Our Greatest Treasure
Our Greatest Treasure
I heard a phrase recently that caught my attention. “Neck down dead!” Have you ever heard that phrase before? Do you know what that means? It refers to someone who’s mind, their thoughts, are disconnected from their heart.
If you’re “neck down dead” you’re not truly alive. Your cognitive reasoning is disconnected from your feelings and emotions. I imagine it’s kinda like the problem that Jesus noticed in the Pharisees - who knew the letter of the Law, but violated the spirit behind the law. Their knowledge was disconnected from their hearts.
Kinda like our flowers, sometimes, on Sunday mornings here in the Sanctuary. They’re beautiful... they appear well... they’re meant to be an expression of life... BUT, in reality, they’re usually dead. They’ve been cut. They’re disconnected from their source of life... from roots that provide the necessary nutrients and minerals and water that sustains life. They’re “neck down dead.” And they’re not gonna last very long in that state, are they?
Jesus said: I have come to offer life - abundantly... life that’s full... filled to the overflow... for all who will receive. (John 10:10). And we talk about the abundant life of Christ a lot here at church, don’t we?
Of course, it begs the question: What in the world is Jesus talking about? What is abundant life? We have lots of ideas and theories.
For some, abundant life is all about gathering stuff! Keeping up with the Joneses. He who finishes with the most toys, wins! So, many spend their whole lives in the pursuit of more and more stuff... while building bigger and bigger barns (so to speak). Of course, we all need stuff (maybe not as much as we want, but we do need some stuff), and the things we gather are not necessarily bad, much of it’s good, and useful. And, yet... for some reason it’s never enough. We often tend to want more, and more. It never truly fulfills.
For others, it’s their job... their career. Nothing comes before work... absolutely nothing. Even when they’re at home, they’re working (which is a major concern that I have when it comes to the modern trend to work from home). When do you stop working, and start your home life? It’s always about the next project, the next report, the next presentation, the next deadline. I struggle with this myself (at times), because it may be Sunday, but next Sunday is already coming! The next sermon has to be prepared. And we can certainly find satisfaction and fulfillment through our vocation, but not solely in our vocations. The average person will have 12 different jobs over their lifetime. If our vocation could truly satisfy us, if it could fulfill our deepest needs... I don’t think we’d need 12 of them!
Then... for some, believe it or not, it’s politics. It’s why they watch endless hours of MSNBC, or Fox News, or PBS News. Many, on the Right and Left, have defined “full-life” in terms of what the government does, or doesn’t do (particularly the Federal Government, which astounds me... since that’s the level of government that’s furthest removed from our daily life). Some trust so much in the Government... that in our time... many only hear, they only see, they only experience life... in light of their political leanings - and they will LEAVE a church (and sever friendships) based on their perception of that church’s or friend’s political leanings. God’s voice gets filtered through the platform of political persuasion... and we wonder why so many people are never satisfied? Why they’re seems to be a deficiency in happiness, and joy... and why so many are always so negative... lacking hope and optimism. It’s because politics cannot provide the full and abundant life we need. It simply cannot.
Such life is found in Christ, and in Christ alone! Jesus offers us abundant life... full life... life that’s worth living, that’s joyful and hopeful and flourishing!
Jesus says, “I have come to offer life... abundantly!” Life that is complete, and satisfying. Life that’s whole.
Not through stuff, or vocation, or politics... or anything else this world offers.
Now, don’t get me wrong: the things of this world do matter... because they always reveal what matters most in our lives. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also...” “No one can serve two masters...” “You can’t serve both God, and __________.”
We of all people, should realize that abundant life is never defined by the offerings and trappings of this world. Full-life, is a life that’s defined more spiritually, relationally, joyfully - even in the face of difficulty and trial and lack of stuff. People who’ve learned to walk in Christ, find fulfillment, and purpose in Christ and Christ alone... tend to be much more content, happier... less dissatisfied with the condition of the world around them. There’s a calm, assurance, deep within their souls that exudes peace. They’ve truly found the source of real, and lasting, life. Abundance.
We all know people like this, don’t we? I think in our hearts we all want to be people like this?
People who are “alive to God... and God is alive to them!” People who are connected to themselves, and connected to others... they’re the ones who Jesus would describe as having full and abundant life. Not rich in stuff or the ways of this world... but overflowing in the graces of the Holy Spirit - and flourishing in the fruit of that Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control...
A good (yet sobering) question to ask of ourselves from time-to-time is: Could you and I be satisfied if all we had left in this world, was Jesus?
I saw an interesting meme some time ago... that made me think. It basically asked, “What if we only had tomorrow, the things we were thankful for, today?”
Thankfulness breeds contentment. Being grateful, in response to God’s blessings, leads to satisfaction.
Of course, when Jesus says that he came to offer us life, what He’s really saying is, “I’ve come to offer you MY life... my joy... my peace... my presence. A full life that’s lived in the presence of a loving, gracious, merciful God.” A life lived in partnership with the Holy Spirit... as citizens of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus pleads and promises: “Come to me... all of you who are tired and weary and burdened, and I will give you rest!” Rest in the form of real life... abundant life. Being yoked to Christ... as a follower... a disciple... a Child of God!
What more could we ever need or desire or long for? What could be more satisfying than resting in the capable and eternal arms of Christ? What could be more fulfilling than to know that no matter what this life throws at us - no matter the hills or the valleys - we’re in the comforting presence of the One who loved us first and loves us most.
Why would we trust, or hope, in anything else?
We don’t need bigger and bigger barns, do we? What we need, is to cling tight to our greatest treasure... Jesus... knowing that no matter what, he clings faithfully to us.
When we grow in that truth, we’ll find the full and abundant life we’re looking for. Amen.