In the Gospel lesson for today, Jesus talks about money. Jesus talks about money a lot in the Gospels. He talks about money more than he talks about sex. (Jesus doesn’t talk much about sex at all, actually.) Jesus talks about money more than he talks about politics. (He does talk about politics.) Jesus talks about money more than he talks about prayer. Jesus talks about money more than he talks about anything else except the realm of God.
Here is what he says: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
In other words, if you want to see heaven right now, then right now, give up some of your money on earth.
By that I mean two things. First, when you allow God to give money to the church through you, and not just money, but your time and your ability, your presence which is a great gift, and your attitude of abundance and generosity and thankfulness and respect and forgiveness, when God gives to the church through you, God makes a space for miracles to happen here and in the world.
Second, when God gives to the church through you, God opens up a space for miracles to happen in your own soul.
When God gives to the church through you, God makes a space for miracles to happen here. You know this: St. John does not get any money from the larger church. We get no money from the government. We get no corporate sponsorships. We do not sell advertisement, or charge fees for membership, or sell tickets to worship. What we do here comes from us. God has put this ministry in our hands. It is our responsibility.
Now, let me tell you one thing that happened because you allow God to work through you. Last year or so Eddie Miller brought this idea at evangelism committee about having these bears in church. Anyone can take one of these bears and give it to someone that needs a lift or a spiritual support. Each bear has a note about how it comes with God’s blessing and love from us.
So, many of you know that Lola Howard has a daughter named Mia. Mia is in a wheelchair and has different intellectual abilities than a lot of us do. The correct term for it I believe is that she is developmentally disabled, which is supposed to mean that she doesn’t have the same level of intelligence, but I’m not real sure I buy that entirely because almost everyone I know who works with developmentally disabled people says that they learn a whole lot from them.
Anyway, Mia lives in a special home with Cedar Lake, with several other developmentally disabled women and some folks to help them take care of necessary business. One of Mia’s housemates, her friend, named Kim, was dying of cancer. So, one Monday, Lola takes one of these bears for each person in the house, including Kim.
Kim was what they call nonverbal. She was not able to speak. But when Lola gave her the bear, Kim blew her a kiss with two fingers. That meant “Thank you.” Kim held that bear close all week until she died that Thursday. Her mother buried the bear with her in the coffin. Last Saturday at the contemporary service, Mia prayed about how much she missed her friend Kim.
This sort of thing would not happen in the same way without you.
When God gives to the church through you, miracles also happen in our own souls. Here is what I mean by that:
Many of you know that my wife, Thyne and I have been tithing for about twenty-five years. We give a tenth of what I make from the church back to the church. Now, I’m telling you this, not in order to say we are better than anybody else. Each of us has our own financial situation. Thyne and I are in a financial situation where we can do this. Not all of us are. All of us do need to think and pray about what we give in terms of money, time, attitude and presence to God’s work in the world.
What our tithing does prove, however, is that Thyne is definitely a better person than me. Thyne, when she writes the check to the church each month. She just writes that check and puts it into the offering plate. It’s just a thing. No big deal.
But if I try to write that check, oh, it’s horrible. I know in my mind that giving helps me to see the presence of God in the world, and especially giving where I have to sacrifice something. Whether it’s a coffee this week or a car this year, if I have to give something up in order to support God’s work, I will see God more clearly.
I know that in my mind. But in my heart, it’s a different matter entirely. Oh, it’s so hard to drag that pen across that check! I think, “What good will it do anyone for me to give my money to the church? My money is just a drop in the bucket!” “Oh, I’m giving my money away I’m throwing it away without getting anything in return. I need that money for gas in my car and for my doctor’s visit and for hamburger and ice cream at the grocery store. Ice cream, I tell you!
It’s like tearing out a piece of my heart. How can I let go of my money, without my money I won’t have any status in the world? I won’t be safe. I need to keep my money because I might need it someday. No, I must keep it, my money, my precious money!
So, I let her write the check.
Oh, that old Adam dies hard, doesn’t he? Those idols and those demons howl when they come out. Because they know that if I give some of my money to God’s work, then I will realize that none of my money was ever mine in the first place. Not one penny.
Nor was the gas I bought. The doctor is not my doctor. The hamburger and the ice cream, not mine either. All of it has always been God’s in the first place, all along. All of it is a gift. Every moment of every day, each breath of air, a gift.
So, give to God’s work in the world. If it squeaks to do that, if it’s a little hard, that’s a good thing. It will help you see more clearly.
“Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, for where your treasure is, that’s where your heart is too.”