Where Your Heart Is: A Caring Heart
When you read the book of Joel
You realize pretty quickly that it’s not exactly a happy story,
At least not at first.
Like much of the literature from the Hebrew Prophets
Joel is written during a time of communal stress
A locust plague or two
more than a normal helping of community angst.
We may not read Joel very often.
He’s considered a minor prophet,
Not because his words are unimportant
But because it’s a relatively short book
And so its tucked here towards the end
With the other shorter prophecies
Like Hosea and Obadiah and Nahum.
We may not read Joel very often
But this vision that Joel casts,
About half way through his prophecy
After heartache and hunger and community wide mourning
Well, this vision is the stuff of hope.
O Children of Zion
Rejoice in the Lord our God
For God has given you rain
Early rain, for your vindication
To this agrarian people decimated by insects who’ve destroyed their crop,
Joel speaks this word of hope:
The threshing floors shall be full of grain,
The vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
I will repay you for the years
The swarming locust has eaten
You shall eat in plenty…
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel…
Then afterward, I will pour out my spirit on all flesh
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams
And your young men shall see visions
Even on the male and female servants,
In those days, I will pour out my spirit…
Some of that language may be familiar to you
Even if you’ve not been flipping through the prophets
For some light bedtime reading.
According to the Acts of the Apostles,
It was this text in the second chapter of Joel
That prompted Peter to preach to the crowds on Pentecost
The very speech that some people thought
Was inspired because the people
Were filled with new wine…
Wine potent enough, apparently
To give imbibers the ability to speak
And to hear
in a multitude of foreign languages.
Pentecost…the day the church was born.
But Peter knew differently.
Peter knew the PROMISE of the Holy Spirit
The promise of the abiding, animating, healing presence of God
Moving among God’s people
That promise was for everyone
For apostles who followed Jesus up and down
the dusty roads of Palestine
For the crowds who gathered to hear Jesus
Preach on a mountain,
Or from a boat on the lake
Or on a plain.
And, eventually, for everyone,
Or, as they knew it back then
For Parthians, Medes, Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia
Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia,
Phrygia and Pamphylia
Egypt and the parts of Lybia belonging to Cyrene,
And visitors from Rome
Both Jews and proselytes
Cretans and Arabs—
For everyone, in other words,
And in their own tongue, as God enabled them to hear.
What is it about this ancient witness of Joel
That inspired Peter to connect all these dots?
–Ancient Locust Plague, a devastating onslaught
That brought the entire community to penitence
But also that brought assurance from God
That, hey, God’s got this,
And God’s not going to forget you
In fact, God’s going to send God’s spirit
So that your sons and your daughters
Old and young
servant and free
all will hear and feel and know
God’s comfort and God’s care.
–And the beginning of a new sort of community
inspired by a crucified Rabbi
who that taught about a new kingdom of God
who healed deep wounds
who told people that they mattered
who encouraged them to realize that this world
isn’t about getting as much as we can
because the things we need are so scarce
but instead that when we give and we love
we end up having more and more
of what really matters
Peter saw the Spirit moving among the people gathered on that day of Pentecost
And was reminded of what the Prophet Joel had promised:
I will pour out my spirit…
And everyone who calls out
on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Peter saw a group of people he loved
A Group of people that he knew God loved
A group of people God was asking to do some amazing, world changing things
-Things like serving widows and orphans
-Preaching welcome and the way of God
-Serving the hurt and the hurting
And Peter knew that this was his life’s work
This was his responsibility
This was what mattered
THIS was where he was all-in
THIS was what God wanted him to do
And he felt the spirit calling him out into God’s brave and mysterious future.
From the very beginning,
This church thing has been marked by drama.
But not just ANY drama.
Its not cheesy.
Its not unimaginative.
Its real. Its potent. Its wide-eyed about ourselves and our world
And it ALWAYS is about hope
Hope for our future because God is at the center of all we are doing.
We are a church, a collection of fallible, rag-tag human beings
Called together into this place for a common purpose
Because people like Peter and people like Joel
Witnessed to what this world could be
And inspired others to join them.
The Greek word for church is ek-klessia,
Which roughly means the people who are called out to DO something
To be something
the called-forth gathering.
This called out community is rooted in dreams of God’s world
Visions of a better future
That God has a place for you and for me to make a difference.
Every year, when the seasons begin to change
And some begin to plan trips to see the changing color of the trees
And we find the boxes of sweaters in our attics
And pack away some of the short sleeve polos
And the sun dresses
Around this time of year the themes of Fall begin to take shape.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner
And its long-time connection to gratitude
For the work of the summer season now complete
For the harvest gathered, feeding us for another winter.
Soon Advent will be here.
I’ve already, ALREADY, seen Christmas trees and red boxes
At area stores.
Every year we stake stock of Church too.
We ask what it is we’re doing here. Why we care.
What our future is together.
What our obligations are to each other.
Sometimes we call this time stewardship:
Caring for our community and its vision
Through pledging our care and our gifts and our dedication.
Sometimes we call this time mission season
Where we remind each other of our core values and our deep commitments
And cast a vision for where we want to go in the coming year.
