A woman, a long time member of the community, shook hands with
me as she greeted me after the worship service. "That was a
wonderful sermon," she said, "just wonderful. Everything you said
applies to someone I know."
She may not have gotten the point of the sermon, but she WAS
listening. I don't expect that everyone is going to hear my sermon
the same way. Each sermon preached is for each person listening.
Each person listening will hear what they are ready to hear. The
Holy Spirit interprets for each person, but each person has to be
prepared to hear. I want so badly for the youth to hear what the
Holy Spirit wants them to hear, but most of the time they aren't
They've gotten to where they are and they know little to
nothing about what is contained in the Bible. Oh yes, there are
exceptions; there are a couple who know stories of the Bible. But
for most, their church family has let them down. They aren't
equipped to deal with the challenges of life. They're not dressed
But, of course, much of their church family isn't dressed for
action either-they don't know the stories of the Bible either. In
today's Gospel Jesus talks about being dressed for action. Just
prior to that he says, "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."
Reading the same passage from Eugene Peterson's translation,
THE MESSAGE, "Get yourself a bank that can't go bankrupt, a bank
in heaven far from bank robbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you
can bank on. It's obvious isn't it? The place where your treasure
is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being."
So, it's obvious, I hope, that Jesus may be using earthly
analogies like purses, banks, robbers, thieves etc., but he's
really talking about spiritual matters.
I'm going to go through most of this passage line by line, and
I'm going to use THE MESSAGE translation. As lovely as the NRSV
may sound, it's just not something to grab on to. I can't believe
that if Jesus were right here in person this morning that he'd
speak to us calling us his "little flock." He'd know that he'd
have to use terms we could easily relate to. So, I'm using THE
MESSAGE translation because I want you to understand the fullness
of this passage because it's for each one of us here and now.
The Gospel lesson today brings a strong message to all of us.
Be dressed for action. That is, God expects you to be God-ready
for life. If you're here today, you are not here for the reason
you think you are (for a special occasion, or that your parents
made you, or your spouse made you or you promised to read or usher
or greet). The Holy Spirit brought you here today, and every time
you come here. There is something you need to hear every time you
come to worship. It may not always be in the sermon; it may be in
the Scripture, the prayers, the hymns-but there is something YOU
need to hear every time.
Jesus tells us not to be afraid of what life challenges come
our way. He says, "You're my dearest friends! The Father wants to
give you the very kingdom itself."
The kingdom is not some mysterious place. Oh, yes, an awesome
place, a place of spiritual mystery because we cannot fathom its
depth and breadth. But the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven
is within you. Jesus tells us in other places that God, through
Christ, has brought the kingdom to us. The kingdom of God is at
When we think of a kingdom, we think of a huge space, a space
as big as you can imagine, as far as you can see and more. That
sort of enormity God wants to give to us. So God has placed that
within us. And he is giving us the ability to use all that the
kingdom has to offer.
But we need to listen. We need to be dressed for action. We
need to be ready to hear. He gives us instructions on how to open
up the doors to that kingdom. The doors to the kingdom are through
our heart. We need to cultivate attitudes from the heart because
those are what will prepare us to listen, what will make us be
ready to hear.
Jesus continues, "Be generous." That doesn't mean only with
money. It means with your time, your attention, your listening,
your caring, your compassion. Be generous, not stingy, not
Jesus continues. "Give to the poor." Again, that doesn't only
mean money. It means give to those who are poor in
spirit-encourage, uplift, tell them you appreciate who they are.
It means give to those who are poor in attitude-be positive with
them, assure them, strengthen them. It means give to those parts
of YOUR SELF that are poor; the parts of your self that don't know
the Scripture, that don't know how to pray, that don't know they
are loved. Give to those poor parts of YOUR SELF the spiritual
food they need so you can be a whole person, a grateful person who
is a light to others.
