About ten years ago, there was a movie released which was entitled “ Up in The Air “. The movie starred George Clooney playing this corporate human resources contractor who was hired by companies to go and fire employees that they didn’t want to fire themselves. The film was controversial because it had real people describe in their own words the feelings that they had about being fired. The protagonist character is also a bit comical because we lean in the film that his goal is to achieve Million-mile frequent flyer club status, as the character says:
“ It’s all about the miles “
I have to chuckle because I too have been good about accumulating travel vouchers from the airlines. I recently received one on my return flight to San Antonio, TX from Portland, Or. I had to camp out for a few hours at the Bob Hope USO at Los Angeles International Airport ( LAX ), wait for my rescheduled connecting flight. I got home really late and was tired the next day at work, but I got my voucher.
People will tell you that they value different things. Some people collect old coins, stamps, maybe baseball cards. Others will collect antiques, maybe old cars, maybe art. I knew someone once who collected old cookie jars. This person collected hundred of these jars and was able to liquidate the collection and they bought a car. People will ascribe to things that are of value to them, that which they would describe as their “treasure. “
For a lot of people, when asked what they value and what they treasure, it might be what they do for a living, their job, their career. What is unsettling, and this happens to a lot of men and women, is when your career suddenly ends.
I know, it happened to me. In 1988, I was serving as a Navy Chaplain representing The United Church of Christ. I was a Lieutenant with three years of active duty service as a Navy Chaplain Corps Officer. I went before a Navy continuation board and just like that, from a group of people invisible and sequestered in a “tank” selection board room ,I found out that I wasn’t going to be continued on active duty. My career as I knew it was over. My treasure was gone.
After a few months trying to fight and rebut this decision, I made the choice to go back to graduate school and become a Social Worker. I had to look for meaning and value elsewhere.
During this turbulent time, the people who supported me the most were my wife and family. There wasn’t hardly any support from the Chaplains or necessarily other clergy, but it was the Nurses and other folks I knew.
Funny when that happens, because the very people who you thought were a part of your herd turn out not to be; while others who you would not look to becomes your advocates.
Where do you find your treasure ? I learned during my time of crisis, that my treasure didn’t necessarily reside in my work, but rather more wealth was to be found and cherished through the support of family and friends. That was a revelation to me. I learned to admire the Rear Admiral, who after retirement, drove off in an unassuming station wagon. This particular Admiral was a real people person. He provided comfort and encouragement to those who needed it. I found this type of mentor far more satisfying than the mid to senior level Chaplain, who was bust back-stabbing their way to the top, and then gliding away in their luxury car.
Again, and again, we see evidence where hubris will trip people up.
Moses encounters this with the people of Israel who are out in the desert ( Exodus 32:7 ). He describes them as being corrupt and conjuring up idols to which they can worship.
However, Moses becomes concerned when God voices the following:
“ Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then, I will make you into a great nation. “ ( Exodus 32: 9-10 ).
Moses doesn’t take the bait. Instead, marking an incident that is unique to scripture, Moses argues a legal defense to God worthy of Scott Turow.
“ Why should the Egyptians say. It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth ( Exodus 32:12 ).
What is noteworthy here is that Moses’s legal is effective as we read:
“ Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster that he had threatened ( Exodus 32:14) .
Apparently, God can choose to do otherwise, vengeance is not the only default. What they say about forgiveness is true, “ I’m doing it not to help you-the offender, but I’m doing it to help me-the offended. “
Jesus was ever mindful of this when he was dealing with the religious authorities. They would describe him as:
“ This man welcomes sinners and eats with them ! ( Luke 15:2 )
The expectation of any favor with the rich and powerful is not being followed here.
In the movie, “ The Graduate “ Benjamin doesn’t heed the voice of the family friend who says: “ remember one word, plastics ! “ , neither does he heed the siren call of Mrs., Robinson; rather he grabs his beloved, who is at the altar to be married to another, and he runs off with her, riding together in the back of a school bus not knowing what the future will bring.
Jesus tells these parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. Jesus describes the shepherd who goes off to search and find the one lost sheep. He also describes the woman who lights a lamp, sweeps her house and carefully searches and retrieves the lost coin.
Of course, the writer of Luke’s Gospel uses these two parables as a prelude to the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-31). The parable of the Prodigal Son has been described as the Gospel within the Gospel for it talks about reclaiming the psyche and spirit of someone who has lost their way in life.
The writer of Luke’s Gospel talks about finding one’s treasure as being more than lost animals, or lost money; the real wealth is being able to recapture and restore the lives of lost people.
I have trained probably, at least, 14-15 Social Workers that I met while they were graduate students at the University of Texas At San Antonio. Now, these Social Workers are staff members in several federal agencies. I feel real satisfaction knowing that after I’m gone, part of me is going to continue to be alive through the lives and the work of these people. It’s humbling to me when I hear one of my former students tell me:
“ Thank you for all that you have taught me.“
Finding your treasure may not be so informed by how much money you make, how many possessions you acquire as much as how many lives have you touched, how may burdens have you helped ease by being a messenger of God’s grace to others.
Where you find your treasure is what you will value. That which God has given us in Jesus and may we value how we share that grace and new life with others now and forever more.
May It Be So.