m hoping that Linda gets off this Swedish Death Cleaning kick pretty soon, or else the coming weeks and months will be a challenge. Our attic is full of stuff that we no longer need or use. Some of it, the stuff our sons had before they left home. Our closets are full of stuff—a lot of it we don’t wear anymore, but that would probably come in handy for folks who don’t have the luxury of having a lot of stuff or even a place to keep stuff—except for maybe in a shopping cart or a back pack.

Even as I prepared this sermon, I looked up at the file cabinet in my study that contains the stuff that is really at the top of my treasures list. There are the records of our savings. There is the record of our finances that we use to determine the taxes we will pay. There is the title to a car. There are all the insurance files. There is the stuff that no Swedish Death Cleaning kick will ever force me to clean out. I need it. We need it. Or so I think.

But Jesus says, “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” (Matt. 6:19-21).

There is a lot about these verses that challenges me, and perhaps you too. But what challenges me the most are the words about “where my treasure is.” I wonder: Where is my treasure? Is it in that file cabinet? Is it in my attic? Is it in my closets? Where is my treasure? “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I’ve discovered over the years that where our treasure is is often culturally determined. “Jesus knows,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “that (our hearts hanker) after a treasure, and so it is his will that we should have one.” But what is a treasure for us? The world provides us with many quick answers. It is a nice home with a paid up mortgage in the best part of town. It is a car and clothes and job and things that say this person is a success. It is the best schools for our kids. Speaking of the kids, it is having them in all the activities that promise to make them happy and successful (even if busy and stressed, along with their parents, by all the things they feel like they need to be doing).

Where is my treasure? Where is yours? Jesus says it is in heaven. And I wonder what in the world he is talking about. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal,” Jesus says, “but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

I know what an earthly treasure is. It’s the stuff that I am reminded every day that I need. It’s the stuff in that filing cabinet. It’s the stuff in my house. It’s the stuff that I have and do that says to myself and to the world that I am an ok person.

But a heavenly treasure? What is that? If Jesus, as the gospels remind us, is heaven come to earth (the Word made flesh and dwelling among us, as the gospel of John tells us) then I find heavenly treasure wherever Jesus is to be found. I find treasure here in worship among people like yourselves. I find treasure in places where Jesus sends us: among the poor, among the sick, among the distraught, among the outcast, among those who need someone to listen, among our neighbors who need us to love them as we love ourselves. I find treasure in relationships—with my wife, with my children, with my grandson, with you. Heavenly treasure is to be found wherever Jesus is to be found, and Jesus is found in relationships, in relationships characterized by the giving and receiving of love.

And central among all these relationships, Jesus would say, is relationship with God. A central practice of Judaism, of which Jesus was a part, was the practice of Sabbath-keeping. Of course, as we are reminded in our reading and study of the gospels, religious folks could get pretty legalistic about it in Jesus’ day. But that is not to say that it was not important. Sabbath was a time to stop from work and anxious activity. It was a time to stop from pushing and driving to get things done. And to rest. And to be renewed. And to focus on that most important relationship of all relationships—relationship with God, relationship with heaven. Out of this relationship, all of our other relationships are informed and nurtured.

I called up someone on our Stewardship Task Force this past week for some help on this sermon. “What did you have in mind with this theme: ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’”? I asked.

“It’s people we had in mind,” she responded, “the people who give their time and talents to this church, the people for whom we are expressing our thanksgiving in the emails that are sent out to the church members every day. When we think of our treasure we are not just thinking of money. We are thinking of people, of the people who make up this church.”

And what I heard her saying is that our treasure is relationships—relationships with God and with one another. This is where our heart is. Or at least where it is called to be.

Of course, as we were reminded last week in so many ways—and perhaps especially in the massacre at the church in Texas—precisely because our treasure is to be found in relationships, our hearts can be broken. When loved ones get sick, when they run into trouble, when their lives end, our hearts break. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. When the way of Christ suffers by the hypocrisy or indifference of its adherents, by the savageness or cruelty of life in this world, our hearts break as well.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” And sometimes this means that we are often invested in situations and persons that cause our hearts to be broken. But many of us here have found that God enters into our broken hearts. When a heart is broken open God can enter to heal and transform and bring new life. And it is our faith that this is precisely what God does.

But it is also our faith that our treasure is in heaven. And why we keep coming here week after week is to remind ourselves—amidst our struggles and broken hearts—where our treasure is to be found. It is to affirm what our treasure is. In a world where people are busy and anxiously collecting and holding on to stuff, we affirm that our treasure is to be found in each other and in the God we know in Jesus Christ who holds each one of us in the arms of love. This is where our treasure is. And it is where our hearts are. And it is what motivates all our living and giving as disciples of Christ.

—William E. Warren, Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Germantown, November 12, 2017

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