Aug7, 2016 – Treasure Seeds!
A preacher friend of mine tells the story of a young lady come to his office in Seattle for counseling some years ago. She moaned about how difficult life had been for her; she didn’t have this and she didn’t have that. It was all about the possessions that others seemed to have. She also moaned about her job, her relationships, and her family. Then suddenly her face brightened and she said: “At least I can thank God that I’m not greedy or materialistic.” Was she wrong! She was as greedy and materialistic as anyone my friend had ever met.
Greed has nothing to do with the number of your possessions; it has everything to do with the condition of your heart. And a heart greedy for the things of this world will always be disappointed.
But in the gospel lesson today Jesus says that a heart that’s hungry for God’s word is a heart that’s satisfied by true treasure. That kind of hunger, that kind of ‘greed’, so to speak, is a good thing. It can be good to be greedy… as long it’s for God’s word.
Look at the bulletin cover and read with me please Luke 12:34. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” There your heart will be also. Our heart is connected to our treasure.
It’s true, that what we value most, tells us something of who we are. Where our heart is, is where we find our treasure. Think of it this way, what do we stand for? What we are willing to do anything to gain? Put another way, what are we willing to sell ourselves for?
If we want hearts that grow in faith and strength toward God, then we lay aside our own desires and allow the heart of Christ to fill us. To seek what He says is valuable, that’s what we want our hearts to be set on. And today Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is the only thing worth trading our hearts for. Only the kingdom of heaven is worth that. He proved that by bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth in His own very body.
He brings the kingdom of heaven near to us and He even puts it in us when we take communion. In communion we take His kingdom into our very bodies. That kingdom says we are worth the broken heart of Christ on the cross. He was willing, and He broke His heart for us so that we would see of what great worth we are to God. God was willing to sell His heart to gain you and I for Himself as His people. In the cross, in the sacrifice of Christ for our sin on that instrument of death, there we see that God’s heart treasures us. There, by the death of His only begotten Son, we see that He has set His heart on us.
So what can we possibly seek on earth, here and now, that’s greater than God’s kingdom? ‘Yes’, we might say, ‘of course I’ll be glad to go to that kingdom in the sweet by and by’. That’s nice… but today Jesus doesn’t tell us to wait for it. No, He brings that kingdom to us now. He does so by His actions / and by His word.
By His actions Jesus brings us the kingdom of God. His first action on earth for us was His coming to earth as the infant, the seed of Abraham, promised long ago as we read in the Old Testament lesson today. He came and lived the perfectly obedient life to the demands of God’s law. He came to us and met the requirement we couldn’t. And He came then to the cross and to His bloody death that should’ve been ours. But then there’s one more way Jesus comes to us in His actions and that’s in His coming forth from the grave and rising triumphantly over death. In all these Jesus comes to us and brings us the kingdom of God.
And by these actions He makes it possible to give us His righteousness in exchange for our filth and our unworthiness. That He does in is His coming to us through His work in our baptism. Through His action at the font, He brings us into citizenship in the heavenly kingdom, right now. That action is, yet again, His coming to us through the healing and life-giving water combined with His Word to deliver us into His kingdom. And that brings us now to the inheritance Jesus has left for us … His Word.
It’s in His word, in the Bible, that we can, right here and right now, begin to grow and be nurtured in that kingdom that He has made ours. It is both now and yet to come. It seems that what God wants to give us in His Word we so often seem to turn away from.
Luther has said– ‘Ah, how impious and ungrateful is the world, thus to condemn and persecute God’s ineffable grace! And we, we ourselves, who boast in the gospel, and know it to be God’s Word and recognize as such, yet we hold it in no more esteem and respect than we do Virgil or Terence. Truly, I am less afraid of the pope and his tyrants, than I am of our own ingratitude towards the word of God.’
It’s odd how we act with what God stands ready to give us. God’s given us His Word to learn from, to grow in and to benefit by. And yet we so often think God is trying to force something on us, when the opposite is true. God is giving us what is best for us in and through the seed of His Word.
We’re the ones who gain the benefit when we set our hearts firmly in and on the Word of God. How much scripture do you have memorized? How much do I have memorized? How many hours or minutes a day are spent on bible study in your life? How many hours a week? How would someone know that you have set your heart on heaven? Jesus indicates today, that one of those ways is by the time you spend on growing and maturing in the Lord. And the other is in how we treat the poor. Remember the questions a few weeks ago, about how you spend your time?
We’re called to grow in God’s grace. We’re to live that grace day-by-day. We don’t mature in grace by simply holding a bible. We’re told in many places in the bible to grow, to mature and to become stronger in faith. One of the things we hold each other accountable to here at Zion is ‘hearing the Gospel’. We’re to store up treasure in heaven through the study of God’s Word.
You may have heard this supposedly true story before of a ship that, many many years ago, wrecked on a South Seas island early in the spring of the year. Fortunately, all the passengers were saved, together with sufficient food for many months along with several sacks of seed for springtime planting. But the people had hardly reached shore when someone discovered gold.
They began to eagerly dig up gold, heaping it up for themselves, dreaming of the day when they would be rescued and arrive home with this great treasure. They forgot all about the seed and the need to plant and harvest. They continued to dig as the fall winds began to blow, and then the cold of winter settled on them. That winter they all died of starvation. Sometime later they were discovered – dead, and surrounded by their useless treasure.
How much do you trust God? Are you willing to put other things – the things of this earth, of this island in the universe –are you willing to set those things aside to grow in the way God would have you grow? Are you willing to trust Him and give over your time to mature in the faith He has given you as His gift? As Jesus says today, God knows what you need of the things of this earth regarding food and clothes etc. its not those things we’re to be greedy for is it? No, we’re called to seek after His kingdom, and to be greedy for that.
The kingdom of heaven is given for us to live and grow in, here and now. Will we ever get it all right, here and now? No, but that’s no excuse to not seek to grow and mature in the faith. It’s easy to live off milk, but milk’s for babies. Milk’s great for growing bones and bodies, but it’s not food for the mature. Only by learning to develop a taste for the richer things of God’s word can we grow by the meat of scripture.
So let me leave us with this challenge. We’re often tempted to not read scripture and it’s easy to give into that temptation. But this week, fight back against that. Let’s give ourselves permission to overcome that temptation and see what happens as a result of it. When the temptation comes to ignore scripture, stop and think about that.
Stop and recognize what’s happening, and ask yourself; am I being greedy the right way? Remember that a heart that’s hungry for God’s Word is a heart that is satisfied by true treasure.
Take your packet of seeds and set them where you can be reminded of the people shipwrecked on that island. Remember what’s important for life now. Time spent planted in God’s Word, yields a harvest of life for us. This isn’t a matter of earning points with God; it’s a matter of storing up the true treasure from the seed of God’s Word. And perhaps do one other thing; memorize a new verse this week. Just one. Memorize just one new verse and see what comes of that. After all His Word of grace is what we treasure most for life now… and for life everlasting. In the name of Jesus the living word of God, amen.
Sermon #839 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Genesis 15:1-6
15 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Epistle Hebrews 11:1-16
11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Holy Gospel Luke 12:22-34
22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? 27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.