What is your mom’s favorite hymn?  Ask her sometime.  My mom went to be with Jesus 13 years ago.  But I think I know what her favorite song was by how often she played it on our record player (some of you children probably have never seen a record player).  The song was “In the Garden.”  The refrain goes like this: And He walks with me, and He talks with me.  And He tells me I am His Own.  And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.  This song was written in 1913, but if it had been around in the days of the Apostles, I think would have liked it too.   
 
In our Gospel reading earlier Jesus had just told them that He wouldn’t be physically walking with them much longer.  And it’s not like He didn’t care about them.  He would still be with them, because He is God, and God is everywhere. Also, from heaven Jesus would be directing their lives and hearing their prayers.  And whenever they had any doubts or weaknesses, He wouldn’t give up on them, but He would forgive them and continue ruling in all things for their good.  And all this He would do, because of the sacrifice He was about to make for them on the cross.    
 
It’s good to know how much Jesus cares about us.  It sets our minds at ease, which is why we long for those little reassurances that He is with us, and He gives us those reassurances through His Word and by our Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  But now, it isn’t enough for Jesus to just set our minds at ease.  He wants to so lift us up, so that we will be doing things that are even more wonderful than His miracles. We have begun a stewardship education emphasis called Giving Thanks 2017.  This morning I’d like to focus on two words: Grace and Treasures.  God’s grace in our lives gives eternal treasures!   
 
Paul writes in Ephesians. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9   You are saved!  You have eternal salvation, not because of what you’ve done, but because of what Christ did for you.  May God give us rich measure of His Spirit, so that we see the contrast between what we deserve and the salvation He’s giving us.  That contrast, that gap, is as far as the East is from the West, or as high as the heavens are above the earth, or from one blood stained hand to the other.   
 
Because God’s grace gives us eternal salvation, His grace motivates us to want to tell others, because that’s the way He created us.  When He blesses, we fill up with joy, and we can’t keep that joy to ourselves.  For example think how hard it is to have to wait before you can tell others that another child or another grandchild is on the way.  Not letting our joy out is like holding your breath.  You can only hold it for so long.  But it’s for the very reason that God in His grace gives us opportunities to let out our joy.  Reading on in Ephesians: For we are God’ handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10    
 
Let this soak in for a moment.  By grace God planned in eternity the things He would let us accomplish.  And so, God is constantly training us, equipping us, and putting needs or opportunities in front of us.  And then as we strive to meet those needs and opportunities, He is walking with us to guide and bless.  In other words, regardless of our situation in life, God wants us to know the joy of giving generously.   
 
Now, in saying that, I’m not speaking against having nice things that are fun for a time or make our lives a little easier.  But just as we might compare what we deserve with what God gives us, let’s compare the durability of earthly treasures with eternal treasures.  There is no comparison!  You buy the best, and it still breaks.  Nor does it satisfy all that long.  In fact whatever we might buy is like owning a boat.  You’ve maybe heard the saying: A boat owner’s two happiest days are day he buys his boat and the day he sells it.   
 
But now there is a treasure we can buy, which we can never lose or tire of.  It’s not salvation, that’s already ours by grace.  The treasure we can buy is salvation for others, as we spend, or I should say as we invest to bring the Gospel to many more.  And then God works through the good works He prepared in advance for us to do to bring specific people to faith.  
 
Now, some might say, “I don’t see God using me for that.”  Sometimes that might be, because He’s still training and equipping us.  Sometimes that might be because, we won’t see all the results, until we’re in heaven too.  But sometimes we’re not seeing how God is working through us, because we’re mostly still just working for earthly things.  That doesn’t make sense.  God’s grace teaches us that he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.  
 
And now here’s what does make sense.  Jesus tells us in a little parable: The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. – Matthew 13:44  If you accidentally found out that there was a gold mine, underneath a piece of land that no one else knew about, would it be smart or foolish to sell everything you had so you could buy that land?  The point of the parable is that we singleness of purpose, not for gold, but for the salvation of souls!   
 
In another place Jesus also said: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.   But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.   For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21   
 
Is what Jesus saying here making sense to you?  Sometimes people will say, “God gave us a brain, we should use it.”  Well, let’s do that then!  Since earthly things don’t last, isn’t just plain foolish to be storing up earthly treasure at the expense of eternal treasure?  On the other hand, since eternal treasures are eternal, God wants us and God enables us to use our heads to act with enlightened self-interest.  Or, to put it another way, when we spend our lives for earthly treasures, we hurt ourselves.  But when we spend our lives for eternal treasure we are blessed.  But let me emphasize again, what is this treasure in heaven?  It’s the people God used us to bring to heaven.  Again Jesus says: I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. – Luke 16:9
 
When Jesus comes again to make all things new again, what are we going to see?  And what will be our greatest joy? The flowers?  Birds singing?  Animals to pet and play with provided those things are on the new earth He will create for us.  We’ll have to wait and see.  But of all our joys, the greatest will be seeing the people whom we brought with us.  Now, we get a little foretaste of that joy when we see someone’s faith beginning to take off, and we had a part in it.  Pastors feel that joy when they teach a Bible Information Class or preach a sermon, or counsel someone.  Teachers feel that joy when they see a student’s attitude change and he’s showing concern for other students, even when he doesn’t know his teacher is watching.  Parents also feel that joy seeing the way their child soaks up a Bible story, says his prayers, or sings, “I am Jesus Little Lamb.”  But even when we aren’t experiencing these joys first hand for now, we will experience those joys fully in heaven, because the support we give for pastors and teachers, and for the training they in turn give to families and children, all of it goes on our account, and is part of the work God planned in advance for us to do.   
 
What grace!  God’s grace gives us heaven!  In response to God’s grace: We invest what we cannot keep for kingdom work.  Then God’s grace gives us treasure in heaven – people – which we cannot loose.  This leads us to A grace truth to ponder: You can’t take it with you but you can send it on ahead!  This is the work Jesus mentioned earlier that’s even greater than His miracles.  Do you agree with that?  If you’re not sure, God invites us to test Him on this.  If we do, we will find that God grace keeps on giving in response to our giving!  And what will God give in response?  More JOY!  Amen

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