Let’s sell.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”

Three psychiatric patients are eager to be released from the hospital, but the doctor has to examine their judgment skills. One by one he takes them to the edge of an empty swimming pool and tells them they must chose to jump or not. Take the risk or don’t. It is obvious the pool has no water, but they must choose.

The first patient looks at the pool and jumps in without hesitation, hurting his ankle. The doctor tells him, “You failed the examination, and must stay another year.” The patient left sad. The second patient also jumps in and hurts his shoulder. The doctor says, “Sir, you failed the exam and must stay another year.” This patient also leaves sad and discouraged. The third patient walks up to the pool’s edge, thinks for a while, shakes his head and says, “No way!” The doctor was happy and said, “Sir, you have good judgment and you are released from the hospital.” The patient jumped for joy. Then the doctor asked the happy patient, “What made you decide not to jump into the pool?” The patient answered, “Oh, that’s easy. I don’t know how to swim!”

We all believe we have great judgment and know how to prioritize. We say things like, “My family is really important.” Yet, statistics reveal that people spend very little time on family. We might say, “Our health is really important.” Yet few commit to exercise or even eat right. More than half of all American are obese. We say we are not materialistic, yet three-quarters of Americans are in debt to credit cards alone, not counting car and house loans.

Is God important to us? “Yes! 95% of Americans in the U.S. say, “God is important to me.” Yet only 9% of Americans attend church, and only 2% are involved in any ministry.

Look, it is not about our bad choices or our sinfulness. We jump into empty pools and we injure ourselves. Christ didn’t die for us because we were perfect or committed. He didn’t wait for us to get our act sorted out; to be righteous. Rather, He searched for us, He gave His all for us. There’s no room for thinking ‘what I sell or give up will make Him love me more.’ What does give us glory is to love God, to follow His call, and to do it now, to be all in for the kingdom today, every day.

You have heard
it said.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life”

As we discussed over the past two weeks, this Pre-Lenten season’s readings are taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ teaching takes the Commandments of God and instruct us in the way we are to understand and live them. Jesus commandments, His way, His fulfillment of the old Law, His right interpretation is for us, so we can truly live.

We have been reminded, in this season of preparation, that we are to turn and focus on living in the way Jesus defines. This great opportunity moves us not just into unity with life as God designed, for unity with that way of life is not enough. Rather, we are called to dive headlong into the fulness of God’s way.

At the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus demands more of us than His words alone describe. He calls us to complete integrity of life. If we live His call to integrity, the reward is great. The reward is fullness of relationship and inheritance. It is a joy without compare or equal. However, if we do not surrender to Jesus’ way, if we are not all-in, the caution is, we grow ridgid and cold. Sin creeps in and puts the frost on. The cold goes deeper and deeper and we lose touch with God and with our very selves.

This season of preparation, with only today plus two more days to go, has been a wakeup call. In the Orthodox Churches the Sundays before Lent are days of clean out. The home is cleansed of earthly things like meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. This clean out symbolizes the call to detachment from distraction, from the things that may hold us back from jumping in headfirst.

Hearing Jesus’ words today remind us of this necessary detachment.

Jumping in headfirst requires an act of faith and trust, complete trust in God. It requires trust that says nothing we have, nothing we desire or value outside of God, is of any consequence. They are things here today, gone tomorrow. Seemingly beautiful in the now but only fuel for the fire, or the dumpster, or the landfill tomorrow.

Faith and trust in God, in His word: “do not worry about your life,” is a surrender. As we enter into the Great and Holy Lent this Wednesday let us recognize that proclamation is not enough, worship is not enough, setting aside food, and place, and wealth for a time not enough. Rather, we are to value God above all, setting aside what the world says for what Jesus says, and surrendering fully.

All
in.

A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Before I begin discussion of today’s readings and Gospel, I am going to clue you in on next week; give you a preview of what is to come. It is, in fact, about what is to come: “And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory”

The widow in today’s Gospel had all that in mind. She knew it before Jesus even said it. It was written on her heart. The end will come. God will gather His elect. Where will I stand? She decided to stand with God’s warriors; with those who were, and are today, all in.

Many gloss over today’s gospel as a lesson in generosity, about giving to the church. There is that lesson which is pretty easy to grasp. As Christians however, we are asked to look beyond mere appearance, outward signs, to what lies beneath. In the Gospel according to St. John, Jesus tells us: “Stop judging by outward appearances, and start judging justly.” Jesus wants us to get at deeper truth, the full impact of His Good News.

Going deeper into the Word of God calls us to go deeper into His life giving way. We are called to do as the widow did, to throw it all in, to say – nothing is more valuable than God’s way, to walk with Him in complete faith and confidence.

