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The Rector’s sermon for Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019                                                                                                                                     

 

A Lenten Series:  THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (Matthew 5:1—7:27)

Treasures in Heaven  (Matthew 6:19-21) – (10 of 10)

 

A blessed Easter to you!  He is risen!  Today we end our sermon series from The Sermon on the Mount.  I hope you’re enjoyed it as much as I have.  The Sermon on the Mount is so incredibly important to our faith.  Jesus’ teachings are so simple, yet we sometimes have a hard time following them, don’t we?  Today’s message is the culmination of everything we’ve talked about; the message is treasures in heaven, taken from Matthew 6:19-21:

 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also!” 
 

Shortly after American English poet A. E. Housman died, a collection of his poems was published under the title More Poems.  The first poem in that collection is entitled, “Easter Hymn.”  Housman was not a confessing Christian but a seeker.  Listen to his words as he struggles with the concept of a risen Christ:

 

            If in that Syrian garden, ages slain,

            You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,

            Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright

            Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night

            The hate you died to quench and could but fan,

            Sleep well and see no morning, son of Man.

 

            But if, the grave rent and the stone rolled by,

            At the right hand of majesty on high

            You sit, and sitting so remember yet

            Your tears, your agony and bloody sweat,

            Your cross and passion and the life you gave,

            Bow hither out of heaven and see and save.

 

Housman was saying to Christ, “If you can’t hear this and have no idea what has happened since you died, rest on.  But if you rose to the right hand of God, remembering your cross and passion, look down from heaven and save!”  How chilling that is!  That’s the thing about Easter.  It gets your attention, even the attention of those who do not believe but must contend with the story of a risen Jesus Christ.

 

To live beyond death has been a constant longing of humanity for as long as people have watched others grow old and die, for as long as we have seen others die too soon from sickness or tragedy.  The longing is there not just at funerals either.  It is there when we pass through the shadow of near death and wonder, even out loud, about how much time we have left to live.

 

There’s a story of a five-year-old riding by a cemetery in the car with his dad.  He spotted a freshly dug grave with a mound of dirt over it.  Amazed he shouted, “Daddy!  Look at that!  One got away!”  Dad’s response? “Well, no, he’s just freshly put down.”   Harsh words, don’t you think?  But he will learn what we have all learned, that dogs and goldfish, plants and trees, grandmas and grandpas, friends and schoolmates—they all die, some sooner, some later.

 

Together, as if it were happening all over again, we all watched Jesus die a horrific death by crucifixion.  This week we marched into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and cried, “Hosanna, to the Son of David!”  We listened and participated in his final meal with his disciples.  We shared in foot washing, designed to remind us that we are servants of those around us.  We watched as everything was taken from Him…even his dignity.  And we cringed as His death was made certain by a lance, plunged into his side…all of it to fulfill the Scriptures.  His body was taken down from the cross, wrapped in a linen shroud and placed in a cold, dark tomb, a large stone rolled across the entrance to keep his body secure from scavengers.  He was dead alright.  Yesterday it was the day of in-between, the day where we think of him entombed, a body with no companion on a Sabbath’s rest.  Even though he had told his followers so many times that he would die and rise again, they were still shocked and overwhelmed with sadness and despair.  Imagine…they hid…they hid and waited for Sunday to properly attend to his broken, lifeless body.

 

Then as the writers of the New Testament tell it, he did what no one else has ever done.  He rose to life after dying, never to die again.  Others were raised to life and then died again, but not Jesus of Nazareth.  He rose to live forever and, in so doing, paved the way for us to do the same.  Unlike Housman, we don’t have to say, “If you died to see no morning, then, Jesus, rest in peace.”  We don’t even say “If you rose, Jesus, then look down and save.”  We state it as a fact, “Christ is risen!”  And because he lives, we will live also.

 

More then anything, Easter for us Christians means life beyond our graves.  We believe “in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”  That is the center of our praise this resurrection day.  Christ has paved the way for us to live forever in his presence with risen, glorified bodies.  Easter means something else, too.  This Jesus who came to life is the same Jesus who said in his Sermon on the Mount that we are to lay up treasures in heaven which cannot be destroyed.  This is the same Jesus who taught that our  hearts need to be with heaven’s treasures,  not with the treasures of this life.

 

In the death-shattering light of Easter, we should be able to see clearly today what matters most in our lives.  If our lifespan now extends beyond our death date, then our perspective should change significantly.  Now…with that knowledge… what we treasure most is not our jobs or our homes or our retirement plans or our bank accounts.   Recession or depression can wipe those out in a moment.  What we treasure most is not our strong and healthy bodies.  Have you noticed that, as hard as you work out and eat the right things, your body is deteriorating anyway?  There is no changing that.  Maybe you were a “10” once, but you won’t be a “10” again until Christ comes in glory, and your body is raised to be glorious like his (Phil 3:20-21).  Then you will be a perfect “10” forever.

 

How much of our lives are spent on things that will not last?  In 2018 a report of the self-storage industry reported that Americans now pay $38 billion a year to have someone else store their earthly “treasures.”  There are 50,000 self-storage facilities in the United States.  Why do we still treasure what will not last?

 

So what does matter most?  Jesus matters most.  He loved us enough to lay down his life for us.  He …is our treasure in heaven.  He is our First and Last priority.  We live for him.  We strive to be like him.  We talk to Him in prayer.  We serve others in his name.  We invest in where he leads us.  We give ourselves to what lasts forever.

 

On this Resurrection day, Jesus says:  Don’t store up treasures on earth.  They won’t last; neither will this earth.  So store up treasures in heaven…where I am…and there…will your heart be also.

 


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