Building Strong and Storing Up Treasure – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

I Corinthians 3:10-14
Matthew 6:19-24

When I was in seminary – now, quite a few years ago – I took a course in preaching.  Whether or not it did me any good, I’ll let you decide.  One of the things I remember from that class was the professor’s admonition to first seek out the tone and intention of the text, and then craft a sermon that reflects that same tone and intention.  In other words, consider the author’s purpose and follow it.  If the text is written to encourage its readers, your sermon should be encouraging as well.  If the text is hopeful, your sermon should reflect that hope.  If the text is condemning of a certain attitude or behavior, you should translate that into a similar warning that modern-day hearers can hear and understand.

The two texts we have before us today seem to share a common tone or intention.  They seem to be cautioning us that our choices and our actions, our work and our personal interactions, have consequences that are long-lasting.

The first text, taken from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, uses the metaphor of building.  Paul claims he has laid a foundation, which is Jesus Christ, and that others, including us today, will be building upon that foundation.  What we say or do matters, because by our words and deeds we will be contributing to the strength of the building or detracting from it.  Paul promises that each person’s work will, at some point, be tested by fire.  If it is strong and pure, it will survive.  If not, it will go up in flames. Read More

Miracle Working Icon of the Mother of God – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester

Sirach 38: 27 – 32
Psalm 107: 1 – 9

Matthew 6: 19 – 24

I have never been much of an artist. I can’t draw very well, and in fact I describe myself as one who draws stick people badly. At least, that is the story I have told myself for most of my life, not only as an excuse, but also as a defense. If I had to draw something, I would use that as the explanation of why I didn’t put the time or effort into it.

But then something happened. I visited the sister of another member of the community one afternoon and saw on her walls framed cross-stitch samplers that she had done. In an instant I knew that I had to learn how to do that, so by the end of the afternoon she had equipped me with a needle point hoop, floss, needle, fabric and pattern and after a brief lesson, I went home. Little did I know, that that afternoon’s cross stitch lesson would be a life changing event for me. I am not being overly dramatic when I say that my life has never been the same since. Read More

The Priceless Treasure – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim WoodrumMatthew 6:19-24

If you could have one treasure in this world that would be a source of unending joy and happiness, what would it be and what means would you expend in order to obtain it?  Now if you received an e-mail from someone who said they could procure this treasure and it was yours at no expense as long as you travelled to pick it up, would you be suspicious?  Or would you drop everything and go out of your way to pick it up trusting the word of the proprietor?  Our gospel lesson this evening is a very small portion from what is commonly known as the ‘sermon on the mount.’ (1) Matthew says that Jesus’ fame was spreading throughout the region and that people were seeking him out as far away as ‘Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.’  People were suffering in body, mind, and spirit and Jesus’ words and actions were giving the hope and healing that were so desperately needed.  Due to the growing demands of his ministry it was necessary for Jesus and his disciples to withdraw from the crowds for moments of respite where they could enjoy fellowship and process all that they had experienced. Read More

Seeing with New Eyes – Br. Curtis Almquist

Matthew 6:19-24

Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

I remember as a young lad being given a wonderful gift by my parents: a telescope on a tripod.  I was maybe 12 years old, and for several years I had been fascinated by searching the sky at night to recognize stars and constellations.  I knew where to look for the Big Dipper; I could spy out the North Star and Orion; I could whisk with my eyes through the night and find the Milky Way.  The stars probably told stories about life, I thought, and I had a childlike sense, like with the Psalmist, that the heavens declared God’s glory and splendor.1 I loved what I saw at night, lying on my back on the grass of our front lawn, peering into the night sky with my hands cupped behind my head.  And so the gift of a telescope was so exciting.  It was also a huge disappointment.  Read More

A Christian’s Relationship to Wealth – Br. David Vryhof

Matthew 6:19-24

Over the past few days I have been re-reading Brian McLaren’s book, Everything Must Change.1 McLaren tells us that, for the past several decades, he has been wrestling with two important questions:

The first question is, “What are the biggest problems in the world?” by which he means, [What are the] “problems that cause the most suffering in the present, that pose the greatest threat to our future, …[and] that lie at the root of what’s wrong with the world.” (p.11) He speaks, among other things, of the challenges of global poverty, environmental destruction, and the increasing level of, and potential for, violence in today’s world.

The second question he asks is, “What does Jesus have to say about these global problems?” As a “follower of God in the way of Jesus,” McLaren insists that Jesus’ words and actions have much to teach us about how we should live in a world facing such enormous problems as these.

There could hardly be a better place to look for answers to McLaren’s question than in the Sermon on the Mount, a section of which we have just read.  Read More