Treasure in Heaven

Bidbro church

Bidborough St Lawrence – Matthew 6:19-24

After Hilary and I were married here, 46 years ago, our first home was an old terraced house in Newcastle.  It was in an area where, if you left your home for any time, you needed to make sure it was secure from burglars breaking in.  It had basement windows, and on one occasion when we went away, I used strong boards over them and bolted them up through to the inside, and secured the doors pretty well.  But when we came home, we found that burglars had chiselled out the bricks from under the stairs up to the back door, and there was a neat hole through the brickwork.  It was not that we had many valuables in the house anyway, but it served to remind us that treasure on earth should not be too important to us – and to work out what our treasure actually is.

Here in Bidborough, quite a number of people work for a bank, or used to and a bank pays their pension.  Banks are usually a good place to put our money, but of course they can fail, as did Northern Rock, a bank where once we had a mortgage, fortunately paying it off before the bank failed.  Jesus warns us not to put that which is most valuable to us as money in a bank, or property, but to work out what our treasure really is, and to put it safely, in Heaven.

But then the question needs to be asked: “where is Heaven?”  Next Sunday’s Bible readings include the Lord’s Prayer, and there Jesus tells us that when we pray to God, we should ask: “Your Kingdom come on earth, as it is in Heaven.”  God’s Kingdom and Heaven are closely related.

The Bible tells us that we are created for relationship.  Relationship with God – receiving His Love, although we do not deserve it – and then giving love to Him, through relationship with others – family, neighbours, remembering the parable that Jesus told of the Good Samaritan, where the most hated person becomes our neighbour.

The story has often been told here, of how St Lawrence was a deacon in the  church in Rome in 258 AD,  and he had the job of distributing money given to the church, to the poorest people in Rome.  When the Roman emperor Valerian wanted the church’s money, he called Lawrence in to hand over the money.  Lawrence asked for three days in which to gather the riches of the church together, and then gave the money to the beggars from the streets of Rome, and took them to the emperor saying: “Here is the church’s treasure.”

As Christians, disciples of Jesus, our treasure is in relationship – with God and then with those He has given us to be in relationship with.  In the 10 Commandments God gave us through Moses, marriage and parenting come second after our relationship with God.  Not everyone is married of course, Jesus wasn’t, Paul wasn’t, but the relationship we have with each other when we put first our relationship with Go – that is what should be most important to us.  “Let the children come to me” said Jesus, and the blind and the lame, and the beggars – the poor of our world, who God loves every bit as much as he loves each of us.  One day, we will be called to account, (like St Lawrence was) as to where our treasure is.

In 1984, 34 years ago, David Jenkins, a liberal theology professor from Leeds University became Bishop of Durham – he did not believe in the virgin birth and spoke about Jesus’ resurrection in a way that made many believe he was denying that Jesus ever rose from the dead.  I was then vicar and rural dean in a coal-mining area near Durham, and was on record as saying as the first story in BBC national news one day, that David Jenkins’ being made a bishop should be delayed until he had explained himself more clearly.  I lasted three more years before leaving Durham diocese – on one occasion he came to speak to my deanery synod, when he said something I really did like:  “When we get to heaven, we will need eternity to talk with everyone in heaven to find out how they had experienced God’s love while on earth.”

That makes good sense to me.  We will need a very long time, to talk with Old Testament characters, the famous ones and the quiet ones, New Testament characters, and all those through history, in far-off places and cultures very different from our own.  Billions of people, presumably angels too.  Surely, we will need eternity to hear about how God had directed their lives, and been to them shepherd, saviour and king, how they had expressed in their lives on earth, their relationship with Him, their devotion to Him (v24 of Matthew 6), and how that had worked out through their relationship with others.

So when we read about, hear from the human Jesus 2,000 years ago talking about heaven, we need to listen.  When He tells us to “lay up our treasure in heaven….”  What did he mean by that?  Surely, to work at the relationships He has given us, now, to try to make sure that – as far as possible – they are grounded in His love for us.  “Be my witnesses…” said Jesus.  He should be at the heart of all our relationships.  And so we bring Heaven to earth, and become the answer to our prayer: “Your Kingdom come on earth as in Heaven.”.

Did you know, that one day, God will judge you, “according to what you have done?”  St John, in Chapter 20 of the last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation,   writes:  11) Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.  12)  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.

God – outside our little world of time and space – in the same way that a painter stands outside his painting, adding a detail here and there with all the time in his or her world, focusing on the moment being fixed on the canvas – the God who created us, loved us enough to die for us, on whose hand is written our unique name – that God knows us far more than twitter, google, facebook or any other social media.  Whatever clever algorithms different social media use to learn all about us, God knows us far better and in greater detail.

So: where are you banking your treasure?  I hope it is in relationships that are grounded in the relationship that you have with God in Christ.  (“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”)  Then, you will be beginning to answer the prayer: “Your Kingdom come on earth.”  Then you will be building the foundation for all those conversations that in eternity, you will enjoy with the friends of God from every age and culture.

Read Psalm 84, preferably with others.  While the psalm describes the temple in Jerusalem, it is surely also a metaphor for humanity being in relationship together, reflecting the first and most important relationship on offer, between ourselves and God.  (v6 – a dry valley, v10 – wicked = those who put themselves before God.)

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka (the dry valley), they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty; listen to me, God of Jacob.
Look on our shield, O God; look with favour on your anointed one.

10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;  I would rather be a              doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favou r and honour;
no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

12 Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.



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