Where is Your Treasure?
Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; September 30, 2018
19th Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 121; Matthew 6:19-21
<Read children’s story, You Are Mine, by Max Lucado>
There’s a Punchinello inside most of us, isn’t there? An urge for other’s approval, a drive to be like the rest of the crowd, a need to show off all our “stuff.” And like Punchinello, there are many times we don’t count the cost until the cost becomes too great.
Today marks the beginning of our stewardship campaign. It’s not the most popular time of the church year because, let’s face it, we don’t want anyone to tell us what to do with our stuff. But if we look at it as a time of preparation, a time of self-examination, we might experience it as an opportunity for spiritual growth. After all, doesn’t our stuff really belong to God? Not 5% of it. Not 10% of it. But 100% of it!
Billy Graham once said, “Give me five minutes with a person’s checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is.” What might our checkbook or checking account say about our priorities? Where is our treasure? If we desire to seek the will of God before anything else, do we need to change how we spend our time and talents and financial resources?
Most of the time, I sense God calling me to speak to God’s people as a preacher but occasionally God challenges me to speak as a prophet. I prefer not to speak as a prophet. I know what happens to prophets. They get tied up and imprisoned and stoned and run out of town! Nevertheless, a prophetic word is mine to proclaim.
Some time ago, a Catholic priest and I were talking about declining attendance in the churches and he declared that the church has lost its witness. He said, “Churches are filled with people who are physically in their second half of life, but spiritually speaking, they are still in their first half of life. And we have ourselves to blame. It’s the church’s fault that people are stagnated in their faith.”
Many experts agree with the Catholic priest’s claims, insisting that the churches’ declining membership is, at least in part, due to low expectations for its members. Leaders are afraid to do hard things—like speak the truth in love—like refuse to accept bad behavior as the norm—like require more out of the people of God because they are, after all, God’s people! But we are afraid. Afraid someone will get mad. Afraid someone will leave. And God forbid—afraid someone will stop giving money. Surely, we should expect more. Surely God expects more!
The Book of Order states that a faithful member bears witness to God’s love and grace and promises to be involved RESPONSIBLY in the ministry of Christ’s Church. What does responsible involvement look like? It looks like: sharing Christ’s love through what we say and do; taking part in the life and worship of a congregation; lifting one another up in prayer and supporting one another; studying Scripture and important issues of Christian faith; demonstrating a transformed life; responding to God’s activity in the world by serving others and working for peace and justice for all people, and finally, by supporting the ministry of the church through the giving of money, time, and talents.
There’s a Punchinello inside most of us, isn’t there? An urge for other’s approval, a drive to be like the rest of the crowd, a desire to show off all our “stuff.” And like Punchinello, we need to be reminded from time to time that it’s not what we have that counts. It’s whose we are! We belong to the Most High God. Therefore, giving should be a way of life because no matter how much we give, we can never out-give God. Amen.
*Cover Art via Unsplash; used with permission