By Rev. Juanita Austin
Based on Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 and Luke 12:32-40
The letter to the Hebrews, chapter 11 opens with these words: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things unseen.“ We hear of Abraham and Sarah and the wild risk they took in leaving behind supposed security for a promise Abraham feels God has revealed to him.
The writer of Hebrews talks about Abraham going forth in faith, but none of us were there when Abraham lay awake at night, thinking: `What the heck have I done?!’ and I’m sure Sarah was wondering a very similar thing!
But this is written long after the fact and we know it turned out fine. But then we get to verse 13! Verse 13 says they all died in faith, not receiving what was promised… What? How does that inspire anyone?
I think they did not see the fullness of what was promised, but they did see the old world declining and the new arising and believed that God was not only with them, but awaited them beyond their early life in a way they could not yet experience.
We seldom get to see the fullness of a dream. I have a prayer practice that acknowledges that it has taken everything up to this moment to bring me here – and that is both humbling and freeing. And what I do today, and what you do today, will affect what happens tomorrow. Our lives will be the building blocks for those who come after us.
What I find oh so often, is that the reason I think I’m somewhere, is not really the reason I’m there. The lessons I learn, the gifts I give and receive, are not necessarily the ones I signed up for, but they are the ones that are needed; at least that’s what I’m come to believe, and that for me, is faith.
Meanwhile, Luke’s gospel carries on from last week, where Jesus used a question about family estates to warn against greed. Jesusgoes on to tell them not to worry about their daily life – what to eat, drink, wear etc. He says, “Fear not, little flock for it is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom, sell your possessions, give alms to the poor, don’t’ store up treasure that thieves can steal, but store up treasure in heaven.
Jesus isn’t referring to those old gospel songs that talk about a mansion just over the hilltop, and streets paved with gold. Treasure that is indestructible, and thief-proof, is to make the kingdom of heaven – the daily living God’s realm, your treasure.
Treasuring the realm of God means that every conversation you have, you make a conscious choice between putting someone down or lifting them up, every incident that seems unfair calls forth a decision to address injustice or keep silent about it, and yes, even every box in the basement calls us to reflect – do I need this or does someone else need it more than I do?
Jesus say, Fear not little flock… but set your mind on heaven (God’s realm) because treasure and heart go together. I have heard that the phrase `Fear not’ or `don’t’ be afraid’ is mentioned 365 times in the Bible – no I haven’t personally counted, and it may be a myth, but it is said a lot. Admittedly it’s hard to trust when you are fearful, but that’s what faith is about. There is something to be said for `Feel the fear and do it anyway- that’s often the only way we get things done. And it’s holding on to the promise, and crazy sense that God has called us to something more, that keeps us going, even when we seem to be going in circles. One of the foundational biblical stories, the exodus from Egypt is a prime example of this. It’s not that far from Egypt to the land of Canaan, even without a map, it shouldn’t take 40 years. But it took time to form community, it took time to figure out who they were, and whose they were, or, as the sign I inherited in my office says, “Just when I figured out the answer, they changed the question.”
The question is something about where our treasure and heart are. “In this teaching from Luke (12:32–40), Jesus asks us all to tone down our fretting and think about what is most important; for what we think is most important will become most important, and most influential, in our lives.
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”, is not just about finances. It is about all that you value: your relationships, your time, your work, your play, your memories. How do those things that you value affect how you spend your attention, your time, your money, your effort or your worrying? I invite you to look at your bulletin, and you will see these words printed there: family, friends, travel, work, hobbies, church, home, health, volunteerism, sports, faith, justice, environment.
I invite you to draw a heart by the top three or four values… when you have completed that, I invite you take some time today, to prayerfully look at your bulletin and your calendar, you cheque book or Visa statement, and consider whether your treasure and heart go together. Do you take the time/make the time to do the things your heart values? Is it reflected financially? If they don’t match up, is there something you want to work at changing? Is there a way, we as faith community can help each other in this?
Think of people who have helped you on your faith journey. What did they say or do that was helpful to you?
Is there something you did or said, that you think helped someone else on their faith journey?
Is there something you would like to do, as a step of faith?
Word for all ages: One day when Jesus was talking to his dear friends he told them not to we worried that they didn’t have enough – in fact he told them to sell what they had and give their money to people who were poorer than they were.
I wonder what his friends thought about that advice.
Last year, when Jim and I got married, we moved our two households together. We had a lot of things! A lot of treasures! And we gave a lot of it away! So do you think we have anything left? We’ve got a lot left! In fact, I think I just finished unpacking the last few boxes on Friday. And… we took another box of treasures to the big Salmon Arm thrift store! That felt pretty good until I realized – oh oh, Sicamous United Church has a thrift store so… I made myself find another box of treasures that I could live without.
Do you think I have anything left at home? I still have a lot. Most of all, I have a wonderful man to share my home with, and a wonderful dog, and friends and family that bless my life every day.