However you want to frame it,
We remind ourselves that because God is at the heart of all we do
That we, each on of us, Belong
And that we belong to something bigger than ourselves
Something that both challenges us to do more and to be more
Than we ever imagined.
I was walking the other day
When my daughter spontaneously put her hand in mine.
It was a moment just like any other day.
We were off to do something that was important enough
To get us all in a car and out of the house.
So we were out and in a store walking around heading to grab the next thing
When my daughter put her hand in mine.
And, I don’t know if you’ve had these moments lately
But I was surprised how powerful that was
Something unnoticed, relatively benign
We were headed across the store to grab band-aids and candy corn
And she grabbed my hand
and it was as if nothing else really mattered.
Right then, I was reminded: there is my heart.
There is my treasure.
There is how I knew what mattered.
Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.
Jesus had a way of reminding us that the people and the causes
And the ideas that matter the most to us
show up in how we live our lives.
In this reading from Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain
That Oneta read for us this morning,
Jesus tackles directly the ways we get sidetracked
With regard to our commitments, our concerns, our passions.
Jesus knows we are convinced way too easily
That we live in a world of scarcity
That life is a competition for limited resources
Which encourages us to hoard and to protect and to guard.
Worry not, Jesus preaches.
God provides, and provides for all
God knows that we worry about tomorrow
What we will eat, what we will wear
Whether we have enough saved up for kids to go to school
Or having good options in retirement for health and for places to live.
Be not afraid, says Jesus
But try to see the world as God sees it
Full and abundant and overflowing
With enough for all.
One way for us to think about what it means to be part of the church
Part of the called-out followers of Jesus
Is to try to understand our commitments.
This is what Jesus was suggesting
When he said
Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.
What are the things that matter the most to you?
What are the relationships, the people, the ideas, the values
That express your greatest treasure?
I think one of the reasons you are here
Whether you think of it this way or not
Is because you have been inspired in some way
By what God is doing among us.
That you see how THIS matters
This rag-tag collection of people called out by God
To be God’s people
To dream God’s dreams
To see God’s future and help move the world THERE.
This Kirk places its treasure in God’s hands
And because of that, we find our heart enlarging.
Its there in the love we have and nurture
In our families, and among our friends, and with our neighbors.
Its there in the time we take
To learn more about God, in our study and in our worship.
Its there in the way we care for one another
The cards or the phone calls or the casseroles
When someone gets sick
Or moves to a new house
Or loses a loved one.
Its there in the way we listen for where God’s heart breaks
And we try to respond through acts of love and kindness.
A couple weeks ago,
Several of us worked on a house for Christmas in October
Replacing broken windows and wood rot
And electrical fixtures and putting in a handrail.
Jerry and Doug will bring a minute for mission about that next week.
We sent funds to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance,
to help with hurricane and flood relief.
Over the past few months,
We’ve taken food and clothing to Grace Community Ministries
And Cherith Brook Catholic Worker downdown,
Both of which are working with impoverished and homeless Kansas Citians.
We’ve worked at Harversters, the community food bank.
We have supported Community Assistance Council,
The neighborhood relief agency that gives help with prescription medicine
And eyeglasses and various social services
As well as running the food bank down the street
At first Baptist church.
We’ve given hours and hours of time at Center Elementary school
In the class room, in the teachers lounge
Writing letters of support for third, fourth, and fifth graders
Sharing chili and desert and care packages for teaches
Seeking to make a difference in the lives of local families.
We’ve given almost 15% of our annual budget to causes outside of our walls
But more than that, we’ve been out in the world
Seeking to serve for no reason other than because we know
That it is the right thing to do, what God wants us to do
Because it is in Serving others that we see the face of God.
Right there, my friends, is where our heart is:
Where God grabs us by the hand and we know love
And we know possibility and it means the world to us.
I want to break a bit from convention
And show you a video
This is Kid President and Grover
Offering a promotion for socktober.
Socktober is a movement to remind us that one of the most needed items
For homeless shelters are clean socks.
Just your normal, everyday, white crew socks.
My friend Hugh who runs a shelter on the East Coast
Is constantly telling people who ask how they can make a real difference
To bring him socks. His guests walk a lot, with questionable shoes
And rarely do they have adequate socks.
I was thinking about this Advent
Remember, stores already have Christmas Trees out and red boxes everywhere
And about our mitten tree, which we put up every year
Gathering mittens and gloves and hats and, yes,
socks for Grace Community Ministries
and when I saw this video
my heart smiled
because I know that we are already
moved by this vision
of how we GET to participate in God’s new world
through something as simple
as providing socks to those who need them.
Watch this with me:
Where is your heart?
At this Kirk, our heart is where God’s heart is
A caring heart focused on loving others any way we can.
What joy it is to be part of a place, a home, a called out group of people like this?
When you put your treasure here, my friends, great things can happen.
Let us celebrate God’s call to us
To expand our heart
By giving to God’s kingdom
Through our energy, our passion, our commitment
So that all we do might reflect the glory of God.
Let it be so.