What is the Fundamental Orientation of Lives?
The Rev. Garfield Wu
Two day’s ago, Friday’s evening, Story of Philip’s first Go-train adventure…instead of going to Toronto, I thought to bring him to Hamilton for a short tour, we went to a stop named Aldershot, it was 9:30pm in the evening…unfortunately, we missed a train going back to Oakville, we had to wait for another 30 mins for the next , the empty platform was two of us… “Daddy, I am so scared”…I hold him tightly, told him “ Don’t be afraid”….
“Don’t be afraid.” How many times have we heard those words in our lifetime? How many times have we said this to our beloved ones? Parents whispered to Children: Don’t be afraid of: thunder, darkness, branches scraping against the window. Don’t be afraid of: striking out on the ball field, flunking the physics exam, or fail the driver’s test. When those words are spoken with love and sincerity they can be some of the most soothing words we could ever hope to hear. “Don’t be afraid, I’m here with you. You’re going to be all right. I love you. Stop worrying. Don’t be anxious.” They are wonderful words when spoken by a loved one. I’m here … “Don’t be afraid.”
Jesus says to his disciples “Do not be afraid.” Besides our parents’ voices, where have we heard those words before? In the Bible alone we hear them over fifty times from the Lord speaking to Abram in Genesis (15:1) to the book of Revelation (1:17) we hear them over and over. It seems to be one of God’s favourite things to say to us: “Do not be afraid.” In the verses right before our gospel passage this morning Jesus instructed his disciples not to worry about food or clothes; that they should consider how well God takes care of birds and flowers and grass and he tells them not to be anxious about such things but to “set [their] minds on God’s kingdom and the rest will come to them as well” (12:31). If the disciples are going to continue to follow him they have no reason to worry about the things that they need. They are not to anxious about their lives, their food, or their clothes. “Think,” he says to them, “about how well God cares for the birds and the flowers and stop your worrying. Quit spending so much of your time fussing about these things. Instead,” he says, “set your hearts on the kingdom and these other things will come along just fine.”
Then, in the gospel for today, Jesus steps it up a notch. He repeats that they don’t need to be afraid since it gives their Father great pleasure to hand over the kingdom to them. He goes on to say, “Sell what you have, give to those who need it more than you, and focus your lives on things that do not rot or wear out and can’t be stolen. That’s where you will find your treasure.”
Deep down inside of me, in my less than stellar spiritual moments, I hear a voice that says if I give what I have to those in need then I might become one of those people in need. What then? What then, Jesus … who’s going to take care of me then? “Don’t be afraid”how could I not to be afraid?
Last week, right here in church, we heard Jesus telling us the parable of the rich man who tore down his old, inadequate barns and built new ones to house his abundant crop.And this week, what Jesus is trying to tell us through his lesson today?
Last week, Jesus said pursing the treasure was a foolish behaviour, but he didn’t tell us what we should do..this week, Jesus said that where our treasure is there our hearts will be also. I believe he was talking about the fundamental orientation of our lives. What is most important to us?
(Many of you may have known my story…
When I was in my twenties..I worked hard and made my best effort to be a rich man, so-called , millionare, entrueprenuer …and I had money and lots of possesions which definitely more than enough I could used that time. …But I wasn’t happy at all….until one day
I lost everything, money, property and even my freedom.. It was harsh at the beginning, I was the one in need… but when I shook off all the burden of possessions, especially spitually …I told many people…that was one of the most happiest time in my life. …People wouldn’t believe my happiness in the cold/ruthless communist prison for years, Where was nothing related with money, treasure,freedom and power which most people could relate the happiness with…; but when I did my testimony again and again, more and more people begin to choose to believe me…
When I was in that unexpected situation and moments, I heard the voice “ Don’t be afraid” , Jesus became real to me, and I found the fundamental orientation of our lives. What is most important to me in my life.
There is a folktale about a king whose son was always sad no matter what his father did for him and no matter what good things happened to him. The king loved his son deeply and became so despondent that he vowed to do whatever was necessary to make his son happy and appreciative of all that he had. He called a meeting of his advisors and after much discussion and consultation (which got them nowhere), one of them, a very wise man, took the king aside and told him that the solution was to dress his son in the shirt of a man who was happy. If he found a truly happy man and gave this man’s shirt to his son to wear, the son would be happy forever.
The king set out on a journey to find a man who was truly happy so that he might obtain his shirt and pass alone this happiness to his son.
He entered a village and was told of a priest who was thought to be quite happy and content. The king found the priest and asked him if he would accept the position of bishop if it were given him. The priest quickly said, “Yes.” The king thanked the priest but left at once, knowing that if the priest were truly happy and content with his life, he would not have wanted for more.
He traveled to a foreign country where he met another king and asked him what made him so happy. “Why,” he said, “I have everything I could possibly want. But to tell you the truth,” he went on, “I worry all the time that someone might come and take what I’ve worked so hard for.” Again, the king saw that this was not a truly happy and content man.
Finally he came upon a poor farmer working in a modest vineyard. He was singing and had the most beautiful smile. The king greeted him and asked what made him so happy. The man replied, spreading his arms out to display the vineyard, that he had everything he could possibly want. Then the king asked if he would come to the castle where he would never want for anything the rest of his life. The man refused, saying that there was nothing in the whole world that could make him happier nor take him away from his beloved farm.
The king was thrilled for at last he had found a truly happy man, and his son would be saved. He asked the man for a favor and was told that he would give the king anything he wanted. The king then asked him for his shirt to give his son. The man opened up his jacket and the king saw that the truly happy, content man was not wearing a shirt.
What all those hard efforts the king made for? If you couldn’t find a right orientation, no matter how hard you work for, the result will be in vain..
I have another story today, there was a businessman having a vacation at a beautiful tropical island and upon seeing a fisherman unloading a modest catch of fish asked him what he was going to do the rest of the day. “I will sit with my family, talk with my children, spend time with my wife, and cook supper.”
The businessman told him that he ought to hire some men to help him.
“Why?” the fisherman asked.
“You could catch more fish,” he replied.
“But why would I want to catch more fish?”
“So that you could make more money and buy more boats.”
“But why do I need more boats?”
“So that you can have other people do your fishing for you.”
“And why would I want to have other people do my fishing for me?”
“So that you could take time off, go to some nice place like here for vacation, spend time with your wife and children … oh!”
“I’m having the life you just mentioned…”
Then businessman walked away reevaluating his own life while the fisherman took his catch to market and spent the rest of his day with his family.
Jesus said that where our treasure is there our hearts will be also. I believe he was talking about the fundamental orientation of our lives. What is most important to us? I used to repeat this saying backward. It made more sense to me: where your heart is there your treasure will be also. I thought he was saying that our money would follow our heart’s desires. Put your money where your heart is. I suppose that, too, is true. But it’s not what Jesus said. He was saying to us that the money goes toward something first and then our heart will follow. Like I mentioned before, Jesus was talking about the fundamental orientation of our lives. Have you find the fundamental orientation of yours ? “Don’t be afraid, Lord be with you!”
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, you have told us to not be afraid, to give away what we have, and rely on the Father for everything. You had to know that this would be a difficult commandment for us, especially those of us who have trusted mainly in ourselves and the money and possessions we’ve acquired through our own hard work. We sometimes find it difficult to say, “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.” Help us not to dismiss your words as naive or as a message meant for others but instead help us to see where it is that we put our treasure and where our heart follows. May we choose wisely where we put our money and our talents and our time and may these be used more and more for the sake of your kingdom where you live with the Father and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.