Treasure of Faith

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August 11, 2019. Pastor Stephanie preaches on Luke 12. “Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our faith is the only unfailing treasure that we ultimately have, and needs to come first in our lives.


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Grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ.


I thought about calling this message and the theme of the day “What’s in Your Wallet?” But then I realized I might lose all of you right off the bat as you visualize commercials you’ve seen with that theme. Is it too late already? Or, you might start thinking about whether you should change credit card companies, or any number of things that can come to mind that could distract us from where I hope we will actually go together during this time. So, now that I have given in to the urge to actually start with that, I hope you’ll come back with me and explore with me some of the teaching of today’s gospel.


Jesus uses a curious phrase in the midst of talking to his disciples about God’s provision. Before we get to that, let’s be reminded of the context though. It all starts with how abundantly God has provided for us. Backing up into Luke 12 — which was not part of our reading today, but just before this — we can be reminded of the context. It all starts with how abundantly God provides for us. We can read this: therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Then Jesus illustrates this by calling attention to the ravens, who don’t sow, reap, or store up for themselves. Yet God feeds them. And he reminds them and us of the lilies of the field, who stand stately and proud, healthy and vigorous and beautiful, without constant striving for more. Again, God clothes them and cares for us. And then Jesus states how much more does God care for us? So here is the curious phrase that Jesus uses to give punch to the takeaway he wants us to have: make purses.


Now, some translators interpret this word in the Greek as “bags” or “wallets,” any item that you carry around with you with your goods in it. But our reading today says make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, so I’ll use that one. But it continues saying that they carry an unfailing treasure in heaven where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. Now, whether you carry a wallet or a purse or a bag or a backpack is irrelevant. But the image of carrying our valuables with us is far from irrelevant. Jesus is getting at what we carry with us that does not take on physical form, but it certainly has a lot to do with what we treasure.


I once kept in my pocket a shiny little gold coin purse that was given to me by my maternal grandmother. It came with a shiny silver dollar, and I used it throughout childhood for the little bits of change that I had for buying treats. I took pretty good care of it, and I treasured it because it came from my dear grandma. Funny how, after all these years, I think I finally realized now why I never pitched that little coin purse. It seems to represent for me the real treasure that was given to me by my grandma. My relationship with my grandmother has always been a treasure to me, because she was the key person whose faith I admired and wanted to experience in the same way that she did as I was growing up.


So when I read of Jesus’ words about purses that do not wear out, I remembered the gift of faith that was transmitted to me by the Holy Spirit through the person of my grandma. I think that is the real kind of purse (bag, wallet, backpack) that Jesus refers to that is worth making and cultivating, because faith never wears out. The gift of faith that we receive from God and consider our greatest treasure will never fail us, nor can it be stolen, nor will it disintegrate over time. It’s a sturdy gift, quite unlike nearly everything else that we receive as gifts in this life. But apparently it takes some response or action on our part too. I get it that according to Ephesians 2 it’s by grace that we have been saved, and that’s not of our own doing, or our own works. It is purely the gift of God through the grace of Christ.


Isn’t it interesting then that Jesus gives us a directive that requires us to do something with this gift? He says make purses for yourselves that do not wear out. So, how can we make such a purse that can hold the gift of faith? I think we have to go on to the reading where it says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Sometimes we think that our hearts lead and the rest will just follow, but this says that there’s a different order of things as to how this works. Our part, I think, is to make a space or a compartment in our lives that is large enough to hold the faith that is given to us, so that it can lead us and then lead our hearts to follow along with where faith takes us.