Oh, how we long for miracles. Our hearts desire healing, safety, the good of children and family, long life, financial freedom, love, comfort, security, and so much else. Yet, when we are called to be fierce warriors for God, to proclaim His name, to gather souls, to stand for God’s truth and justice over opinion and politics… Do we throw it all in? Do we go all the way? Do we believe in His miracles? Do we trust?

These are hard choices. It is a choice one poor widow made in the Temple, a choice another poor widow made in giving the last of her water, oil, and flour to an unknown holy man. They went all in in the presence of the Holy. That is the deeper truth, recognizing God’s ask and doing it. We are called to that kind of faith and courage – to all-in warrior status for God.

I want to
join.

The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body; God raised the Lord and will also raise us by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with Him.

St. Paul teaches a beautiful reality today. As members of the Church, we are no longer alone or apart. We are joined to Jesus.

This is not a joining like a membership in a club or with our local automobile association. Those things are optional. If we have a club membership, we can go and partake in club activities if we feel like it. We can adjust our club participation to suit our needs. If we joined the local AAA or other automobile association, we can call them if we need them or are in trouble. We might even take advantage of club discounts if we think of it. Otherwise we can simply ignore the association; file our membership in the back of our minds. But, if we have joined ourselves to Jesus we no longer have options. We have to be all-in.

Paul points out that being part of Jesus is about being all-in. We are intimately joined to Him. What He has, will be ours. Who He is, we will become. His inheritance is our inheritance. If we are one with Him.

The Christian community – made up of each of us – is called to a new way of life; Christian living must show our membership in Jesus in ways that others can imitate. We must be so attractive, so Jesus like – love filled, gracious, peaceable, service oriented, sacrificing, and dedicated – that those who are seeking Jesus find Him. That those who are our fellow disciples grow deeper in their union with Jesus. All because of us.

We are called to completely orient our lives in a way that is in communion with Christ. This means we must make a giant change. We have to fully understand that our lives are not ours. Our bodies, minds, souls, desires, wishes, present and future do not belong to us – they belong to Jesus. We have to give up on ourselves to fully live our union with Jesus – our membership in Him.

This joining is not easy, nor does it happen overnight. If it did, every baptism would result in perfect Jesus-like people. Rather, our membership in Jesus is a process of becoming – and Paul is reminding us of what we must become to really be part of Jesus.

We hear of those who decided to walk with Jesus – they said, ‘I want to join.’ They walked with Him, listened to Him, prayed with Him – lived at His side yet still had to grow in their membership. That should give us courage.

To be really complete and all-in we must seek the Holy Spirit’s help and reach for the fully aligned life. With the Spirit’s help, we become, grow, draw others to Jesus and share in glory.

Investing it
all.

Have in you the same attitude
that is also in Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied himself

Pretty much everyone knows who Warren Buffet is. He is the billionaire investor with the golden touch. He has been quoted many times, and certainly people seek his advice. Mr. Buffet, how do I succeed? One of his oft quoted rules is: “Rule No. 1: Never lose money. Rule No. 2: Never forget rule No.1.” Another of his rules is to focus on achieving high returns (making a lot of money) with very little risk. Avoid risk to get rich.

We have also heard anecdotes about that person who invested his or her last few dollars and because of making a good choice, or by being incredibly lucky, they became rich.

That is two ends of the spectrum. In one case, the rich get richer by conservatism, being very careful, minimizing risk. In the other case, we have those with little to nothing putting it all in and finding success.

St. Paul presents us with something completely different today. In the revelation He received, Paul was overcome by the awesomeness of what God did. God, who had it all, all power, all eternity, Who wants for nothing, invested it all. He gave it all away – for us.

Paul asks us to be of the same mind as Jesus. He asks us to put our whole selves in. To invest ourselves in the life of Christ – community and worship.

Paul goes on to give us the greatest Christological hymn ever written. He illustrates for us: This is who Jesus is, This is what Jesus is all about. Paul shows us, in this hymn, that Jesus literally stripped Himself down to nothingness in order to take on our humanity. He ended up stripped, on a cross, in abject poverty, having lost everything and to the point of despair feeling utterly abandoned by His Father. He dies this way to save us and because of this sacrifice, His name is to be adored.

Indeed, God invested it all, His whole being, for us. Paul then says: Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.

This is the essence of the Christian life. It calls us to invest fully. Like Jesus’ discussion today, it is not where we are, what we have done, where we have come from – but whether we believe, whether we put our all on the line.

When we invest it all in God – offering Him our faith, our daily lives, our dedication to His way, and our worship and dedication to the communal life, we grow truly rich. we preserve our lives for everlasting joy and really live.