The Sunday Sermon: Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost – October 27, 2019
Scripture: Matthew 6:19-24
Our Cricket Song (Revisited)
Walter and I were talking a week or so ago about our worship hour together here in the Valley. Specifically, we were chuckling at the thought of “recycling” sermons, choir anthems, and other liturgical elements wondering how often any one of you may notice! There are many new faces in the past years, so a recycled anthem may be new to you. Others don’t pay too close attention to a prayer of confession or dedication that has been used before. And several of you may have slept through the first time I preached a particular sermon for a particular season …
But, Walter noted, if our short term memory of things like sermon, scripture, or song eludes us, one thing most of you do remember are the stories I use to illustrate sermon messages. Or at least there are few that are more unforgettable. This morning’s is one of them. In fact, Walter reminded me of this story to prove that point when we talked.
“The story about the Cricket is one that people remember,” he said.
I haven’t been able to get that story out of my mind for this season since. So … in case you have forgotten, or slept through it for the first time, or you’ve joined us in the last four years, prepare to listen again to “the story about the cricket,” entitled appropriately enough The Cricket Story. First, let us pray …
The Cricket Story
Two friends were walking down the sidewalk of a busy city street during rush hour one cold damp evening. As was always the case, there were all sorts of noises in the city: Car horns honking, feet shuffling, people talking, vendors shouting, brakes squealing, and bus engines roaring.
Amid all this noise and commotion, one of the friends turned to the other and asked, “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” the other responded. “I hear plenty, but … hear what?”
“The cricket. I hear a cricket,” the first replied.
“No way,” the other responded again. The two stopped walking, listening harder, but the second heard nothing. “How can you possibly hear a cricket with all of this noise? You must be imagining it.”
“No really, I hear a cricket. I’ll show you.”
And the first friend started moving again. She listened more intently, and then led her friend across the street to a big cement planter with a tree in it. Pushing back some leaves she found a little brown cricket who only then, upon being discovered, stopped it’s chirping.
“That’s amazing!” said her friend. “You must have some sort of super-human hearing, or something. How in the world did you hear that?”
“No, my hearing is the same as yours,” the first woman replied. “There’s no secret. Watch, I’ll show you.” And she reached into her pocket, pulled out some loose change, and threw it on the sidewalk.
Amid all the noise of the city – horns honking, feet shuffling, people talking, vendors shouting, brakes squealing, and bus engines roaring – everyone within thirty feet turned their head to see where the sound of the money was coming from.
“You see,” she said. “It’s all a matter of what you are listening for.”
Read Matthew 6:19-24
These five verses are very familiar to us, perhaps as familiar as the ones from last week that instructed us to “render unto Caesar.” My guess is you’re most familiar with the verse “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” and the verses that immediately follow, and then the final verse that says “no one can serve two masters.” The two verses in between, however, may not be as familiar, and you may be wondering why I didn’t skip over them. After all, what do our eyes have to do with our treasures?
Let’s start with this: The ancient Jewish writers, Matthew among them, understood the eyes not primarily as a window that lets light into the body, but rather as a portal for letting our light out. Listen again more closely. Matthew writes: “The eye is the lamp of the body.” The Ancients understood the eye not as something that lets light in, but that lets light out. Your eye projects your inner light onto the external world. When your “eye is healthy,” or more literally “singular in focus,” then your whole body will shine in the world as proof of God’s presence with us and God’s promise for us – generosity and abundance. Christianity as “Visio,” a way of seeing the world that leads to a way of living in it.
So with our eyes more properly shining their light on the rest of this passage, we “see” something new, and ask again: Where are our treasures? Where is our heart?
Do we find our treasure in the teams, and committees, and groups and various communions that we have created here? Are our hearts committed first and foremost to growing our membership and increasing our operating budgets? Many outsiders looking in would sure think so. “That’s all churches care about. Whose congregation is the largest and how much money they can get from those who make their congregations large.”
