Sermon for August 11, 2013
It’s hard to believe that I have ben the rector of Holy Comforter for fourteen months. Time flies when you’re having fun. But some of you may remember that we had some growing pains when I first came here. There were some misunderstandings, some miscommunications. And it was all about my sense of humor. A sense of humor that no one else in the world gets. And at one point, Gene Waller made a sign for me that I could use during Sunday School. The sign said, “It’s a joke, please laugh.”
One Sunday last summer, I made a really terrible joke to our very own Ann Werner. I sidle up to her and try to be funny. I said, “Hey Ann, what are you doing here?” Ann looks at me as if I’ve gone crazy, which maybe I have. The answer was obvious; Sunday morning at church. In my mind, that joke was hilarious.
But the more I think about it, the more I like that question. Because every joke has a kernel of truth. What are you doing here? It’s a question that cuts to the heart of the matter, it skips all of the small-talk. What are you doing here?
What are you doing here, at church? Not what ministries are you a part of, how do you serve on Sundays. Beyond that. What are you doing here? Are you here to pray? Are you here because you want to get something out of church? Are you here because you want to give something to church, or are you here because you think you’re important?
And, what are you doing here, in life? Is your purpose in life to accumulate money? Are you here to serve yourself? Are you here to give your life to Jesus?
What are you doing here?
The words we heard from Jesus this morning should be vaguely familiar, because I say them just about every Sunday. “Sell your possessions. Give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven. Where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
These are very tough words to hear. And please, do not spiritualize them. Do not pretend that Jesus is talking about some sort of spiritual treasure. Jesus is talking about our money. Jesus wants to know what we are doing here. I often hear from people, both inside the church and outside the church, who get upset when the church talks about money. They say that their money is theirs, they worked for it, and the church should quit talking about it.
But I tell you, the church is concerned about our money, because Jesus is concerned about our money. We talk about money, because Jesus talks about money. We believe that Jesus is involved with every other part of our lives. Our family. Our friends. How we behave. How we live with others. How we conduct ourselves. What makes us think that money is the one topic that is off-limits to Jesus and the church? In fact, Jesus talks much more about money than he does marriage, sex, or happiness.
Jesus looks at our money and asks, “what you doing here?” Jesus is right. If you want to know a person’s heart, look at where their money goes.
Some of you may be scratching your heads right now. “I thought we only talked about money during October?” That’s not the case. See, what we do with our money is part of our discipleship. Discipleship means following Jesus. What we do with our money is absolutely part of how we follow our Lord.
And this is where I want to clear up a common misconception. Giving money to the church is not about giving money to the church budget. The church is not just another charity that receives whatever money we have leftover at the end of the month. The church is the earthly image of the Kingdom of God, and we give to God through the church. We put our treasures here, in the church, in the Kingdom of God, because this is where our hearts are meant to be. That is what Jesus is talking about. Our hearts are never settled and fly from one passion to one another. But God created our hearts to be in one place, and that is here, in the church. We were created by God to be here. And if our hearts are here, then so should our treasures. Part of following Jesus with our heart and body and mind, is following Jesus with our checkbook.
Two weeks ago, a very prominent Episcopalian died. His name was George Mitchell. Yes, the George Mitchell that created The Woodlands, the George Mitchell that owns just about everything on Galveston island, the George Mitchell that capitalized on fracking for natural gas. That George Mitchell. And George Mitchell was a very, very wealthy man. But when he was buried from Trinity Episcopal Church on Galveston island, it could have been a service for you or for me. The service itself, the burial liturgy, is the same for rich and poor alike. All the wealth and fame that George Mitchell accumulated over his lifetime was left behind. None of that went into the grave with him.
This is the reminder from Jesus. Do not make purses for yourself on earth. Because on earth, whatever money or power we have is fleeting, and will always be lost to us. Through moth or thief or death, our treasures will be taken from us. So, Jesus says, put your money into the one place that will not fail. The Kingdom of Christ and his Church. The Church of God has been here for two thousand years. I can think of no investment bank with a better track record. Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs have nothing on us. The church’s investment portfolio includes two thousand years of helping the poor, two thousand years of beautiful music, two thousand years of ministry. Two thousand years of proclaiming the gospel. That’s two thousand years of faithful Christians saying that their hearts are with God, and so is their money.
You may not particularly like this sermon. You probably aren’t going to go home with a warm fuzzy feeling inside. You might be incredibly uncomfortable right now. But believe me, any sermon I preach, is a sermon that is first to myself. Words that I need to hear, no matter how difficult, because I know they are true. I believe that Jesus really does care about how I store up treasures in heaven. Because, believe me, I want to store up a bunch of money in my bank account so I can play golf whenever I want. I want to start a college savings fund for our baby on the way. I want to buy good wine at the grocery store. But notice the refrain in that, “I want.” In my own discipleship, in my learning how to follow Jesus, I am learning to replace what I want, with what Jesus wants. And it is painfully clear that Jesus wants me to make a purse that does not wear out, a purse of heavenly treasure. Because no matter how much I invest in my golf game, one day through age or death, I won’t be able to play anymore. No matter how much I save for college now, who knows if our child will actually want to go to college. But this I know. The church is where I have met Jesus. This is where my heart is, so this is where my treasure goes.
What are you doing here? Take that question home with you. Imagine that Jesus is asking you that question when you sort our your finances. Imagine that Jesus is asking you that question when you come to church. Because Jesus is asking you that question about your entire life. What are you doing here? Because, we won’t be here forever. Great and small, rich and poor, famous and nameless, we won’t be here forever. So, put your money where your heart is.