Stewardship Series 2006
All Saints’ Day
Revelation 21:9-11; Revelation 21:22-27; Revelation 22:1-5
"The Riches of Heaven"
[Though fascinated by earthly treasures, we get a glimpse of the greater treasures to come in the Heavenly Jerusalem. There, the greatest treasure is to dwell with God in Christ. Even now, we have that treasure! ]
John’s many visions that compose the book of Revelation drive the imagination wild. We can picture the heavenly throne room, the great sea of glass, the angels upon angels singing his praises. We can see the four horsemen and their plagues, or the Dragon being chained and cast into the Abyss. What Jesus revealed to John must have been quite a collection of sights.
But perhaps the most spectacular vision John saw is recorded in our reading from Revelation 21 and 22. It is the picture of the church in glory – the holy city of Jerusalem – the bride of Christ – decked out for the great celebration at the bridegroom’s return. Adorned with precious jewels, streets paved with gold, and bright and shining with the very glory of God himself. What a vision that must have been.
We humans like bright and shiny things. A brand new car – with that unique “new car smell”. A fancy techno-gadget, cutting-edge, state-of-the-art. A giant Plasma wall-mount TV with a gazillion channels. Diamonds are girl’s best friend, don’t you know, and what engagement is complete without a nice-sized “rock”? Then there’s the anniversaries, birthdays, valentines… Jewelry is always a good option. Shiny things. Valuable things. Treasures.
Yes, it’s November, and that means it’s time for another stewardship emphasis. Today and next Sunday, we will consider the appointed readings in light of the principles of Christian stewardship. But don’t worry, we’ll talk about more than just money.
Still, let’s start out with our Stewardship reminder that everything we have – from our bodies and souls, to our health, family, to all of our material things, and yes, our money – everything is a gift from God, and belongs, ultimately to him. We are just the managers.
That doesn’t stop us from thinking all this “stuff” is ours, though. From the shiny treasures, to the mundane trappings of everyday life – sinners are selfish, and we want it all to be ours!
Who doesn’t get a tinge of jealousy when the next person is better off than we are? Why should they have more than me? I work just as hard, or harder. I’m as nice, or nicer. I go to church, I don’t beat my wife. I’m a good guy. Where’s my piece of the pie? No, I want a bigger piece!
Who would refuse a little lap of luxury here and there, after all, don’t we deserve it? A little time at the spa. An exclusive getaway. Fast cars, nice clothes, good food, some pretty things. You know, the shiny treasures of life. And the money it takes to buy them. Why shouldn’t we have nice things?
Scripture tells us why. As sinners, we are deserving of only one thing: God’s wrath. Death and punishment that are justly ours. We don’t deserve to be rich. We don’t deserve to be middle class. We don’t even really deserve to live. We are scummy sinners, unworthy of even these earthly treasures we try to surround ourselves with.
And maybe that’s part of the reason we do chase after such treasures – because we know somewhere, deep down, that we lack worth and value in ourselves. Maybe all these “things” can provide a false sense of our own worth. But no, it’s never enough. Even the super-wealthy have their sinful problems and struggles. All the world’s riches won’t come close to even making us paupers before God.
And then we read Revelation. And we see this majestic view of heaven. And that sounds like the place to be! O that we were there! Ah… but we are, AND we will be.
That vision of the Bride of Christ, the Holy City of Jerusalem is a picture of the church. In other words, that’s us! We are the ones decked out in the glory of God himself. We are the ones adorned with gold and jewels and bright shiny things. It’s both who we will be one day, and who we are now, today! But how? How can it be? How does it happen? Who has done this?
Jesus Christ. He has prepared his bride for the wedding feast. He has adorned her with glory, dressed her in the robe of his own righteousness, bought and paid for her with his own holy, precious blood, and his innocent suffering and death.
There on the filthy garbage heap called Golgatha, between two scummy criminals, on the old rugged cross of the cruel Romans – there in the dirt and muck of a darkened Friday afternoon – the greatest Treasure of all the universes gave his life as a ransom for us. He gave his life to save us from death. He suffered to spare us the suffering. He became poor to make us rich – for eternity.
Not rich with earthly riches, mind you (though some misguided Christians embrace a prosperity Gospel). Time Magazine recently ran an article, “Does God Want You to be Rich?” No. Earthly wealth or earthly poverty are quite beside the point. At the cross, Jesus wins for us all the riches of heaven – spiritual treasures which far surpass even the best this world has to offer. These are ours in Christ!
Forgiveness of all our sins. A restored relationship with God. The confidence of knowing he hears our every prayer. The joy of knowing that the sufferings of this world will end and God himself will wipe every tear from our eye. The hope of eternal life in a resurrected body like unto Christ’s own resurrected body. These are just some of the treasures of heaven – which far surpass our earthly trinkets.
But let’s get back to those. It is a Stewardship sermon, after all. Knowing what we truly deserve and don’t deserve…Knowing that we will inherit the riches of heaven, and that we enjoy them even now, how does that change our view of earthly riches?
We see them for what they are. Nice things, yes. Gifts from God. But not nearly worth what we have for free in Christ. Compared to the glory of God, the righteousness of Christ, and all other spiritual blessings, we see the shiny treasures of this world through a different lens. And we use them to his glory!
We keep our perspective. We don’t make the lesser gifts more than the greater gifts. And we use the lesser gifts properly. We prioritize differently. We give first to the Lord a portion of what he has given us, to further the work of his kingdom, and to support the distribution of his true riches to all. We give joyfully, in grateful thanksgiving for all our earthly and spiritual blessings. If we are given much, we give much. If we are given little, we give in other ways. All this we do, never perfectly, but always under his cross and strengthened daily by his spirit.
So in all our dealings with the shiny things of this world, we keep an eye on the eternal treasures, bought and paid for by the blood of Christ – graciously ours through faith in his promises.
And so, in this stewardship sermon, I simply remind you of what you already know. What we have, we don’t deserve. What we have is not ours, not our time, not our talents or treasures. Not even our own bodies. We belong to Christ. We are simply managers of all these things. And as his treasured people for whom he died, as his stewards – we manage all that he gives us, by his power, for his purposes, in grateful thanksgiving every day, with an eye on the true prize in eternity.
For he has treasured us, adorned us, and in him we shine, and will shine forever.