Jesus continues, "Get yourselves a bank that can't go bankrupt,
a bank in heaven far from the bank robbers, safe from embezzlers,
a bank you can bank on. It's obvious isn't it? The place where
your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end
Your head and heart is where you need to store things up that
will benefit you, that no one can steal from you. If you had a
Bible in one hand and your wallet full of money in the other and a
robber came up to you and demanded one or the other, which would
you give him (or her)? You'd give him the Bible because you could
always buy another Bible with your money. I guess I'd ask you,
when was the last time buying a Bible for yourself was a
priority-where you would have purchased a Bible before purchasing
some food or paying the rent or whatever. I'll bet that there are
some folks here who have never bought a Bible for themselves. I'll
even bet there are some folks here who don't own a Bible, and some
who do but don't know where it is. Think about what's important to
you and what your priorities are, and think about where Jesus, or
Scripture, or worship, or prayer fit into your priorities. Think
about your money offering to God. Do you put that aside first? Do
you put anything aside at all if you don't come to worship? Do you
only think about it the day you come to worship?
The Bible contains all the wisdom you will need to be ready to
meet the challenges of this life and all you need to prepare you
for the life after this life.
"Keep your shirts on, keep the lights on!" Jesus says. Be
dressed for action. Be alert. Pay attention. Be ready for what God
wants you to hear, what God wants you to learn that is for your
own benefit in living a life full of challenges so that you aren't
overwhelmed by them but come through them even stronger.
Especially so that you can help others with what you have learned
from God. What you learn is not just for yourself. God never
teaches that. What you learn you must share.
"Be like house servants waiting for their master to come back
from his honeymoon," Jesus says. They're "awake and ready to open
the door when he arrives and knocks." That means you're ready to
hear what the Holy Spirit has for you-what Jesus is trying to
teach you, knocking at the door of your heart and understanding.
Not from the outside trying to get in. He's already IN. He's
trying to get out of your heart into your consciousness, into how
you live your life. As it is in heaven, in your spiritual self
where God is, so on earth, how you live out what your inner,
spiritual self is telling you.
But we have to be ready to open the door when he knocks; to
open the door from our heart into our consciousness and the living
of our lives. And Jesus says, "Lucky are the servants whom the
master finds on watch! He'll put on an apron, sit them at the
table, and serve them a meal, sharing his wedding feast with
That means Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, will
share all his spiritual powers with us to use now, and we will
share in his resurrection. In the Gospel of John he tells us that
when he goes to the Father we will do even greater things than he
has done because we will have the power of the Holy Spirit
available to us. But we have to be ready to receive the Holy
Spirit. Awake, willing. Attentive. We have to be dressed for
It's not a one time thing. It's a readiness thing. We must keep
feeding our spiritual self so that we're ready for anything the
Holy Spirit wants to teach us. The more prepared we are, the more
we are ready to learn and the more the Holy Spirit will teach us.
And it's all for our benefit. God wants to serve us. Wants to give
us the very kingdom. All we have to do is show God that what he
has to give us is important to us.
You know how it feels, don't you, when folks don't think what
you have to say or offer is worthwhile? Very often parents or
adults treat children and youth that way. But even as adults,
maybe even in a church setting or on a committee or board, some
have made you feel that what you have to say or offer is not
Can you imagine how God feels when we don't want what he has to
give us? When we don't care enough to listen or pay attention?
When we don't care enough to use the guide book he has given us?
When we don't care enough to communicate through the wonderful
gift of prayer he gave us. Can you imagine?
So, that's it. Somewhere in that or in the worship service
today God has a message for you. I hope you were ready to hear
what God thought you needed to hear.
And, of course, it isn't only at church that God is to speaking
to us. It's every day all through the week. Be dressed for action.
Keep feeding yourself spiritually just like you feed yourself
physically. You can get just as sick spiritually by not feeding
your spiritual self as you can if you don't physically feed
yourself-even sicker, because if your spiritual self is sick, it
affects all aspects of your life-your perspective, your attitude,
In Jesus words at the end of today's lesson he says, "So don't
you be slovenly and careless (that is, dress for action; attend to
your spiritual self). Just when you don't expect him, the Son of
Man will show up." That is, every day Jesus shows up in your life.
Are you aware, listening to the Holy Spirit? Or are you looking
elsewhere for your treasure? Amen.