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Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only

Pentecost 11 – Year C

Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I once heard someone say that if you want to really know what a person values in his/her life then just take a look at their cancelled checks. Jesus could just as easily have said – your heart is where you spend your treasure. I had this reinforced for me several weeks ago when a member of the parish shared an article from the Wall Street Journal about what nonprofits call – “Stretch Givers” – those who make donations seemingly out of proportion to their resources. The article was all about the increasing number of people who are making truly sacrificial gifts to the charities that matter to them.

Nobuko Kajitani, worked as a textile conservator at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. After she retired, she gave $1 million to Manhattan’s Asian Cultural Council – a gift that represented the bulk of her net worth.

Dr. James Doty, a neurosurgeon, at age of 51 gave away $28 million or 99% of his net worth to charity. When asked about it he said: The vast, vast majority said I was an idiot. But I am the luckiest guy in the world. I have a very good profession, and I do something that is honorable. I’m just thankful I had the opportunity to give.

I found it interesting that there were no religious overtones to this article at all. No one interviewed said they gave because of their faith. Rather, they were simply people who discovered that their lives had greater meaning when they used the bulk of their treasure on something besides themselves. The more they gave, the richer they felt.

Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Why is it so hard for most of us to really understand that it isn’t the trappings of life that give us the greatest satisfaction but rather the quality of our lives? Why do we always think that meaning can be bought, purchased, like a new suit or a new kitchen? When in fact, real treasure in life usually has nothing to do with anything we can purchase for ourselves.

Recently, I heard a story about a group of alumni, highly established in their careers, who got talking at a reunion and decided to go visit their old university professor, now retired. During their visit conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in their work and lives.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite – telling them to help themselves to the coffee. When all the alumni had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said, “Notice that all the nice looking, expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups.

Now consider this: Life is the coffee; your job, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life. The type of cup one has does not define, nor change the quality of life a person lives. The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.”

Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” A week ago Friday, I had the opportunity to go with Melissa to a party celebrating Jack Bolling, a teacher at St. Christopher’s for more than 40 years. Over four decades Jack has been, among other things, the health teacher, an athletic trainer, and the school’s business manager. All of which are fine jobs but nothing anyone would consider extraordinary. But we weren’t there because of the jobs Jack has had but because of the lives he has changed. Melissa was invited because she is the Chaplain of the Upper School and one of Jack’s good friends. I was invited as Mr. Melissa Hollerith (which is probably my best role.)

Now I have attended many a celebration for someone who has served long and faithfully in one career or another. But we didn’t gather that night because of Jack’s years of service to St. Christopher’s. No, the party celebrated what Jack had done with those 40 years of service. You see, the party wasn’t thrown by the school, it was thrown by a group of alumni whose lives had all been changed for the better by Jack Bolling. A group of more than thirty men, ranging in age from their late teens to their mid fifties, representing a much larger group, came together to honor Jack. It was a grand occasion. But it was near the end of the party when some of these men stepped forward to share what Jack had done for them that touched me so deeply. Over and over again we heard stories of how Jack had gone above and beyond his job description for a boy in need. They called themselves “Jack’s projects.” They would say things like – “I didn’t know it at the time, but I guess I was one of Jack’s projects because when my mother died during my ninth grade year Jack was always there. He’d come by my house, take me to lunch, or pull me into his office to talk.” Another said, “When I was a struggling teenager and couldn’t believe in myself, Jack believed in me, he was always there and as I look back on it, that made the difference.” Men who are now very successful personally and professionally recounted how when their home lives became difficult Jack literally took them into his own home sometimes for weeks or months or even years. More than one boy spent the bulk of high school living with Jack Bolling. As I left the party that I night my heart was full. I felt somehow richer, better, because I had been witness to a life well lived, to a treasure well spent.

Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Where are you spending the treasure of your life? When all is said and done and you look back at the years that have gone by, the things you have done, the people you have cared for, will you have placed your heart in the right things; will you have used your treasure well? Will the quality of your life exceed its trappings?

Jesus wanted his disciples to know that they were already taken care of – “Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” They had nothing to fear, their souls were secure. Instead, Jesus wanted all those who trusted in him to make the most out of their lives now, to live in such a way that their lives made a difference, that their lives reflected His life – a life of service filled with the love of God. You and I have no greater calling. And there can be no greater achievement when all is said and done. Amen.

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