This is a scary weekend. Not just the ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties. (You do recognize that traditional Scots prayer, don’t you? “From ghoulies and ghosties / And long-leggedy beasties \ And things that go bump in the night, \ Good Lord, deliver us!”) But no, this isn’t a reference to the excesses of the observance of Halloween. Maybe next year.
This reference to the scary is a little more real, a little more close to home, my home anyway. This is the weekend of the auction of all the stuff from the house in Tennessee where my mom and dad retreated to thirty six years ago. The house sold a couple of weeks ago, and now this will clear out whatever is left that wouldn’t fit in dad’s new apartment in Frankfort, or in one of our homes. The last few items were picked up by my brother who made the long trip down. He delivered the things we are keeping last night (During the fifth inning of the third game of the World Series, when the Indians had the bases loaded and only one out! Somehow the Cubs managed to get out of that inning. Though they ended up losing, argghh) Which means that it all ends on Sunday. A chapter has ended, a page has turned. We are now in a new place. Now the only tie back to that little county seat town in Tennessee will be a marble marker that bears my mom’s name. And the memories of a life with both joy and heartache.
I wrote here a few months ago that I felt unmoored at the death of my mother. Cast adrift in a world not of my making. And now here we are again. Except what is contributing to this feeling of disconnect is not a person but stuff. A house I never really liked, stuff I often didn’t understand the purpose of, old stuff and new stuff, well worn and unused stuff. Just lots and lots of stuff. “Isn’t anyone else sentimental?” That was my sister’s question when were down there elbow deep in the piles of stuff, throwing a lot of it away, or giving it away to someone for whom it wouldn’t be sentimental, just useful. We hoped. Yeah, I thought, I am sentimental. Very. There were tears as we read old letters and looked at old photos. Mom loved taking pictures. Was terrible at it, but persistent. We had piles of photos of people and places we didn’t know, would never know. But it was just stuff. It was just their stuff, their lives and somehow in that stuff they made a life.
Hank told a story. One time when he was down visiting mom and dad, dad sent him to the house to get mom’s favorite shirt. Dad took it home to wash and wanted it to put on mom. So, Hank went to get it. He found it but it was dirty, stained beyond washing, bearing the signs of mom’s inability to feed herself. He wasn’t going to put his mother in such a shirt. So he threw it away. He got some other shirts and went back to the facility. Dad said where’s the shirt? He said I threw it away, dad, it was filthy. Dad blew up. It was her favorite shirt. How dare he throw it away! It was just a shirt. A dirty shirt. But it was her favorite. Dad thought anyway. Hard to tell, really. But I understand the desire to make a connection of some sort, some indication that she was still she, still able to have a favorite anything. We all want something to treasure.
Matthew 6:19-21 19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
For all that Jesus seems bothered by stuff, he is in favor of treasures. Did you notice? It’s not, stay away from treasure, it’s bad for your health. No, treasuring is ok. It’s what we choose to treasure, that’s the issue. There are some treasures that aren’t worth storing up. Or piling up. Or tucking into the attic so that when you dig it out you say with a sigh, what were we thinking keeping this? The stuff around here just wears out, gets stained and unwearable, it rusts. Rusts? What did they have that rusted in Jesus’ day? Well, the word is “brosis” in Greek. It often refers to food that gets eaten. Consumed. Used up. Worn away until you don’t even recognize it any more.
No, apparently there is treasure and there is treasure. Some treasure is worth treasuring, some just fit for the junk heap. How do you know? How can you tell the difference? How do we know we are saving the right things? Treasuring the right things?
Well, some say it is all about the tally sheet. You’ve got to pile up a good score in heaven. Every act of service is another star in your crown. And our goal is to get lots of stars, lots of jewels. Not, to be sure, to earn our place in heaven. That comes by the grace of God. No, this is about the furnishings. A better mansion, plush carpets, bigger windows, more floors. They’re building us a dwelling place out of the materials we send up from here. Some say.
I’m not convinced, frankly. Stuff is stuff. It seems like if Jesus was against too much stuff here he would be against too much stuff there. Don’t you think? So, it doesn’t sound like the treasures Jesus wants us to treasure is more stuff, divine or otherwise.
What if our math is wrong. What if it isn’t do this to get that? What if the treasure isn’t the end product, the reward or the payment for our acts? What if it is the act itself? Not the result of our action but the action. What if the treasure is not something we can hold in our hands but something we do with our hands?
In other passages when Jesus shares this secret, he tells someone, the rich young man, “sell everything and give the money to the poor and you’ll have treasure in heaven.” We think, we get something, when we get to heaven there will be something there because we’ve done this great thing. Maybe not. He says “do this and you will have.” Go and sell and you will have your treasure. In the selling and giving. That’s the treasure. That’s the gift. That’s the blessing. The doing.
Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Live your life in such a way that you know the blessing every day. Live your life so that you are treasuring what lasts into eternity. That’s what Jesus is trying to point out to us. Some treasure is eaten away, and some treasure lasts and nothing in this world can take it away. An act of kindness lives forever. Love lived out lasts forever. Goodness outlasts bitterness. Joy endures while despair fades. An act of generosity is treasured into eternity.
Yeah, it’s scary to cast off the stuff that defined a life, or seemed to anyway. That is a loss to be sure. But what cannot be lost are all the moments we’ve treasured together, the lives that we’ve lived, the experiences we’ve shared. Even when we forget them, and I suspect we will, they will be ours in eternity. When we meet we will remember and be remembered. And what greater treasure can there be than that?