Treasure we don’t need and can’t use.

Homily 299 – 37th Sunday after Pentecost (Cheesefare – Expulsion from Paradise)
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
February 18, 2018

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

Where is our treasure?

Are we putting our hopes and dreams on this existence, or the one that is to come?

Society, the world, dismisses the idea of a world to come. That is incredibly sad to me, because without that hope and faith, there is nothing to temper the hedonism that takes us from fallen human to instinctive animal.

And we lose all our humanity in that process. We lose our identity, our purpose, our meaning that defines us as humans.

Perhaps our trust is in our bank account. Perhaps our abilities, our education, our physical strength.

But all of those are inadequate. We cannot give life. We cannot cheat death.

The old saying is that you can’t take it with you. We do well to remember that maxim every day, every moment of our life.

I read a story about lottery winners. These were individuals and families that had suddenly no material want. And most couldn’t handle it. Most became bankrupt in a short period.

Most of them even wished that they had never come into such sudden wealth.

They lost their relationships. Their families were, in many cases, estranged from one another after the money entered the picture.

The lesson to be learned, once again, is that money cannot buy happiness. But we all kinda knew that was true already.

We get something – a new toy, and new house, a new anything – and before we realize it the “new” wears off and that thing no longer gives us pleasure.

Every single thing in this life is that way. The pleasure we derive from it, even the briefest of pleasure, is an illusion. It isn’t real.

Like emotion in general, it never satisfies and passes quickly.

In our Lord’s earthly life, he had nothing. No house. No transportation. Nothing. Not even a spare set of clothes.

Here is the creator of everything – the incarnate God Himself – and He exists in our world with nothing.

And guess what!

He asks us to do the same.

Every place you look in the New Testament, particularly the Gospels, Jesus tells us that we need exactly nothing in this existence. That God provides everything for us.

Through our labor – through the kindness and love of others – through God’s gift of life and growth.

Everything we need is given to us.

If the Being that created everything that exists can live without, why do we struggle so much with that idea?

Maybe you don’t, but I certainly struggle with it.

And it is because the evil one lies to us. The deceiver, who deceived Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, deceives us as well.

He tells us – repeatedly – that we need all these things. We do! We need them! And the truly deceptive part is that he tells us we need them because we cannot trust God to provide them.

We’ve all heard the saying “God helps those who help themselves.” But that isn’t in the Bible. Jesus didn’t say it.

It originated in the pagan philosophies and tragedies of the pre-Christian era. It became popularized by Benjamin Franklin in 1736 or so.

Benjamin Franklin was not known for his theological thought.

It is simply untrue.

God helps everyone. The scripture tells us repeatedly the rain and the sun find both the righteous and the unrighteous. Wealth finds both.

That is what this period of Great Lent, leading up to Holy Pascha, is for. That we can break the bonds of stuff and things.

And learn to live in the Truth – that we are heirs of everything that is – all that exists – joint heirs with Christ.
And that when we move from this existence to the next at our death, we might do well to already be used to that idea!

We detach from our stuff, things – even the intangibles like our time – and meet with our God. Like a child.

Our children do not worry about anything – food, clothing, shelter. Even the ones who don’t have it typically don’t worry about it.

They don’t have to worry because it is the obligation of the parent to provide. They worry a lot.

But God doesn’t have to – everything is in His hand, a gift to us. And in that respect, we should follow our Lord’s advice, and become like Children.

Without care, without worry, trusting our Heavenly Father.

Who meets all of our needs.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

Epistle: (112) – Romans 13:11-14:4

Brothers and sisters, salvation is now nearer to us than when we first believed! The night is far gone, and the day is near. Let us therefore throw off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk decently, as in the day; not in parties and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and lustful acts, and not in strife or jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ and do not think how to satisfy the flesh and its lusts.

Accept the one who is weak in faith, but not to enter into arguments over disputable matters. One has faith to eat all things while the weak eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything should not look down on the one who does not eat. The one who does not eat should not judge the one who eats because God has accepted him. Who are you who judge someone else’s servant? He stands or falls to his own master! Yes, that one will be made able to stand, because God has the power to make someone stand.

Gospel: (17) – Matthew 6:14-21

The Lord said: For if you forgive people their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive people their offenses, neither will your Father forgive your offenses.

Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites with their gloomy faces. For they disfigure their faces so that people may see that they are fasting. Amen, I tell you: they have received their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that people may not see that you are fasting. Only your Father who is in secret will see, and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you openly.

Do not store up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal. Instead, store for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.