Treasure Life – Br. Curtis Almquist
Jesus presumes we have a dual citizenship. We belong both to earth and to heaven. The one – heaven – is our beginning and our end. The other – earth – is where we find our way. We’ll be reminded of this momentarily as we are invited to pray The Lord’s Prayer: “…your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” Today’s Gospel lesson is an alert about what we treasure, that is, to what we give ultimate value, importance, and worth. The English words “worth” and “worship” come from the same etymological root. What we worship – where we give ultimate worth – has the highest claim on our life.
Jesus is not being a killjoy. He is certainly not telling us not to treasure earthly life, not to enjoy life with it many beauties and wonders. Nor is he warning us not to invest in life. Jesus was passionate about living life, and living it abundantly.[i] Rather, Jesus is speaking here about where and how we apply “treasure” to our life. He commends us to invest in treasure that will last, treasure that will last into eternity, where “life is changed, not ended.”[ii] Think of yourself as a trustee in life, not an owner or possessor. Legally, we may be deemed “owners” of any number of things, but I’m speaking here the language of the soul. We are trustees of life, temporarily entrusted with elements from our life and labor.
You might find it meaningful to take an inventory of your life. Consider the physical things to which you have been entrusted – finances, properties, heirlooms, knickknacks, etc.. You will probably need to do some estate planning with your lawyer, but alongside that, do an inventory from your soul’s perspective, how it is you hold – don’t clutch or cling, but hold – these various things in your life. You might also do an inventory of the intangible elements of your life: your reputation and stature, your abilities and attributes of mind and body, your relationships. Acknowledge and cherish their importance, be deeply grateful… and simultaneously remember what will inevitably change at death, if not before.
All these things which you could call your “possessions” – both the tangible and intangible – give them up. I’m not saying to disregard them or devalue them; quite to the contrary, I’m speaking of “giving them up” like an offering, acknowledging to God how God has acknowledged you in them. In the ancient vocabulary of the church, this is called “an oblation,” living your life as an offering of thanksgiving.[iii] This is a way to treasure life on earth in a way that mirrors the treasure of life in heaven.
Oblation may be too old a word for you to use. If so, find another word, another phrase that allows you to live life on earth in speaking terms with life in heaven. The phrase I’ve latched onto is “living my life with nothing to lose.” Find the language, find the prayer and practice that enables you to treasure life.
[i] John 10:10.
[ii] From The Book of Common Prayer: “…For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens.”
[iii] “Oblation,” from the Latin oblatio, “an offering, presenting, gift.”
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As a person who suffers chronic physical pain, I have just read your beautifully written sermon with gratitude.
As a pastoral musician whose gifts are no longer available, I have discovered the “treasure” is often fleeting. And as our friend Job reminds us, there MIGHT be something new, waiting just around the bend in our path.
And so, we are called to give praise. thanksgiving, and continue to trust.
You hot the nail on the head
In Germany some people use the word “Oblate” to mean the Communion wafer.
In the midst of moving worldly possessions out of the woods and into the city, will be open to giving them up. Thank you for the reminder to live with nothing to lose.