Now this will date me, but that’s okay. When I was growing up, we would sometimes watch these old-time Westerns. Maybe some of you still like them. Maybe as children you’ve never seen one, so you don’t know what I’m talking about. But in these old-time Western movies, you would often see someone running, or most likely on horseback, chasing after a train as fast as they could get their horse to go. It’s pretty dramatic. They’re usually riding this horse and just encouraging it to go faster, faster, faster, because they’re always just outside of reach of getting to the caboose and able to jump on that train and be whisked off. But they’re usually carrying a bag, and they know they can’t make the jump onto the train while holding onto that bag. The bag, of course, contains what they treasure. Maybe it’s money or gold. I have to admit sometimes they were robbers, so it was illicit goods. But just for the sake of this illustration just say it’s something really, really good that they want and that they need to go on. It’s their treasure. But it’s precious to them, so they throw the bag onto the train first, and then they jump onto the train. The treasure goes first. The heart follows the treasure.


Our treasure is a faith in God who provides for all of our needs abundantly. It’s a faith that tells us that we are loved and provided for, just as well and even better than the birds and the flowers of the field. The faith that has been given us by the mercy of God, revealed to us in the word of God and through God’s spirit, assures us of everlasting life both now and into an eternal future. The faith that brings us to the baptismal font to pour water on the heads of infants, and all who will come to be baptized, affirms us of our status of being children of God. This faith reminds us all that, along with Martin Luther who would often touch his head at the font and say “I am baptized” to be reminded over and over again, that calls for us to live in ever-growing and ever more deeply committed response to this treasure of faith that we have been given. It’s the only unfailing treasure that we ultimately have, so it’s the kind of treasure that needs to come first in our lives. If we imagine running swiftly through life to keep up or catch a metaphoric train, the invisible but real bag of faith needs to precede us. If it leads us, all will ultimately be well.


It’s our most valuable treasure, even in times when it seems harder to hold onto, just like Abraham and Sarah had their moments of doubt as to whether the promises of God were ever going to come true for them. But if it’s what we treasure most, Jesus says, then it is where our hearts will be also. For wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be. That gets at our role in the whole faith business. Faith is a gift we receive. Everything we need to have through it comes from God and is sustained by God. Our response is to treasure it, to throw it on the train that keeps moving, trusting that it’s going to be there going ahead of us as we keep running to experience it.


The Glascock family will have the opportunity, from this day forward, to tell Carson the story of how his parents treasured the gift of faith that they have received enough to bring him for baptism today. They will make promises. The sponsors will make promises. And you as a congregation will make promises to jointly make purses that do not wear out, as Carson grows up and ever more claims the faith that is given to him. This is the most significant gift that can be given to Carson. I’m sure he’s already received many, many fine gifts in his young life. And he’ll continue to be showered with gifts from his loving family and friends. But this treasure of faith being passed on to him will be his greatest, most valuable treasure. Carson’s great-grandfather, Pastor Dahlstrom seated up here, will be baptizing him today. We welcome you, Pastor Dahlstrom, and we’re grateful for the significance that your presence and your wife’s also represent that remind us that there may be other memorabilia that we receive from prior generations, but the treasure of the faith of our ancestors and of the elders of this church and other churches being passed on to us, is also in that bag or purse that is made in our lives. Let’s also take note of the children who make up this congregation, many of whom we saw seated up here a few moments ago. And let’s look at each other to be reminded of promises that are being made to the Glascock family, and also the promises of the words of this rite that we will pass on this treasure to one another as other people have done for us, and we will continue to do for coming generations.


So circumstances happen and then fade, possessions come and go. But faith endures forever, because it is rooted in our gracious God’s mercy, which endures forever. So at the risk of diverting your attention once again to the commercial world of credit cards, I will ask: what is in your wallet? What kind of purse do you carry? Is the treasure that you carry the indestructible kind that never ever wears out? Let’s all continue to proclaim our faith in the baptismal liturgy which follows, and as we come to the table to be nourished by the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And then as we go out afterwards on our way, keeping this unfailing treasure of faith always before us, so that our hearts will follow into the places where God will take us and keep us, and give us his grace.


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2019, Christ Lutheran Church, Webster Groves, sermon, podcast, transcript, Pastor Stephanie Doeschot, Luke 12:32-40