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Trash or Treasure?

7/28/2014 Seventh Sunday after Pentecost   The text for today’s sermon is Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52.

Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

We have heard it said, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  If that is so, then I must say that I have seen some pretty peculiar treasures…things saved over the years, things accumulated, things adored, things put away in secret hiding places…and these treasured items tell us a lot about the person who holds them dear.  That’s why we find shows like American Pickers and Pawn Stars so compelling.  We are amazed by what some people save.

In packing up and dismantling my father’s house after he had died, I discovered some things about him that I never knew through the treasures he had accumulated.  No, there wasn’t anything of great dollar value, but some of those treasured items surprised me – like all the Christmas and birthday cards that Del and I and my mother had given him throughout the years.  He had even saved a few cards from his mother, dating back to when he served in the army air force during WWII.  This storehouse of yellowing cards revealed a sentimental side to my father, a side which he kept secret and hidden, a side that I wish I could have gotten to know when he was alive.

But there were other items that my father saved and treasured.  There was the stockpile of used plastic bags and margarine tubs, and the TV trays and wads of tin foil, and balls of rubber bands.  All these things revealed the fragile side of his character, a fragile side that was the aftermath of growing up during the depression years.  And then there was the pile of old shirts, worn and tattered, no longer usable, but stored for their buttons which might someday be needed.  And there was a basement filled with old, broken TVs and radios that might provide parts for other TVs and radios which might someday come in for repair.  These were the things that others, including myself, would call trash.  But they were not trash to him…he saved them all because some day, some day, he might have need for a button or a tube for a TV or radio or a plastic bag or a little tin foil.  By virtue of saving these things, he made them important.  These were the things that I would gladly toss out, but he treasured them.  But, then, my bag of marbles stored in the attic and my collection of completed homework assignments dating back to the first grade might fall into the same category for others.

By including the parables of Jesus which compare the kingdom of God to earthly keepsakes, the author of Matthew reveals his concern about trash and treasure today – that is, those things which we hold dear and those things we discard.  For what we treasure, what we value, tells a lot about us, and where our treasure lies, so is our heart.

Now, I’m sure that my father didn’t think his fortune was found in those things which he saved and collected and held onto to for years.  He knew that plastic bags and tin foil, old shirts and broken appliances couldn’t put food on the table.  He wished he could have stockpiled other things, like real estate deeds, stock certificates, jewels, gold bars, and bank books.  And I dare say that all of us would like to have this type of treasure, whether it comes from something discovered by chance, something handed down to us by family, or something earned by the sweat of our brows.  These are earthly treasures that can be held onto as a nest egg, something to fall back upon when times get tough.  Yet, even these treasures are limited as you can’t take them beyond the grave.  Only the everlasting treasure of the kingdom of heaven is without limit.  This treasure will not diminish with time nor will it rise and fall with the politics of the day and the economy of tomorrow.  It is as priceless today as it was yesterday and will be in the future.

In order to help us to understand of value of kingdom, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to the treasures we know.  The kingdom of heaven is compared to a field of great value, a priceless pearl, and an overflowing net.  While we might not attach to imagery used in every parable, at least one will hit us where our heart is and will help us to understand the value of that which God holds out to us through Jesus Christ.  The kingdom of heaven is worth selling everything in order to possess it and hold onto it.

Sell everything you own…give your all…and receive back even more!  Now, that sounds like a great deal to me!  And what makes it even better is that total net worth is not diminished once everything is sold and given up to purchase it.  In fact, the worth of those who go for it is enhanced, for everything has been given in exchange for something of greater value.

But, this treasure cannot be put in a bank vault or taken out and displayed on a mantle.  This treasure is lived in the heart.  This treasure can be shared with others through service and witness without decreasing its value to us.  This treasure can be used for a life time to provide us security and comfort, and yet its value remains totally intact.

All earthly treasure will fade and fail away.  It can be spent and we can be left with nothing.  But the treasure of heaven is forever…from everlasting to everlasting.  It is more valuable than all the gold and silver on earth…and it is laying there like an open field, ready for the taking.  But it comes at a cost – a cost that requires a change in heart as the treasures of this world are exchanged for the treasure that is ours in the salvation that Jesus is offering.  The kingdom of heaven is laid open to us…and for each of us the cost is the same…a change of heart in which God takes center stage and the pursuit of the American dream comes in a distant second.

Yes, the price seems extreme…but God doesn’t make the price beyond our means.  Whether we have a penny to our name or a storehouse of goods, the price is the same…everything in which we find our security, everything we treasure in this world.  What we get in exchange for offering everything we have to God – our goods, our fame, our life – is life in abundance.  For, the treasures of this earth, and the security and the comfort they can bring are limited and temporary at best.  They can be lost.  They can be used up.  There are things that they cannot buy.  And they pale in comparison to the true riches that God has planned for us in his heavenly realm.

We struggle to acquire the treasure that is transitory, “treasures on earth where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal,” when we should be storing up for ourselves “ treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.”  So, set your hearts on the priceless pearl, the fabulous field, the overflowing net of the kingdom of heaven and you may get rid of everything that stands between you and this treasure.    “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (excerpts from Mat 6:19-21)

Let us be heart healthy.  And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.



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