These things are important, membership and money, crucial in fact, to the future, and it’s true, we do spend a lot of time in our beloved Presbyterian committees. In and of themselves these groups and these interests aren’t bad things, but our treasures are not found in them, nor are our hearts. As crucial as our Ministry Teams, Fellowship activities, and Mission projects are; as vital as church growth and financial well-being are, they are all the” necessary noise” of the city that is our church. Like a functioning urban center, we, too, need to communicate, perambulate, coordinate, and motivate current members and future ones to give of their time and talents and tithes, but we must never locate our treasures in these measures. All these things are just the vehicles through which we share our true joys. So …
What are our true joys as a church? It’s Stewardship Season, after all. We ought to know the real things for which we are trying to be good stewards, to which we dedicate our offerings. If we aren’t first and foremost seeking to take good care of our Committees and constructions, if these things are but a means to a greater ends, then what are those ends. What are our “crickets?”
I’ll tell you. Or better yet, I’ll show you. Look around you … They are us! We are our crickets!! One another and the love of Christ entrusted to us by God that we are called to share. We are our “crickets.” Do you hear them, do you hear one another, through the busyness of our church life? Maybe most on Sunday morning, but ask yourself that question on Tuesday night or Friday morning. Do you hear the song of your friends here and do you feel the love of God in your lives “out there?” We give of our time … and our talents … and our money … as we seek to be good stewards of one another, first and foremost, in a noisy, strident world.
Here’s what I thought about as I revisited our wisdom tale about the cricket over and over once again this week. That little cricket didn’t, and doesn’t, silence the honking horn or the squealing brakes. The shouts and shuffling rarely, if ever, stop when a cricket sings. But knowing that the cricket is there, being aware of the sound of something different that calls us to pay attention to what’s most important, does give us a reason to try and quiet the noise that seeks to drown our trust and our hope. It does give us a reason to try to calm our spirits and to hear the song.
Final questions this morning: Do we know that our crickets are singing as we pass by on the way to and through our busy lives? And do the songs of these crickets give us reason to listen?
All of our Sunday school classes, children’s, two youth classes, and two adult classes seek to provide wisdom, knowledge, and practical ways for all of us at every age to live richer deeper lives as people of faith in a world that needs the lessons we have to offer. What a beautiful cricket sound in the midst of every other noise reaching our ears.
Our Mission Team offered up a reading and study late last summer meant to help us open our eyes and shine our light on a wider neighborhood, not limited to these walls, this campus, or even this Valley village. What a beautiful cricket sound in the midst of a world that too often makes us close our doors and wall off our lives.
Our Worship and Music are in the midst of re-discovering themselves, again, to meet the needs that every member of this community has to connect with something bigger, more forgiving, and more full of love than any of us can imagine. We know it’s “here.” We need to find it everywhere. What a beautiful cricket sound in the midst of a culture that tells us we are sufficient to ourselves.
And I’m going to go out on a limb here on this last one for this morning. Our Finance Team, and your Session through it, sings a quiet cricket song in these weeks, too. They are once again putting together a preliminary budget for the coming year, 2020. It is, of course, a faith plan that expresses the hopes and dreams of each one of you as you have shared them with the Elders here and with me. Oh, we tend to hope and dream more conservatively that we should in our attempt to be reasonable and responsible. But still we have a tomorrow, a next year, and a strong faith in next “decades” that far too many congregations do not have at this time of year. What a beautiful cricket sound in the midst of the scarcity and fear that binds and restrains and can finally suffocate us.
What beautiful cricket songs … education, outreach, worship, hope and vision.
Our Cricket Song is nothing new. We first explored it eight years ago in October. But this year we listen in new ways for God’s call to us as disciples of Christ through and for this church amidst the cacophony of noise all around us. May we listen to the cricket songs in our midst and not to the horns and brakes and shouts and “shufflings.”
May we find the place where our treasure truly is, and so find the place where we most want to be … With one another surrounded by the saving love of God in Christ. What a beautiful sight. What a beautiful sound.
Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor
Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / October 27, 2019