Sermon – 08-11-19 – Proper 14 – Cycle C
Scriptures: Genesis 15:1-6; Psalm 33:12-22; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40
Sermon Title: “By Faith”
Our lessons today seem to be a continuation of our lessons last Sunday when we spoke about too much stuff for our barns. As a bridge from last Sunday to this Sunday, I am pleased to tell you that my friend, who with her husband clears houses and buildings when people die with uncleared stuff, emphasized that the possessions they bring home to their own barn do not stay there. People are invited to come and take whichever item they need at a particular time. Her husband says, “I think we have one of those in our barn. Come and see.”
The other bridge from last week is that many people told me they can definitely relate to having too many possessions. However, one person could tell me that she had gradually emptied her attic. What a pleasure it must be to see that empty spaciousness. I would be tempted to trek up the stairs to the attic daily just to fill my soul with the beauty of that empty space. Good exercise also!
So we have crossed the bridge and here we are facing more purification of our selfish ways. We are told to lay up treasure in heaven. Uh-Uh! Is there a ladder? Is there an elevator? Does Jesus know what he is saying? We should move our stuffed barns to heaven? I don’t think so. There are ways of laying up treasure in heaven that are radically different from coaxing a sofa through the clouds.
We shall sell our stuff, especially the valuable stuff and give the money to worthy causes here on earth. In so doing, we are laying up treasure in heaven. And our hearts will be found there because the scripture says, “For where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also.” We will be more likely to do kind deeds, to pay attention to things that really matter here on earth if our hearts are beating in heaven, close to Jesus and the Father. The Holy Spirit will be caring for us while our bodies are on earth.
This is where the “have no fear” comes into the picture. When our hearts are in heaven, our minds and bodies can trust God to be with us and to show us the way. The way to what? Well, how to be ready for Jesus to appear at any time without announcement, probably without ringing the doorbell. Also, the way to solve earthly problems. If we are filled with contentment and peace in the absence of fear, we can look at things from a unique perspective. God helps us to see how the puzzle pieces could fit to bring peace on earth. But, no one is listening to us!
Of course, how could anyone hear our advice over all the hate that is being shouted with increasing meanness and gusto and dare I say “evil.” I will say “evil.” We could unite and shout “Get lost, Satan. You are in the way. You are poisoning our peace!” The world today matches our Psalm of today, written ages ago. We spoke these words: The king is not saved by the size of the army. The horse gives vain hope for victory. Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord. Happy the people chosen to be God’s heritage!”
The word “chosen” here, to me, means given the responsibility of continuing the faith in God. If we have the vision of a country indivisible under God, it is our responsibility to share this vision. But how to do that over the screaming and hate is a matter of faith. First, we need to have faith in God. That means we need to trust God. We need to let our faith in God override our own thinking. My own thinking is a parallel line to the floor – like a horizontal rod across my shoulders. My “God thinking” is a vertical line with an arrow at each end indicating that advice and assurance are coming down to my head from God and my response and more requests for assurance are going up to God. We need both kinds of thinking working in tandem with each other.
Our Epistle Lesson today is from Hebrews which is like a mini-history review. I counted the word “faith” 8 times in these particular 12 verses. Faith. Trust. Give it to God, literally. Lift that horizontal rod from our shoulders and make it the vertical line to God. It could be like a technician taking remote control of our computer to improve its performance. Once God assures us of his attention, we get to share the action, always checking to make sure we are complying with God’s plan for the project. Now what is the project?
Oh yes! The nation, Being ready. Storing up treasure in heaven instead of on earth. Think, just think, if the money that is spent on war equipment and walls could better be spent on helping people in distress; helping these people to be okay where they are, to be safe, to be fed.
Our Gospel lesson talks about a thief coming as well as the second coming of Jesus. How many thieves are in our midst? Think, are we ourselves the thief in some instances? Do we make matters worse? Do we take or accept the whole good life which should be shared with the other persons whom God created? Are we silent when we should speak or take action? Should we radiate love to suffocate hate? Should we take time to lift the horizontal shoulder rod into a vertical “God communication line?”
This is where faith carries the ball. It seems hopeless for our nation to agree on gun laws and the abundance of guns. The mental health aspect could take a century to solve. A wall. Oh, yes, a wall. The only kind of wall that seems practical is a prayer wall. Take it to the Lord in prayer. We need to take our faith and put it into the action of prayer.
We need to pray for the suffering people. We need to pray for the members of congress. We need to pray for the president. We need to pray for the vitriolic hate to dissolve and disappear as love flows in. How will this wave of love happen? A trickle starts here and a trickle starts there and they meet each other as well as other trickles of love. You know how trickles become streams and streams become rivers and rivers flow into the mighty ocean.
Also, if you will, picture love as tiny droplets of mist join other droplets of mist until there is an atmospheric change. A change in the atmosphere! Picture it! Imagine it! Imagining is the beginning of accomplishment. But we are big fools if we think this can happen without constant and continuous prayer – placing things in God’s hands. Are we afraid to pray with all of our mind, soul, heart, and strength? Jesus says, “Have no fear, little flock.” So, we can write old-time letters or we can use Twitter, we can attend a protest, we can shout ourselves hoarse, we can vote; but remember – prayer is more powerful than strong horses, prayer is more effective than an army. We can pray for a wave of love to move through the wheat fields and the corn fields; through hills and valleys, through factories and giant office buildings, through day cares and prisons, through the United States and its neighbors, through Russia and China, North Korea and South Korea, through Afghanistan and the Holy Land, through Africa and India.
Please say “yes” when you see an announcement of a prayer session here at Zion United Church of Christ. We don’t need to take a back seat to our neighboring churches in Berks County. It is fine to pray alone but something powerful happens when people pray together. Have no fear, little flock. Just your presence adds power. You will not need to speak. Please come. Lay up some treasure in heaven!