Sermon: The Unexpected Hour

The words "Buried Treasure" stenciled on a wall in England.

August 11, 2019
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 1:10-20, Luke 12:32-40

by Eric Anderson

The sun had lost its heart.

It didn’t quite know how it had lost it, but search as it would, it could not find it. It looked in the deep part of its core, which seemed like where it ought to be; it wasn’t there. Hunting through the radiation zone took a while, since that’s a big part of the sun, but in the end there was no heart there. It sought in the convection zone; no heart. It wasn’t in the photosphere. It wasn’t in the corona.

The sun had lost its heart.

It began to weep great tears of sunspots and prominences.

Mercury was closest and first to hear the sun crying. “What is wrong?” the planet shouted across the depths of space.

“I’ve lost my heart,” sobbed the sun. “It’s nowhere within.”

Mercury was startled. “You haven’t lost your heart,” it replied. “Look farther.”

The sun raised its streaming eyes and looked further out across the solar system.

“Look at me, soaking up your rays,” said Mercury. “I’m soaking up your heart.”

“Look at Venus, whose clouds capture your heat,” said Mercury. “It’s holding your heart.”

Mercury took the sun on a tour of the planets. The rings of Saturn glistening in the sunlight. The bands of Jupiter reflecting sunlight in a welter of color.

And Earth. Let’s not forget Earth: a basket of living things basking in the sun.

“You won’t find your heart within,” said Mercury. “You throw your heart into the heavens. Your heart is everywhere.”

In this twelfth chapter of Luke, Jesus has talked about laying aside anxiety. He’s talked about focusing on something other than wealth. He’s talked some more about being confident in God’s love. And then he talked again about selling your possessions and giving alms, and saving treasure for heaven rather than Earth. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Jesus was certainly concerned about the way human wealth distracts, tempts, and changes the focus of human life. As I said last week, wealth was the great idol summoning the people of Israel away from God, whereas Hosea watched the people of his time worshiping the idols of foreign gods. About that time but in a different city, Isaiah raised concerns rather more like Jesus than Hosea.

But as I also said last week, wealth isn’t the only idol of contemporary life. Some worship guns. Some worship order. Some worship safety. Some worship a leadership figure. Some, I suspect, worship themselves.

So we might look well at the truth that it is not just that our hearts follow our treasures, it is also true that our hearts determine our treasures. We hold on to the things that give us pleasure, or meaning, or identity. We embrace the things that confirm who we are, or our importance, or our commitments. We collect the treasures that strengthen our hearts.

A few years back, Karoline Lewis wrote about moving her mother from her own home to a convalescent home. One of the things they had to do, of course, was choose the treasures she or other family members would keep and what treasures they would set aside.

They found a box labeled “Scandinavian doo-dads.” There wasn’t much in the box of interest, she said. Wall hangings that say, “Kiss me, I’m Norwegian,” lose their charm with some people. But Karoline Lewis wanted to keep the box because “Scandinavian doo-dads” reminded her of the way her mother spoke. “What possessions you end up holding close to your heart,” she wrote, “has everything to do with how you are able to describe the meaning of those possessions. In other words, I just want to keep the damn box because the description on the outside better encapsulates my mom than what is on the inside.”

Her heart wasn’t in the box. Her heart also wasn’t the box itself. Her heart was with her mother. That’s why she treasured the box. She treasured the box for describing her mother, her heart, so well.

Where is your heart?

I’m not asking you where your faith is. There are right answers and wrong answers to that. I’m not asking what you trust in for your salvation.

I’m asking: Where is your heart?

There are plenty of good and blessed places that it might be, and I’m not even going to hazard a guess. For the moment, try to lay aside questions of right and wrong, good and bad. Just look within to see where your heart is.

How do know?

What are you treasuring? What do you save? What accumulates in your life? It might be things, or it might be experiences. It might be people. It might be places. What do you treasure? What do you go back to?

Think for a moment about some of the musicians you’ve known, both the professionals and those who make music for pure love. Think about the time they give to music in their lives. Think about their collections of music and of musical instruments. Think about the way they strive to make each performance beautiful and meaningful.

Not every musician gives their heart to music. But you know people who have.

I’ve known people who treasured their gardens and growing things. I’ve known people who treasured their cars. I’ve known people who treasured their children or their spouses. I’ve known people who treasured children – they’re usually teachers – and I’ve known people who treasured good old-fashioned money.

What are you treasuring? Where is your heart?

I’ll tell you where mine is: it’s in the Church. Not any particular congregation of the Church – not even this one, as much as I love you – but the wider Church, the Church Universal, the gathered people of God.

There was a time when I deliberately made myself treasure my children more. As they went off to college, though, I went back to my first love, and that’s the Church. That’s where I spend my time. It’s where my mind goes when I’m not here.

It’s not always easy to love the things or the people you give your heart to. Plants in the garden won’t grow sometimes. There’s that passage of a certain musical piece that defies all rehearsal. Cars, well: they break down.

The Church is about as frustrating a treasure as I can imagine. We declare love as our meaning, our purpose, and our way of life – and we fail to live up to it over and over again. Christianity has justified uncounted horrors and winked at countless more. People excuse casual cruelty with a nod to the Christian scriptures. We make promises and break them. In two thousand years, the Church has gone through three major fractures. Some Church historians think we’re due for another in our lifetimes.

Yet the Church is what I treasure. I gave my heart to the Church of our best aspirations, the Church we long to be. It’s where I give my treasures.

Where is your heart?

Now: is that where you want your heart to be?

It might be. It very well might be. You might have placed your heart just where Jesus described here in the twelfth chapter of Luke. As Melissa Bane Sevier writes, “Jesus always makes it clear that humanity is where we should be investing. As a matter of fact, loving God and loving all humanity are the only two things that really matter.” If that’s where your heart is, bless you for it.

Your heart may well be given to something else that’s also good and right and beautiful, something that goes beyond you and gets shared with others around. If someplace like that is where your heart is, bless you for it.

But your heart may not be where you want it to be. Your heart may be treasuring the world’s distractions. It may be treasuring the world’s deceptions. It may be treasuring the world’s idols.

Is that where you want it to be? No? Then there’s the work for you: to coax it to the compassion and the wholeness Jesus taught.

There is some urgency to the question.

Jesus warned that the Son of Man would come at “an unexpected hour.” The funny thing is, Jesus called himself “the Son of Man.” “The Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Yes, indeed. Because the Son of Man was saying it. The Son of Man was the one sitting there. The Son of Man was already there.

Is there any hour more unexpected than the moment we are in right now?

Ready or not, the Son of Man has come.

So if we’re not ready, we’d better get to it.

We get ready by knowing where our hearts are, where our treasure is. We get ready by deciding whether that’s where we want our hearts to be, and shifting our treasure if we need to. We get ready knowing that we’re doing so with the Savior already at our side.

That can be intimidating. You may also find it comforting.

The Savior comes at an unexpected hour. That hour is right now, right here, among us, within you. What do you treasure? Where is your heart? How will you present it to the risen Christ? Where are the treasures fit for your soul?


Listen to the Recorded Sermon

Does it match the prepared text? Well. No, it doesn’t. The Savior has not returned – though as noted above, the Savior is right at our shoulder anyway.

The image “Buried Treasure” by Benjamin Ragheb is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Categories Sermons | Tags: | Posted on August 11, 2019

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