I’m sure Jesus didn’t mean for his words to be linked with dragons, but I can’t help myself. Every time I read scripture passages about treasure, I picture a dragon. You know, the big, scary, fire-breathing kind that hoards gold and trinkets and protects its treasure with all it’s might. Of course, this is exactly what Jesus is warning us against. He really wanted us to know that we are the treasure and not our stuff. Apparently, it was just as difficult to believe in first century Palestine as it is today in the United States (and elsewhere).
When my mother decided to move from Massachusetts to Arizona in her retirement, she had to sell the house I grew up in. Each time I would visit her during the months she was preparing the house, she would always ask, “Is there anything here you want?” There were cabinets of her mother’s and her grandmother’s china and crystal and silver. Next to those were boxes of things my mother had accumulated. She was disappointed that I didn’t want the Syracuse or the Haviland china. I could not think how any of it could be useful.
It turns out that she packed it all up and moved it to Arizona with her. When I went to visit her a few months before she died, she asked me again what I wanted. There really wasn’t anything. I took a couple of photo albums and a couple of the quilts she had made. She again marveled that I didn’t want the “valuable” things.
Truthfully, I didn’t see those things as valuable. I’m not someone who collects a lot of things. I have more than I need and I’m content enough. Sure, I drool over sports cars and envy people who have pretty shoes and sparkly jewelry. But I don’t need these things and they would serve no practical purpose. It’s not like these things could tell their stories or the stories of people who owned them. It’s not like they could give me the relationship with my mother I wanted and needed.
I read through the scriptures for this week and find myself questioning my faith and just where my heart might be. Hebrews tells us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” And Luke adds cautions about what we treasure and a reminder that God comes at an “unexpected hour.” These days, my faith is tested every time I turn on the news or browse through Facebook. I keep hoping one of the people running for office will say something about decreasing poverty and hunger, ensuring equal access to education and healthcare, dismantling the racist judicial systems, strengthening and upholding hate-crime laws, funding mental health care, and so many other things. This is not what I hear and its distressing. Power is the seeming treasure here and it doesn’t look like God is anywhere near. I know politics is not where God is often found, but why not? Shouldn’t government be about taking care of the people who inhabit the country? You know, treating people with dignity and respect?
Right. That would be the church. We have misplaced our treasures, too. I have often joked about what it would be like if God took us up on our invitation of, “Come Holy Spirit, come” that is frequently a part of our liturgy. None of us would be ready. Our lamps aren’t lit. We aren’t watching very closely. We’d be as confused and conflicted and disbelieving as any of Jesus’ disciples when he revealed his divinity and asked them to embrace their own. Most of us speak words of faith but seldom act in a way that challenges the status quo. We are comfortable where we are.
We forget that balanced budgets, perfect buildings, high-tech worship, and vision plans are not what church is. That’s all the stuff that distracts us and makes us feel better, not unlike my mother’s china and crystal. None of these things can do the work of the church which is saving lives and including people in a loving community of faith where they are seen, heard, and valued in the name of Christ. After all, we are human beings, not dragons; trinkets and treasures don’t give our lives meaning or purpose.
It is God’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom of God, the Realm of Heaven. We are foolish enough to mistake our stuff for God’s pleasure. It’s time to light our lamps and be as Christ to one another. How do we know that this is not the hour for us all to show up and re-member Christ?
RCL – Year C – Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost – August 7, 2016
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 with Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23 or
Genesis 15:1-6 with Psalm 33:12-22 and
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16