“Where Your Treasure Is” Matthew 6:1-6; 16-21

            The little smudge will say it all.   “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

            It’s a little smudge that puts things into perspective.

            I place a little smudge of ash on the forehead of my newborn grandson, just one week old, and I remind myself that this new and fragile thing may live another 80 years or more, and will most certainly outlive me, and I wonder what he will see, what I will leave for him to clean up, or to enjoy in this world.  

            But it is also a little smudge that reminds me that there are no guarantees in life, and tragedy happens, and how my heart would break if this little one were to be taken from our midst, the death of future and of promise.

            “Remember that you are dust.”

            I place the smudge of ash on the forehead of the elderly man or woman who makes their way up here with halting steps and wonder if this will be the last trek they will make upon this aisle to receive the mark.  We have laid to rest so many saints since last Lent already.  Each trip up this tiled floor for all of us is one trip closer to the final one.

            “Remember that you are dust.”

            I place the mark of ash upon the forehead of those who will not grasp its meaning or its weight.  One more “churchy” thing my parents make me do.  Lord, I can’t wait to get out of this place.   I can’t wait to be to be free, to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, as often as I want to do it.  

           I place the smudge that marks you where the waters of baptism touched, where you were set free from sin, and bound to Christ, and you are no more aware of it now as you were back then when you were filling your diaper.  But, in making the smudge, perhaps there will be a moment of realization that this is not just some empty gesture but that it marks something significant, and true, and yes, maybe even just a little disconcerting or scary, as you realize you never get to only do what YOU want to do, but are woven into the fabric of community.

            “Remember that you are dust.”

            And after all this marking and dusting and smudging then, and only then; do we begin to understand the words of this Gospel that ring true.

            This truly is about treasure, and about hearts, and where we put them.

            Each time up this aisle is another one closer to the final trip that we will all make up this aisle, and somehow that brings into sharper focus all the things that we say that we value. 

            Each time up this aisle is another one closer to the final one, and somehow that also brings into sharper focus (at least for me) where I have spent my time, where I have given my days and weeks and hours, what I have called important, or necessary, or essential.

            Each time up this aisle is another journey in the stages of life, in the passing of the weeks, and of the seasons, and of the events of birth and baptism and ceremonies and yes, even death. It all flows up and down this aisle.

             That’s why it pains a pastor when the aisle is not trodden.

             This is about treasure and about hearts, and where we put them, and walking this aisle with ash upon the forehead helps us see that more clearly.

           I don’t need your money, God doesn’t need your money.  God will bring in the Kingdom in of its own accord, but we pray when we stand on either side of this aisle and at it’s head that we might be a part of its coming. We pray, that walking down this aisle and down all the aisles of life; our steps might follow where God would have us go.

           I’m not particularly interested in your time.  God isn’t particularly interested in your time, you will give it here, or in the world, as God grants for you so to do.  You will be pulled into the places where you feel you have gifts and skills and abilities, and you will give your hearts and your treasured allotment of time where you decide it ought to go.

           I don’t even care what do you do with all the things you call possessions.   The mark of ash and dust reminds us that all those pretty things go up in smoke and crumble into dust eventually.

           All God asks, all I ask as a Pastor; is that you consider well where you place your treasure, for I know that were you put it, your heart will surely follow, and walking this aisle, and doing so with this smudge helps you keep that firmly in mind.

          “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”   That is what we say with a smudge this day, and this little smudge of ash really says it all.