Thursday, February 19, 2009

Week of Compassion

This week our denomination celebrates the Week of Compassion ( This is a week that we take time to pray for the ministries of the Week of Compassion, and to collect a special offering for use in their special projects. The Week of Compassion is the natural disaster response, refuggee relief and resettlement, and development arm of the Christian Chruch (Disciples of Christ). They do great work in the United States and throughout the world. This year was the first year I was lucky enough to get to preach our "Week of Compassion Sunday." I relied heavily on the sermon starter provided on the "resources" section of the website. When I have used material from that site- I have it in quotes with footnotes.

I encourage you to give to Week of Compassion. Next year you might even consider attending the Disciples Dodgeball Invitational! This is a dodgeball tournament held in Nashville with Disciple's church youth groups from all over the state. Our youth group placed first last year and third this year. All the money raised (from entrance fees, viewer fees and concsessions) went to Week of Compassion- what a creative way to raise money!

Without further ado, here's my sermon:

Matthew 6:19-21

1 Timothy 6:17-19

Week of Compassion Sunday

February 15, 2009

What is My Treasure and What Do I Do With It?

Did you walk in the door feeling blessed this morning? How about rich- do you feel rich this morning? My guess is that there are all kinds of different answers to this question. Let me give you a little perspective on those two questions. This was shared at the board meeting a couple of months ago by one of our wise Elders:

  1. If you woke up this morning with more health than are more blessed than the million who will not survive the week.
  2. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.
  3. If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death you are more blessed then 3 billion others.
  4. If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of humanity.
  5. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthiest.

Maybe we have more “treasure” than we thought we did. I don’t know about you- but when I read and hear the teachings of Jesus concerning money I often think, “He’s not talking about me.” I think to myself, “the treasure I have does not make me “rich” by American standards- so he’s not talking to me.” If you think like me, I have some news for both of us. He’s talking to us. This sermon on the mount that Jesus gives is for the audience gathered on the side of the hill that day, and for all of us. I pray that God would give us ears to hear this message about our “treasure” this morning, even if the balance of our checking account is in the negative.

The question of the morning is, “what is my treasure?” Part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is about treasure. He warns against storing up treasures on earth- the kind that are fleeting, the kind we have to protect against moths, and rust, and thieves. It is in our very DNA to want to store up treasure. Do you remember how early you or your children learned the word, “MINE!” Learning what belongs to us comes very early in our development as children. We want to define what belongs to us- as opposed to what belongs to others around us. And it makes us mad when someone takes a toy that belongs to us- doesn’t it?

How different are we than when we were kids? Don’t we still delight in laying claim to what is ours? Our new ipod, our boat, our computer, our tractor, our car, our cell phone- all that stuff we have that other people drool over? We are proud to say, that is MINE! We all love stuff to varying degrees, we rush to buy more, we claim it and show it off- I hate to say it but we’re often not that different than the toddler who yells, “MINE!” across the room.

Maybe you don’t love stuff as much as I do (even though I try not to), but even so, how do we figure out what our treasure is? How do we know what we treasure? Take a look at your life this morning- I’m going to ask you some questions that will help you get to the heart of what you treasure. What do you spend your precious time doing? What brings you joy? What is it that you rush to share with others? What will you trade your energy and creativity in pursuing? How do you use the resources given to you?

It is not my intent to make you feel guilty for having material things- we need material things to survive. We must have food, clothing and shelter to survive- we have to buy things. But as you look through the inventory of your life this morning- how can you answer the question, “what do I treasure?”

I want to give you a positive example of what we treasure as a church. If you look at our church budget you will see that our church plans to spend about $257,000 in the 2008-2009 budget year. Almost $15,000 of that we have set aside for Christian Education including around $4,000 just for youth ministry. The church values education, and values young people. Some of my friends in youth ministry have to raise money if they want to do any kind of ministry with youth. Our budget says, we value education and we value young people. The youth of this church are a treasure. Also, the outreach budget of our church is almost $29,000- that is over 10% of our budget and has been for several years. Over and above a tithe is what we give to others, to the community, our nation and our world in outreach- and this doesn’t even include the Elder’s Fund or the money that any other group like CWF or the youth group raises. We treasure our neighbor. We treasure others like the Disciples Mission Fund, Disciples Divinity House, Missionary Education, Mission trip scholarships, Habitat for Humanity, the Stephens Center, The Good News Mission, The Good Samaritan Center and Bethany Fellowships. We treasure giving to others, we treasure making a difference.

If you looked at your family’s budget- what would you discover that you treasure? What do you spend your valuable time on? Where is your treasure? Once we discover our treasure, we can begin to answer the next question- what do I do with it? What is my treasure- and what do I do with it?

Jesus realized that we would have earthly needs- along with wants and desires. He knew that we would begin to store up treasures for ourselves and so he gave us the advice that what we should be storing up instead are treasures in heaven. In his parables, Jesus warns us against greed and steers us away from storing up material possessions. “Unfortunately for us, Jesus did not spell out exactly where the line is between “necessary” and “too much” or give an exact definition of “earthly treasure” versus “heavenly treasure”. We are left to wrestle with these questions in our own lives. For this, as in all things, we turn to God for guidance. What does God treasure and pursue? People, right relationships, and service.”[1]

In Deuteronomy 14:1-2 God makes it clear, that we, God’s children are the most treasured possessions God has. We have been chosen to be God’s treasure. The beloved passage John 3:16 also speaks to what God treasures. God treasured and loved us so much, that we were given the gift of God’s only Son. Along with the gift of Christ we have been given the gift of eternal life by a God who treasures us so much. We can see clearly what God treasures, in Mark 12:28 when Jesus answers the question posed to him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important.” Jesus answers that we should love God with all our heart, soul and mind and love our neighbor as ourselves. There is nothing God treasures more than when we love God and love our neighbor.

What is my treasure and what do I do with it? “We particularly ask these questions today because our church is celebrating the Week of Compassion this week, and will take up a special Week of Compassion offering next week. How much will each of us choose to give to help communities recover from natural disasters- like the recent one in Kentucky and Indiana? How much of my treasure will I part with to help develop healthy, self-sustaining communities where poverty, hunger, illness and lack of education now exist? How much will I stretch to help refugees return or resettle after they have lost their home community?

How will I order my life in the future, conscious that my decisions effect people elsewhere who are treasured by God?

God is not calling us to a joyless life- no new clothes, no new car, no ITunes, no! no! no!- but to a life of greater joy centered in worship, love, justice and service by using the gifts the Spirit has given us, where our actions and decisions flow from being centered in God. By sharing the relative abundance we have, especially as compared to what many people possess in developing countries or in the aftermath of natural disasters, we help bring closer to reality God’s hopes for the world, and we ‘take hold of the life that really is life!’

Paul’s first letter to Timothy says, ‘As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not…to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God…They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they make take hold of the life that really is life.’ (1 Timothy 6:17-18)

The Bible records the importance Jesus placed on decisions to share resources we have with other people who need them. ‘Truly I tell you, just as you (fed the hungry, gave the thirsty something to drink, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, visited the prisoner) did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

May your pursuit of ‘treasure’ and your decisions about what to do with that ‘treasure’ bring hope and love to the world and to your heart.”[2]

[1] Quoted material from: Week of Compassion Sermon Starter 2009.

[2] Directly from Week of Compassion sermon starter 2009. This can be found at:

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