As we have just heard in our Gospel reading from Matthew we can see how he talks about how we need to live generously. This made us think of the parable of the farmer in Luke’s Gospel which demonstrates how easy it is for us to not be generous.
So as you can see that this parable, even if it has been slightly modified, is very good example of how we should not be living our lives. Our gospel reading today tells us to stockpile our treasure in heaven where it is safe from moth, rust and burglars. With our farmer keeping his treasures on earth he suffered when he was killed as he lost all of his wealth to those around him. Matthew continues on to remind us that the place where we store our treasures is the place where your heart will be and the place where you will want to be the most. For the farmer this meant keeping it all inside a large barn where he could keep it safe and make lots of money from it, but for us as Christians, we believe that there is more to life than our time on Earth and greater things are to come when we go to heaven. So it only makes sense that we store up our treasures in heaven, with God, where they will be safe forever, knowing that when our time comes we will see the reward of putting our treasures in God’s hands.
This year we are focusing ourselves towards Generous Living, something which the ministry team have already been exploring, and a theme which we will look at more deeply as a church from both Living Brook Young Disciples, to LBYF, to Bible Study groups. Like last year we had a theme verse which we focused ourselves onto throughout the year and ours this year has come from today’s Gospel reading. (Hold up poster and read out verse). As we want you to be regularly reminded that we need to put our treasures in heaven and not earth as we all know it is very easy to slip into the mind set of thinking about, we have loads of bookmarks to give out with the verse on to remind you and to hand out to others who you know. We want everyone in the benefice to have one of these bookmarks and the schools team are going to make sure that all of our local schools are able to hand them out as well. You’ll also see the poster we just read out, all across the benefice as well in churches and homes to help focus our thinking in our work as a church across the year.
So when we think about living generously it is easy to jump to the conclusion to talk financially. And while yes this is a factor of generous living by giving money to charities to help support their work, we want to explore the other areas of generous living which are just as important and arguably more important.
As we saw in our illustration earlier, Paul writes to the Galatians telling them about the Fruits of the Spirit: Love, Peace, Faith, Joy, Kindness, Goodness, Patience, Gentleness and self-control. These are qualities of someone being generous, but when taken literally, are hard to invest directly into heaven. However, we can be generous towards one another by following these qualities and living the life which God has asked us to live. By following these acts, we put God before ourselves by being selfless towards others and not storing up our treasure for ourselves. So we want to challenge you and ask: do you put yourself first and invest our treasure in ourselves, or do we invest it in God’s work?
Paul demonstrates the idea of being generous when writing to the Corinthians as we heard earlier as us individuals being clay jars. They are made from the earth and made by mankind, like us. The pot is also fragile and can crack if we are not careful, so we have to keep it safe but it can also stand up to a lot as it is strong, like us. So continuing on the idea of clay jars being symbols of us people, Paul continues on by talking about how we are all vessels of Christ, we carry within us the Holy Spirit, like a jar which can hold many things. So what does that mean to be a vessel of Christ? It means that our actions should be Christ-like and we should follow his example with those actions being the words from our story. Therefore when Paul says “death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” he is telling us that through our generous actions of being Christ-like we bring others to life by filling them up with the greatness of Christ.
So let’s see what happens when we fill ourselves up with these Christ-like actions. If the people who currently have the large words with the fruit of the Spirit could bring them to the front we are going to add them to our clay jar. (Wait until everyone is at the front and start to fill up the jar) So as we fill up our clay pot here with our Christ like actions, we are effectively filling someone with the Spirit of Christ. These big actions have almost filled the pot and may cause it to overflow. But that’s great! That is just what we want because when we are at the point of overflowing with generosity those around us are able to experience it. We want to be able to fill the other clay pots around us that are currently empty so that they are able to overflow with generosity. And so the cycle continues.
So as a church over the next year, we want you to focus your efforts on making sure that we draw our actions closer to Christ so that the work we do reaches a point where we are all constantly giving to each other and those around us, whilst at the same time we are filled with by the generosity of those around us.
And by doing this, we store our treasure in heaven.