Sermon for August 7th

First Reading Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

Second Reading Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Gospel Reading Luke 12:32-40

Sermon “Invested in Faith”

Sometimes a passage begins in an awkward spot and today is one of those times. The Gospel reading begins with the word So…. meaning “because of this”. But because of this what? Well, Jesus was exhorting his followers not to worry about things that most of us spend lots and lots of time worrying about. Luke 12:29-31 NLT [29] “… don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. [30] These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. [31] Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.”

We talked about this last week when we looked at Jesus’ parable about the selfish fellow who had that enormous crop and decided to build huge barns to hold it all, so that he could be happy, idle and secure for the rest of his life. But his life turned out to be very short. By this story, Jesus urged us to not to store up things for ourselves but instead to be rich towards God.These beginning verses now make a bit more sense when we read: Luke 12:32-34 [32] “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. [33] “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. [34] Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

SO… What are your treasures and Where do you keep them? Your heart is bound to be involved in such questions. Jesus says there is an unavoidable association between the two – Heart and treasure. We treasure many things, don’t we. Relationships, family, homes, business, our positions in organizations, institutions – even churches. We have likely spent years working in, for and even building these things. And yes, of course, the more standard things we think about when that word treasure comes up: Money, securities, stock certificates, bonds, precious metals, land – wealth of all kinds. Now, we tend to put those things in different categories than our faith pretend that they are not related. But Jesus says NO. What we work for, we naturally value. Whatever we invest in, be it time or money, we will naturally defend. Wherever we store up our treasure, naturally becomes a place our hearts are very close to. It is simply human nature.

When we think of our financial investments, we naturally look for places that are safe and secure, as a hedge against adversity and need. Places where our investments can earn interest and dividends. Well, sometimes that works out well and sometimes not. That’s the way it is – Jesus speaks of those problems – Thieves, Rust, Moths, Bear markets, recessions, inflation ( well those last few are more modern issues) – all the things that can attack earthly treasure. But there is so much more to life than accumulating wealth. There is much more to invest in than just our 401K’s. There is our life – our intellect – our passion – AND our resources. The first point that Jesus makes is that where we invest ourselves and where we invest our resources tend to be in the same areas. Board members for non-profits are almost always some of the biggest financial contributors or at least as much as they are able. It works that way with the things of God as well.

We find a similar principle at work in our consumer society in brand loyalty. Let try a little experiment this morning on the subject of Cars. How many folks are “Ford people”? How many prefer Chevy’s? Or maybe a Dodge or Honda? Once someone has bought a certain brand of car, they tend to defend that choice loudly. I have heard hours long, passionate arguments over just which one was the best. The key indicator seeming to be which ever one the person had invested in. So too, our loyalty tends to follow our money in other areas as well. Here is a thought: Could we possibly come to the place where we look at our household budget as a theological document. – After all, where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also. Beside the necessities of life, where does our discretionary spending go and what might that say about our priorities in life? If that thought stings just a little, you might be beginning to understand Jesus’ teaching, I know it certainly judges me.

Jesus calls his disciples – that’s us too, to understand that our relationship with God – that is being rich toward God is the most important treasure possible. Jesus says that Our Heavenly Father knows our physical needs and will do the worrying for us. We just need to trust him. That’s not always an easy thing to do. Worrying comes quite naturally to us. Paul recommends this solution to that problem: Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

[6] Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. [7] Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Too often we find it’s easier to trust and depend on things we can reach out and touch, grab onto and hold tight. Faith and trust in God requires an act of faith – now maybe that seems like a circular definition – Faith requires faith what kind of nonsense is that! And yet there may be something there. The writer of Hebrews defined faith in a better way in today’s reading – Hebrews 11:1-3 NIV

[1] Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. [2] This is what the ancients were commended for. [3] By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” The essence of the argument is this – how can we learn to trust God and cease our incessant and useless worrying? How can we open both our closed hearts and billfolds and begin to joyfully share love and care with our neighbors. How can we leave our fears of scarcity behind and venture out into the abundance of the Kingdom of God? Faith – Faith based on trust in a caring God AND gratitude for what we have received.

God does not require blind faith – maybe faith based on things that are not readily seen, but not Faith based on nothing. Recall instead this morning’s Hebrews reading which goes on to tell the stories of those men and women who walked with God in trust and faith, and tells how God sustained them – people like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Samuel and David. How do we know that God is faithful? Because God has always been faithful with them and with us. As Paul reminds us in several of his letters, ultimately faith itself is a gift from God. It was the tug of the Spirit that first made us curious and hungry for the things of God. Strengthening that faith is an ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that we received when we first answered the call of God to trust in his grace. We are not left alone to face the hardships of life.

Jesus assures us that It gives God great Joy to give us the kingdom – citizenship – adoption, belonging to his family. God wants the best for his children and so it grieves him when we wander off after things that can not really sustain us. He calls to us to look to the originator of everything that is and to trust that the God who began the world and sustains the world can sustain us too, if we will only believe and trust. It is good to be invested in the Kingdom that is surely coming. Not only are we to be invested in the things of God’s kingdom, but we are to be Ready as well. We are to live in eager expectation on the Lord’s coming, so that we will be found active and faithful.

Let me take a moment here to address this theme of where we are invested in the context of the decision we reached last week to close as a congregation. This is a loss to most of us, it feels a bit like a death in the family. But we serve a God much greater than this small part of the kingdom family. Our faith and our heavenly treasure are not and should not be localized to a particular building or a particular small group of friends, no matter how close or wonderful they are. You have a purpose greater than grimly clinging on to a tenuous survival. It is now time to begin turning loose of what you have held so tightly to for so many years and embrace new possibilities to serve the greater glory of God in this community. It is time to begin to consider how best to invest funds and facilities in ministry beyond ourselves and begin to consider how to invest ourselves after this season of sojourning together is complete.

Where and how is God calling you to go? Listen carefully, do not cling to the past, for Our God who has always been faithful is faithful still. Like Abraham he promises us a future blessing even if we cannot see it yet. So we step out in faith, letting go of some things that are passing away, but holding tight to what is eternal. We invest ourselves and our resources in the things close to the heart of God and wait eagerly for the culmination of all things, when our faith shall become sight at the return of our Lord.

Anticipation of Christ’s return and our invitation to his heavenly banquet is what we will celebrate at the Table in just a few minutes. We celebrate the victory won for us through Jesus by his death and resurrection. Let us come and feast with him, while we faithfully wait for the coming of his kingdom with glory and might.