It’s been 10 years now since my sister and I went back to Minnesota to help mom and dad move out of their home of 30 years. What a job — going through a lifetime of things collected to try and pare down so they could move into a one bedroom apartment. My dad had dementia and it was just too much for mom to take care of him and the house on the lake that they built together. But it was also too much for mom to think about moving….so Leanne and I were on the job.
Some of you have been through this….sifting through treasures. A lifetime of treasures. Everything has a memory attached. Or is something you saved because you might need it someday. It’s so hard to let go.
Anyway…my dad was a handyman. He could build anything. Fix anything. So his garage and shop were packed with all the things he might need some time. Tools of all kinds….a trove of nuts and bolts and screws and hardware collected in dozens of jars and cans. Pieces of iron and steel and aluminum piled up in every corner. Almost all of it, honestly, old junk. And the first thing Leanne and I needed to do was clean all that stuff out, because we needed the garage space to sort everything else. So we called a scrap metal dealer. Dad was on board…or so we thought…he knew the name of the guy we should call. But when the guy came with his trailer…and we started filling it up and dad saw what was happening…it wasn’t ok at all. I’m going to need that”, he said, pulling an old saw blade out of the trailer. “And he can’t take that”, grabbing a 5 foot iron pipe. And then he started to get agitated, and told the man he’d changed his mind. He needed it all. His treasures.
My sister was able to get him to join her on a walk, and by the time they came back it was all gone, and he was fine. But letting go of his treasures….that was too much. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to let go of the things we treasure.
I’m guessing a lot of you know what I’m talking about…when you’ve tried to get rid of things you can no longer hold on to. Whether it’s T-shirts from favorite vacations or your grandmother’s dishes or all those boxes of your kids’ artwork or the thousands of photos you’ve stored in albums or on your phone. We know we need to pare down…to let go….but it’s hard. They hold a piece of our hearts that we might need someday.
Where your treasure is…there will your heart be also. We live in a time where almost all of us have stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. We’re not like the immigrants or pioneers who brought one precious treasure from home as they came to a new place. We have too much treasure. And almost all of it gets attached to memories or possibilities. That iron pipe…I’ve got a plan for that. I can’t let that go.
Jesus is talking to his disciples…to us…about treasures. About what we’re holding onto…about what we think matters. What we value. What we cling to.
And that might mean the iron pipe or grandma’s dishes. Or it might mean all my pictures…or the money in my retirement account or the nice house I live in. I really do value those things. Or it might even mean…as Jesus says…our piety. Our religious pedigree. Look how devout I am, how I worship and pray. Look how holy I am, fasting and suffering for God. We value what people think of us. That even sounds like it should be what matters, right?
But none of that has any value to God. They aren’t bad things at all….but none of it really lasts. They’re all made out of dust and can disintegrate in a moment. Reputations are destroyed overnight. Retirement accounts are wiped out in an instant by a corporation’s greed. A LIfetime of memories can be turned to ash by a fire. The truth is, everything we humans value….including our own lives and the lives of our beloved ones….can be blown away in a breath. Or by a gunshot as this grieving community knows all too well.
All the beautiful things in our life that we treasure are lovely. But every single one of them we will have to let go of someday. Including the people we love. Life is fragile and all that it holds. But what Jesus invites us to remember is that we belong to one who cannot be destroyed. We are all God’s children…beloved of God and that is our hope. God is our heavenly father….our heavenly mother — parent of us all — even when we don’t feel it or believe it. Our hope is in God…who is the source of all our treasures…all our gifts. And we receive those gifts..with gratitude. But we also need to be able to let go of them as well, and remember that our security is in God.
Jesus talks about treasures and letting go. But the other thing Jesus talks about is forgiveness. And he sounds kind of harsh here when he says that if you aren’t forgiving others….God’s not going to forgive you. But really…what Jesus is talking about is another kind of letting go.
Because our resentment and our anger and our list of wrongs is another thing we cling to don’t we? We hold on so tightly to our grudges . And when we are holding on so tightly to all the things others have done wrong to us….it’s hard for us to receive God’s love and forgiveness God’s forgiveness is endless and expansive beyond what we can fathom, but we’ll never experience it if we’re clinging to our hurt and resentment, our disappointment and judgment. We cling to the way things should be…to how others should act…and can’t let go. We nurture our resentments …and pull them back after we give them to God…thinking “you know…I might need that someday”.
Today, it’s all about letting go.
God lets go of everything in Jesus. God let go of everything. Paul says in Philippians that Christ emptied himself when he took human form and was even willing to die at our hands, executed on a cross. He didn’t hang on to anything he was owed….he didn’t hang on to the authority and power and privilege that was rightly his. He let go of it all. There is nothing God is clinging to…no scores to settle…everything is offered freely for us.
God invites us to do the same. To let go of everything we are clinging to — of all those things we think matter…all those things we expected and hoped for from life…from people…from God. All the things we’re sure we might need someday. All the things we’re sure we can’t live without. To open up our clenched fists and realize we don’t need to hang on. Because God’s got it.
So….what treasures are hard for you to let go of today? What expectations? What resentments? What stuff are you clinging to? What scrap metal is weighing you down and filling you with anxiety?
Open your fists. And let go of your iron grip. Trusting that everything that slips from our hands is held in God. We are held by God. And nothing can take away that security. We can give everything… everyone …to God. God can be trusted. Because God is good. All the time. All the time. God is Good.
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