- The Washington Times - Monday, September 3, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon by the Rev. Betty Lancaster-Short at Whosoever Will Christian Church in Beltsville.

Where is your treasure this morning? Your treasure is where your heart is.
That is the theme of Jesus today [Matthew 6:16-23], but we can expand it to think also about God's treasures. Think of that biblical theme of the potter, and how God takes us as clay, shapes us and fires us in the kiln. We turn out to be beautiful and precious objects. Jesus wants to fire us up to become spiritually precious, even as clay pots.
I Peter 1:16 tells us what it means to be a spiritual treasure of God's, even as mere pottery. "You shall be holy, for I am holy." This is a message that saves us from being discouraged. There is only one way we can be holy, and that is to empty ourselves of selfishness and assume selflessness.
What we read in II Corinthians 4:1 is also meant to help us so that "we do not lose heart." It says: "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed." So we have our treasures. But God also has His treasure in us, even in our limitations. Isn't it amazing that God chose to empty Himself and give Himself to us in Christ. Because we are so precious to Him, He came to us so that we "might have eternal life."
God in His mercy has given us His work to do so that we do not become discouraged. This is the God Who said, "Out of darkness, the light shall shine." This is the same God Who made His light shine in our hearts to bring us to the knowledge of God's glory.
Now, the church calendar makes hospitality the theme today, and this is part of being God's treasure. It is about our being grateful. When Mary was before Jesus, she opened her alabaster box and gave Him everything out of thankfulness. Judas didn't like it, but she gave her all to Jesus. When we seek to lose our lives for His sake, we shall find it.
You have received. Now you must give. The heart has always stood for the center of our psychological being. In Hebrew culture there was no sharp distinction between this spiritual and physical organ. We can give an organ for transplant, can't we? But if we give all the treasure of our heart, it is even more than that.
The Bible is calling today for you to give your heart, to give your heart to Him. He promises that you will continue to breathe, and your heart palpitation will carry on. But most important, the heart is the seat of our contact with God. Nobody else can touch that place. The heart determines whether we do our own thing, or do God's thing.
Matthew 6 is about our tendency to seek only after earthly things. It's the same for all, whether we are from Africa, from Bosnia or Bolivia. We decide what our treasure will be. Our ministry here has required sacrifices, for we are making the choice for God's treasures. Sadly, today we no longer see those hospitable times that Jesus spoke of. Times when you invited in strangers to wash their feet. In the olden days, believers had a room for the prophet if he should come. Now we lock our doors against the world.
Again, where is our treasure today? Is it in God and in hospitality, or is it in the stock market, or on the computer? Is it in pornography or at the disco? The same goes for our churches. Are our hearts on entertainment, on Hollywood and the Apollo Theater, or on true worship? Can we respond to the people's needs, or are we cut off by big buildings with stained-glass windows and endless answering services?
We must pass these treasures to our children. They can grow with their hearts on the right things. We want to do it God's way. In the proper translation, God is saying to us, "Be holy, because I am holy." That is not impossible. We are not destined to perfect happiness or health, but we are destined for holiness. He wants to be pre-eminent in our lives; He wants to be where our heart is.

Next week: a sermon at a Virginia congregation.

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