Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lenten Series - Claiming the Treasure - Sermon 1... "ON TREASURE"

Fr. Phil Eberhart
Lent 1, 2018
Claiming the Treasure



Any of you here watch "National Treasure" - the movie with Nicholas Cage?  One of my favorites!  And the sequel, Book of Secrets,  is equally good!  
Someday there will be a third one, about what was on Page 47!  "Life-changing, Sir!"

This morning I want to talk about life-changing treasure - in the biblical sense.

Treasure has at least two meanings in scripture, of course one is physical, the gold, the silver, the bronze, the iron, usually in the OT it's measured by the ton!  The King's treasure or the Temple Treasure are good examples.  

Turn to 1 Chronicles 29.  This is home to some very familiar lines:

[1Ch 29:11 NASB] 11 "Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.


[1Ch 29:14 NASB] 14 "But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.

So what is the setting for these familiar lines?

King David is turning the reins of the Kingdom over to his son, Solomon, who has been charged by God with building the Temple.  In this chapter David calls on the people of Israel to offer from their riches the items, the raw materials, that are needed to make the Temple in the days ahead.  Contributions come from every corner of the Kingdom, from the King on down.  There is a spirit of excited generosity that overtakes the nation, and from God's abundance that He has provided, through their generosity, the treasures of the House of the Lord are counted.  As I said earlier, gold, silver, bronze and iron by the TON.

This morning we are talking about what the meaning of TREASURE is for us.   Most of us don't have the kind of "King's Ransom" treasure that David and Solomon had in the Old Testament.  We don't measure our coffers by the ton!  So let's look a little nearer for a few moments.

When I talk about stewardship of the Lord's wealth in our lives, I don't generally talk about amounts.  I joke about calling a yearly stewardship sermon, "The Sermon on the A-mount."  Truth is, that stewardship is a mind set - rather a heart set - where the Lordship of Jesus Christ is applied to our wallets and purses, our banking and savings, our income and expense totals.  According to Jesus, what we do with our finances is one of the leading indicators of our actual obedience and discipleship! Jesus talked more about money than most pastors do!  He was quite comfortable challenging people like the rich young ruler and praising people like the widow who gave all she had!  It has never been about a specific amount, it has always been about a specific mind or heart attitude.

We all know the verse, in fact it was part of our readings last weekend!!  

[Mat 6:19-21 NASB] 19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The concept of treasure here is something that we need to take to heart.  Jesus here is articulating a principle of our life and the struggle that we have, here on earth, with keeping our mind "stayed on heaven."  "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee!"  Isaiah said it clearly there.  The problem is up here (head) and down here (heart.)  And the key is asking the question, "WHAT DO I TREASURE?"

In our theme verse for the Building Campaign, Matthew 13:44, is actually about the relative value of the Kingdom of Heaven.  In Matt 13 Jesus is teaching his disciples about the Kingdom of God and the chapter contains many of Jesus' parables on the subject.  The Kingdom of Heaven is like...

>  a man who sowed good seed in his field

>  a mustard seed...

>  leaven 

>  a treasure hidden in a field

>  a pearl of great price

>  a net cast into the sea

All in Matthew 13!  When you look up the word KINGDOM you find that it dominates the teaching of the New Testament, of Jesus and of the Apostles from Matt to Rev!  163 times in the 27 books of the NT.  But lets drill down just a bit here in Matt 13.

The Kingdom of heaven is people - we are the seed that is sown in the world!  The Kingdom of heaven starts small but ends up huge - the largest of garden plants.
The Kingdom of heaven is like leaven in a lump of dough - a little goes a long way!  You can make big changes in your surroundings just by bringing the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of heaven is worth selling all you have - its value is greater than anything we can amass on earth.  All of our treasure cannot compare to its worth! And finally,
The Kingdom of heaven is made up of all kinds of fish!  Just as creation is diverse, because it reflects the genius of its Creator, so the Kingdom of God is made of "every kind of fish!"

So a Kingdom Mindset is one that understands these things:
I / You are a seed of the Kingdom of Heaven, cast into the soil of the world, to bring forth fruit.
We are a hidden influence in the culture, and a little goes a long way - our power is not in numbers.  Two or three is enough to effect change.
This has infinite value - greater than all our fields, land, possessions, buildings ... on and on we can go!
Every one we meet or see can come to the party!  Everyone needs to know.  Everyone needs to be invited!

Friends, its no mistake or just happenstance that when the Lord began this process He named it "a treasure hidden in a field."  It wasn't just a Lawrence thing or a Jody thing.
The "treasure hidden in the field" is us!  It's more than a building; it's greater than a single church; it's the ultimate possession of mankind!  Let me repeat that - The Kingdom of heaven is the ultimate possession of mankind.  The Ultimate Gift of God to us!  

Just think about this for a moment:   What if we are the treasure - the field is the world - and Jesus is the one who gives all to possess us!  That is exactly the way it happened!

It works both ways!  The Kingdom itself is the treasure, and we are called to value it above all else - to go and sell all we have and buy the field.  Likewise Jesus, knowing that the Kingdom of Heaven is US - YOU AND ME, comes down from heaven "selling all he has" to buy the field (the world in which we live and move and have our being - in which we are hidden like leaven, or like buried treasure).   So what do we do with all this?


I think two things come out of this:

1.  Understanding of what Jesus called "the mysteries of the Kingdom" (Mt 13:11)  Jesus prefaced his parables of the Kingdom with this statement.  This is the core of Jesus' message while he was here on the earth!  It is his message from beginning to end!  It was what dominated his thought and teaching throughout his ministry. And it behooves us to tap into this understanding, from the Holy Spirit, of the value of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Part that we play in it.

2.  Commitment to a Kingdom lifestyle rising out of a Kingdom mindset.  Though we are using this verse as our key in the purchase of this property, God's idea here is much bigger!  To quote Isaiah again, "his ways are higher than our ways - His thoughts than our thoughts."  God's vision for the Kingdom of God is bigger than a single building campaign.  Yes we are calling for you to give!  We'll talk more about that in the coming weeks and what that looks like, but I wanted this morning to set all of that against the backdrop of the REAL THING.  I want you to see that what we are engaged in here is a part of a MUCH BIGGER DEAL.  GOD'S DEAL!!  

We are being called to a lifestyle, not to a program or campaign.  What God is doing here is fundamentally changing us - transforming us as Paul talks about in Romans 12.

So I challenge you to engage with God on this - It's not about the Sermon on the Amount!  It about what's going on between your ears and 18 inches below!  God wants to renew our minds - to change the way we thing - the way we see all of life.  

Last Wed evening I was privileged to issue a call to those who received ashes - I want to re-issue that call this morning.  Isn't it amazing that this all coincides with our Lenten observances!  How like God!  So here it is...

The Invitation             

All Stand.  Celebrant         

Dear people of God:  The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting.  This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism.  It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church.  Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.  I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.  And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer. 

Please join me again in the collect for the day on page one of your bulletin...

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.