Treasure Life – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Matthew 6:19-23

Jesus presumes we have a dual citizenship. We belong both to earth and to heaven. We could say that the one – heaven – is our beginning and our end. The other – earth – is where we find our way. We have dual citizenship. Today’s Gospel lesson is an alert to 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 – to what we give ultimate worth – will have the highest claim on our life and our attentions. What we treasure the most we worship.

Jesus is not being a killjoy. He is certainly not telling us not to treasure earthly life. Jesus is certainly not telling us not to enjoy earthly life with it many beauties, and wonders, and opportunities. Nor is he warning us not to invest in life. Invest in life!  Absolutely! Jesus was passionate about our living life abundantly on this earth.[i]Jesus’ point is about where and how we apply “treasure” to our earthly life. He commends us to invest in treasure that will last, treasure that will last into eternity.[ii]Think of yourself as a trustee of your earthly life, not an owner or possessor.  Legally, we may be called “owners” of any number of things, but I’m speaking here the language of the soul. We are trustees of life, which is temporarily entrusted to us.

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, whatever. Sooner or later you will probably need to do some estate planning with your lawyer, and inventorying with your family and friends. But alongside these “durable goods,” do an inventory from your soul’s perspective: how it is you hold the intangible elements of your life: your reputation and stature, your abilities, your titles, your attributes of mind and body, your relationships. Acknowledge and cherish their importance, be deeply grateful for them… and simultaneously remember they will all die with you, and most likely diminish before you die.

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 entrusted you with them, temporarily. In the ancient vocabulary of the church, this is called “an oblation,” living your life as an offering, and 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 might be too archaic a word for you to use.  If so, find another word, another phrase that allows you to live life abundantly on earth, and on speaking terms with life in heaven. The phrase I’ve latched onto is “living my life with nothing to lose.” You cannot lose what you have already given up. Live your life with nothing to lose. Do this. Find the language, find the prayer and practice, that enables you to treasure the fullness of life: life for now and life to come. Live your life wholeheartedly. As Jesus says, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

[i]John 10:10. 

[ii]“…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” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 382).

[iii]“Oblation,” from the Latin oblation: an offering, presenting, gift.  he prayer, as we set the altar for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is: “Let us with gladness present the offerings and oblations of our life and labor to the Lord” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 377).

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  1. Terri L. Young on September 12, 2023 at 18:17

    As a single parent in interim ministry, (long, long ago and far away), I struggled for years to “have enough”. By nature, I tend to asceticism but no asceticism will buy back to school clothes, pay the rent, etc. As I said, long ago and far away.
    Ester de Wahl helped me with this decades ago: “It’s not the giving up but the giving over that matters.” We’ve all known selfish people who are both either rich or poor. The rest of your sermon, Br. Curtis, expands this giving over prayer. But giving up for women or anyone struggling to make ends meet seems jarring.
    Thank you for your insightful, prayerful creativity. Truly nurturing.

  2. Bev Deprey on July 29, 2020 at 14:43

    Don’t remember – was it Richard Rohr who called it – “Die before you die”.
    But easier said than done !

    • Charles Seifert on August 30, 2023 at 06:34

      In preparation to be admitted to the Fellowship of St. John the Evangelist, I am shedding my home of furniture and of clothing not worn anymore. As some of these items are given away to the poor and needy, the joy of the Lord Jesus is flooding my heart. When a believer gives something that is precious to a person in need it is a blessing to witness their gratefulness.

  3. Rhode on July 29, 2020 at 12:50

    We were 4500 miles away from our home, isolated in a tiny apt. and planes cancelled when the C-virus news hit. For a few days I truly mourned my life, the stuff accumulated, the people and family I might never see and touch again and thought, whoa, this is it – the end. Am I ready? I thought I was. Over the next few days I had long conversations with God into the early morning hours. Finally, it dawned. This is, after all, what my end will be C-virus or anything else. And, now I had the opportunity, the time to reflect & speak to the One who I had promised to live for. How much of my life glorifies God? The scale clearly tips and not in my favor. As each new day appeared, I heard in my heart – ‘this is the Day I have made – rejoice in it’, “My Grace is sufficient …” etc – What great gifts I have been given. I loved — “Live your life with nothing to lose. Do this. Find the language, find the prayer and practice, that enables you to treasure the fullness of life: life for now and life to come. Live your life wholeheartedly. As Jesus says, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Amen. Amen.

    • Rowan on July 29, 2020 at 13:08

      Rhode – thank you so much for your reflection – I will be rereading it many times.

  4. rowan on July 29, 2020 at 11:15

    I am finding it difficult to give up my attachment to having an indoor place to live, a room of my own, and access to a kitchen and bathroom. any help regarding giving up this attachment would be appreciated.

    • Carolyn on August 30, 2023 at 14:05

      Maybe you are feeling this well-founded attachment to these things you mentioned, because it has been a while since you had them? If so, maybe God instead wants you to enjoy these gifts He has now given you, and maybe in your case simply enjoy – He knows better than you what you have endured in your life and I believe is glad you can enjoy them now.

  5. Elizabeth Hardy on July 29, 2020 at 09:49

    Deceptively easy, but once commenced, so liberating! Thank you Br. Curtis. Like decluttering for the soul!
    Elizabeth Hardy+

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