THE HOLY HEART ASSOCIATION – SIMPLICITY
July 7, 2019
Over these Sundays of late spring and now early summer, we are exploring what it means to become card-carrying members of the Holy Heart Association…that is, to embrace the virtues of the heart from a biblical vantage point. We are discussing such virtues as courage, faith, direction, character, discernment, joy, righteousness and commitment. Yes, we are moving beyond the American Heart Association to become full-fledged members of the Holy Heart Association!
This morning’s message is centered around the virtue of SIMPLICITY.
We begin by asking the question: Is my heart
STASHED AWAY IN A LOCKED STORAGE UNIT ON EARTH?
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus admonishes his hearers to consider this:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
In the United States, the self-storage rental business is a $38 billion enterprise, and is growing exponentially each year!
We simply don’t have enough room to store our stuff.
Our good friends and former next-door neighbors, John and Dawn Woodrum, recently downsized from their 4-bedroom home to an apartment in downtown Staunton. Since their home sold very quickly, they had to spend every free minute throughout the spring frantically moving out the contents of their home.
A small percentage of the items made it to their new apartment. Other items were given to neighbors. Some were listed on Facebook for purchase. We inherited their outdoor movie screen. Several boxloads were taken to Goodwill. And truckload after truckload was deposited at the Augusta County landfill. John thought Dawn was going to set him out on the curb with a cheap price tag on his head!
At the end of those 3 months of downsizing, John and Dawn still ended up having to rent a storage unit in Verona. They said they didn’t consider themselves to be materialistic people, but they simply could not believe the amount of stuff they had accumulated over the years!
And their story is quite typical. I know it is for Valerie and me. How about you?
We have bought into the proliferation of accumulation in our culture. Stuff in and of itself is not necessarily bad. But when it becomes what we treasure, what we worship, our all-consuming reason for living, then that treasure begins consuming our heart. We fixate on fortune. We no longer want to keep up with the Joneses, we want to pass them, run them off the road and over the embankment.
Jesus is always scouting for good disciple talent. One day he thinks he has hit the blue chipper jackpot! It seems the Zion Williamson of the religious world has approached him! Listen to this encounter:
16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:16-26
What a tragic day for that young man! His treasure has consumed his heart, and his heart is stashed away in the proverbial locked storage unit on earth! He misses out on life’s greatest adventures because his fingers are tightly clasped around what he has rather than what he can offer.
Thank God, that with God, grace is the final word – grace that indeed makes the impossible possible.
John Ortberg, the pastor the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, tells the story of his most delightful memory as a boy–going to the lake in Wisconsin and playing Monopoly with his grandmother–and she was a robber baron when it came to playing Monopoly!
As a little boy, she would smear him in Monopoly. He kept wanting to hang on to his money, and she would end up getting it all. But finally, having played Monopoly with his grandmother many, many times, and losing, he came to understand the first lesson of Monopoly: ruthless acquisition!
And so he was ready for his old Grandmom when it came to summer vacation that summer. They journeyed to the lake house, and the Monopoly board came out, and the money was divided up, and the pieces were put on the table–and he slaughtered her! He took her every last dollar until he lifted that last Monopoly bill out of her hand and left her bankrupt. With a great sense of personal satisfaction, he had won the game!
And then, his grandmother took the board and folded it together and poured it all back into the Monopoly box and she said, “Now you’re going to learn the second lesson, and it is more important than the first: When the game is over, it all goes back in the box!”
Now there’s a lesson we all need to hear and heed. Our hearts are stashed away in the locked storage unit on earth. We are living life as if all of our proliferation of accumulation doesn’t go back in the box. And yet, one day, it will. When the game is over, we are going to find ourselves sadly disappointed if we have laid up for ourselves only treasures on earth.
Is my heart stashed away in a locked storage unit on earth?
Or, is my heart
STEEPED IN THE UNCHAINED VALUES OF HEAVEN?
Yes, Jesus says, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
What might Jesus be thinking of here?
Well, first of all, to enjoy the treasures of heaven means we don’t become encumbered by the things of earth. A meaningful life is found in traveling light.
We seem to always be ragging on the millennial generation, but this is noble hallmark of these young folk. They travel light. They don’t seem to be nearly as materialistic as us boomers and X-ers.
My son and daughter have absolutely no interest in any heirloom furniture and trinkets. They do not want the fine china that we’ve inherited from our parents, china that we’ve never used but still carried from place to place in sealed boxes. They are much like most of their peers. And I applaud them.
The younger generation today is flexible, mobile, able to follow God’s leading because they are not trapped by the trappings of prosperity or trying to keep up the appearances thereof. If only we all could learn that invaluable lesson. If we could all learn to travel light.
There are certain values of heaven that are eternally unchained and unchanging.
The Apostle Paul is writing to the highly contentious, overly consumeristic folk in Corinth. He reminds them of what lasting and what is not. Hear his words:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing….
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13
Love. Self-giving, self-sacrificing love. Love of God and love of neighbor. Love is the one treasure of heaven that remains when all else is said and done. It costs nothing yet demands everything of us.
In the end, it is love that remains. It is love that wins. It is the treasure of heaven that neither moth nor rust can destroy and where thieves can never break in and steal.
Passing through Shenandoah County the other day, I got a good chuckle remembering a retired couple who had been a part of Otterbein Chapel UMC nearly four decades ago when I was a student pastor there. This was back during the recession of the early 80’s, when unemployment and interest rates were in the double-digits. People thought George and Dolly Krejci were crazy, and I guess by normal standards they were.
George had immigrated to the US back in 1968, fleeing the Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia. He barely escaped with the shirt on his back and his life. Over the years he had worked in various jobs in the DC area, finally gaining employment with the US Dept. of Agriculture.
Dolly had met George at that agency, they were married, and the two of them eventually retired to the Bryce area with a decent pension and a modest A-frame chalet.
They were two of the most loving Christian persons I have ever met. They had no fears. They stepped out on a limb and established a ministry to unwed pregnant teens, which was then still pretty much a stigma to society.
They served as surrogate parents to such girls who had been abandoned by their own families, helping see them through the delivery and adoption process.
George and Dolly literally gave their monthly pension away, except for what they needed for food and utilities. They gave generously to the mission of their church. And it was not uncommon for them to hear of some need in the community–say someone lost their house in a fire–and they would walk up and hand the family $500. George would see some poor drunk on the streets of Mt. Jackson or Woodstock and immediately go buy him lunch. They purchased books for the library. Provided medical supplies for the local rescue squad. They gave…and gave…and gave!
George and Dolly maintained they never saw an armored car following a hearse. There was no need to hold on to money and things they couldn’t take with them once they kicked the bucket.
They were full of such joy, such laughter, such freedom, such zest, such life! They lived abundantly, they lived on the edge, driven by the purpose of loving God and their neighbor, without fear.
And their lives have remained a convicting witness to persons like me who tend to lean into the proliferation of accumulation.
God’s dream for all of us would be that we would arrive at that place in life’s journey that Zac Brown sung about in his song Homegrown, when “I’ve got everything I need and nothin’ that I don’t!”
The good word, the good virtue of the heart today is SIMPLICITY.
Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Yes, Jesus begs the question, “Is my heart stashed away in a locked storage unit on earth, or it steeped in the unchained values of heaven?
And that is a question truly worthy pondering!