12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
12:33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
12:35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit;
12:36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.
12:37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.
12:38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
12:39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.
12:40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
When I was in college I was a seriously epic procrastinator. If I had a paper due for a class, I wouldn’t even think of it until a few days beforehand. And, to be honest, I wouldn’t start it until the night before. Okay, honestly, sometimes I didn’t start it until the morning of.
It’s not that I didn’t care. It’s just that there were things that I cared about even more. Like hanging out with friends. And concerts. And parties. And, well, just about every other aspect of college life that didn’t revolve around the classroom.
This is not an academic plan that I would recommend to any of our youth, but I did well enough to get through college and on to seminary. And over the years I transformed from a first-rate procrastinator to someone who actually writes voluntarily. I think my 20 year old self would have a good laugh at that today.
I was thinking about my old habits of procrastination while reading today’s Scripture. Jesus is talking to his disciples and he tells them two things in particular that I want to look at today. First, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” and second, “be dressed for action and have your lamps lit”.
In other words, invest in what you love, and stop procrastinating about it.
I write these days not because anyone is telling me to do so, but because I feel this deep joy in writing. It feels like a place where I can use my gifts, and find my voice. And, unlike in college, I can pick my topics. I’m not writing about T. S. Eliot and some obscure stanza of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” anymore.
Instead I’m writing about what it most important to me, and about what I feel like the world needs to hear. That’s how I got out of bed a couple of hours early when I was writing my book. That’s why I was willing to invest far more energy in writing it than I’ll ever get back in royalties. It wasn’t about the external rewards of a good grade or money. It was about something much more motivating than that.
Today I only write about things I feel some urgency about. I am, at my core, and introvert. But after a lifetime of keeping quiet about what mattered most to me, I decided about six years ago that I wasn’t going to do that anymore.
I knew I was a decent writer, but I had never used that gift much before. I always thought to myself “someday”. But if finally became clear that “someday” may never come unless I did something about it.
And so I started blogging and, though it scared me to death, I started putting things out into the world. I decided I couldn’t sit back and hope other people would do the right thing anymore. I had to start standing up and saying what was on my heart.
In other words, for me, writing is a way of putting my treasure, a skill that has been given to me, where my heart is, and it is a way of lighting my lamp and being ready.
Now, that’s just my journey. I share it as an example from my own life. But I share it because I think all of us wrestle with two things: putting our treasure where our heart is, and not procrastinating about it.
That first part, about our treasures, is a constant challenge for all of us. I’ve quoted before the Billy Graham line about how if you want to know what you really worship, you should just look at your checkbook. I’ve added my own amendment, which is that you should also look at your planner.
We all are given gifts by the grace of God. We are given time, we are given resources, we are given abilities. And we are also given the free will to choose how and where we will use them. We can choose to totally squander them. Or, we can put them to use in order to further what we believe in.
Jesus asks us to take our treasure, and invest it in the places it is needed the most. Don’t horde it up for yourself. Don’t hide it away out of fear. Don’t waste it. Instead, put it to work. Put your very heart in Christ’s mission in this world, because as Jesus tells us, that’s the only way to keep it safe. “Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”
In other words, you cannot hold on to the things you love the most without destroying them and yourself in the process. They must be shared with the world.
This week on Star Island reminded me of the importance of that. Star Island is a very special place. Over the past hundred years generations of people have given of their time and talents and treasure to keep it going. I was keenly aware this week that I was benefitting from the generosity of people who had died long before I was born.
I want Star Island to be there for the next generation too. And so every month a small amount of money comes out of my bank account and goes to support the island. The same is true for my college, my seminary, public radio, my mentor’s ministry, and a few other places. These are not big gifts. They might buy some copier paper or something. But, my heart is in all of these places, and so I want my treasure to be there also.
I know that’s true of so many of you too. You are generous people who look around, see places that are doing good in this world, and give of your time, talents, and treasure. For many of you, this church is one of those places. You know that for over 375 years others have put their treasures into this place, and so you now give yours. Not because you have to. But because your heart is here.
So, that’s the first part: aligning our treasure, our gifts of every kind, with what is most important to our heart. But here’s the second, trickier part: doing it now.
Jesus tells us to “be dressed for action and have our lamps lit”. He says we do not know the time when he will come back. And so, we must stay “alert” and “ready” because “the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour”.
Some read this text and believe this literally means Jesus is coming back at any time so look alive. That sounds pretty serious. But I think it’s much more serious than that.
Because I don’t think this is about Jesus popping back into the picture once and for all in order to settle all the scores. I think this is about the million little ways that Jesus pops into our everyday lives and we don’t even realize it. I think this is about how God shows up when we least expect it, and how we have to be ready to respond.
In other words, this is about urgency. It’s about the need for us to stop procrastinating, and start figuring out our priorities before we miss the incredible things that God is calling us to.
Procrastination when it comes to writing college papers isn’t such a huge issue. But when it comes to our lives, and aligning them with what really matters to us, it is a matter of whether we are truly living, or just surviving. And Christ invites us into life.
And so, I leave you with this challenge this week: take some time between this Sunday and next to think about the places, and people, and causes that have your heart. And then, ask if they also have your treasure. I don’t just mean financial treasure there. I mean your time, your talents, your passion, your love.
If they don’t, then this is your chance to fix that. This is your chance to take what God has given to you, and to use it to respond to God’s call. This is your chance to align your heart and your life, and to rely on God to make it work.
Step out in faith. Take a risk. Take your treasures from their hiding places, and put them to work for something you believe in. Not next year, not next week, not tomorrow. It’s time to give yourself permission to let your heart lead. Amen?