“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19-20 (NRSV)
One of a pastor’s earthly treasures is the sermon collection she or he has created over years of ministry. If a pastor preaches at least forty-six times a year times twenty years or more, the number of sermons produced is sizeable. Though all of my sermons may not be stellar, they represent a considerable amount of labor, time, thought, and study invested in creating them. Though they may never be preached again, they still provide a valuable resource, a quick reference that may save time in preparation, especially when a pastor encounters a very hectic week. A pastor’s sermon collection is indeed a treasure!
Since I first began writing sermons on a weekly basis in 1986, I have accumulated quite a collection, which has been stored in a file cabinet. In the beginning I paper clipped the pages together and then placed them in a labeled file folder before storing them in the cabinet. It is interesting that the paper clips have oxidized, becoming rough rather than smooth, sometimes leaving rust stains on the pages. Some of the paper has yellowed and become brittle. Some of this spiritual food in the form of sermons for congregations has even become food for silverfish, which have created deckle edges to the 8 ½ x 11 inch paper. Given time these sermons will eventually disintegrate.
While I still like to retain a hard copy of my sermons, the computer has made it much easier to produce, store, and retrieve sermons in less space. While this process is more resistant to deterioration over time, even those computer files will not last forever! The computer could crash taking with it the collection or the storage devices could be destroyed in one way or another. Perhaps I can take consolation in knowing that treasure has been laid up in heaven for others who have remarked how sermons I have preached spoke to them. Most recently someone told me a week later that he was still thinking about the sermon I preached on Father’s Day. Inasmuch as I am inspired by the Spirit to write sermons that first address myself, I hope that treasure in heaven likewise is being laid up for me.
In this transient world, where our treasures are subject to moths and rust consuming and thieves breaking in and stealing, I am reminded of my late friend and mentor Rev. Dick Ribble, who quoted these words after he read the scripture and before preaching his sermons: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (40:8) Thanks be to God!
Eternal God, help me to remember what true treasures are and help me to lay up treasures in heaven, which are imperishable and cannot be taken away. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
* Title above: Sermons Decomposing (backwards)