October 10-11, 2020
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Some 40 years ago I watched too many of the episodes of a TV series called M*A*S*H*. It was a comedy about a group of doctors and nurses and medical personnel serving in Korea during the Korean War. Colonel Potter, Hawkeye Pierce, Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, and Radar O’Reilly each had their own stories over the 11 years of the series.
And so did Father Mulcahy, assigned to the spiritual needs of the 4077th. He was a faithful man. Mild in much of what he did. In one episode Colonel Potter calls Father Mulcahy in and requests a sermon to help the unit. There was too much monkey business going on. The troops were fooling around with one another, so Colonel Potter asked Father Mulcahy to preach a sermon on sexual abstinence. Mulcahy found the subject a hard one to speak on. He remarked that he was great on “The Prodigal Son” or “The Good Samaritan”, but talking to a bunch of young doctors and nurses, thousands of miles away from home, about sexual abstinence made him a little nervous.
Every year I get assigned to preach a sermon. It comes from my boss – Linda Achziger – the head of the Stewardship Committee, in fact, I think Linda is the entire committee. I get my orders early in the year – here is the date, here is the theme – go at it!! (It really isn’t quite like that, but this is the only way for me to pick on Linda without her getting in the last word.)
A while back I preached a Stewardship sermon called “Leftovers”. The day after that sermon I was playing golf at Raccoon Creek, and my partner, who had endured the sermon, not sparing my feelings said, “You sure gave it to us yesterday.” And just recently, when I announced to a Bible Class what day Stewardship Sunday was this year, winced. “We have just gone through a $600,000.00 Capital Building Campaign and now we get Stewardship Sunday? Take it easy on us.”
They are right. I’ll do a Father Mulcahy. I don’t like to talk about money. And you don’t want to hear about it, do you? So today, let’s talk about the heart. I won’t talk about wallets today, at least not right away, but I will talk about our hearts – just like Jesus. Matthew 6, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Verse 21)
Right or wrong, it all begins in the heart. Whether we do the most noble of things or the most heinous, it all begins in the heart. In Matthew 15 Jesus says, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean.” (Verses 18-20a) Jeremiah, in the Old Testament, agrees with Jesus, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
The heart can get all this wrong. I spoke to a friend recently who told me that his advice to his kids was, “Don’t live life like I did.” He’s not alone. I wonder how many of us would like a “do-over” on various parts of our lives? We had our priorities in the wrong place. We didn’t treat others like we should have treated them. We spent far too much time at work and not enough time at home. The heart went the wrong way.
Let’s talk about our hearts. That is where Jesus begins when He gives this sermon. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
Your heart and mine can be in the best place. It has to be connected to the heart of Jesus. It has to find its peace in knowing the love of God for us. On Wednesday evening I received the Caring Bridge update about Dave Hitztaler from his wife, Sherry. I think a number of you get that update as well. Dave got COVID in the middle of March and God spared him. He has been home for over 6 months now. Dave and I have a lot in common – including similar foreheads and the top of our heads. Dave has been saving money on haircuts for years. But one problem that the scarcity of hair brings is the worry about skin cancer. He had some spots checked out recently and after a few biopsies they found out there was no melanoma. But Sherry said that after all this they are starting a new club. It is called BALD HEADS MATTER. I’m joining.
To God, all heads matter – filled with hair or filled with beauty. All lives matter. Consider how this word “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”, applies to God. The work that He does, all of it, begins in the heart, right? Look at how you and I are THEE treasure, the priority, in God’s heart.
One commentator begins his list of God’s heart toward us like this:
- A faithfulness that will never be removed
- A life that will never end
- A spring of water that will never cease to bubble up within the one who drinks of it
- A gift that will never be lost
- A hand out of which the Good Shepherd’s sheep will never be snatched
- A love from which we shall never be separated
- A foundation that will never be destroyed
- And an inheritance that will never fade out
You are treasured and cherished. The heart of God in the sending of Jesus, His great sacrifice and complete victory, tells us that we are never an afterthought. His love doesn’t come to us when it is convenient for Him or He’ll get to us when He can fit in the time. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” is first seen in what Jesus has done for us.
And now that is what we do for Him and for others. Your heart cannot be stingy. It cannot be selfish. It cannot give God and others the leftovers. Be generous in what you give away. Do such things with pure joy. What you and I do, when we give things away – when we give money away and when we share our time and abilities with others – we are giving away our heart. Is there anything better in life than to give away your heart? You are giving it away to those that you treasure. As the psalmist said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
Many years ago, now, I was heading to St. Louis, and some church rented a huge billboard along I-70 in the middle of the endless miles through Kansas that said: LOVE GOD; LOVE PEOPLE.
Just as God has treasured you with His whole heart, treasure Him with your whole heart. Don’t get sidetracked in life where things and stuff and money become your greatest treasure and the way of God is forgotten. Jesus, in this section, says, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24) Love God with your whole heart.
If you love God, you have to love others. Loving others is costly. Others will demand much of you, they will interrupt your life, they will inconvenience you. But that is where the heart of a Christian is. Jesus in Matthew 25 speaks about how we reach “the least of these”. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35-36) The heart treasures opportunities to care for those who are in need, who need compassion, who need an ear, a gift, some time, or a heart that reassures them.
I thank you for your heart. Through these years that you have allowed me to be your pastor, you have shared your heart with me and with so many. You have been generous in supporting this church and the many things that we do for others. Thank you. But you need to know something – I will always be asking for more, I will always be asking for your heart. Love God. Love people. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Amen!!