Monday, August 2, 2010

Stuff about stuff

Have you ever noticed that money has no real value in your bank account or in your wallet until it leaves your hand and goes to another? Many when they read the story of the rich framer will think that it could be wrong to have money. Many will think that it is unfair for this man to work hard most of his life only to discover that he has hours left before his life comes to an end. Then his things, his land, his crops and his current barns will become someone else’s property; someone else’s stuff.  And there will be people surprised to learn that there are 500 verses in the Bible about prayer, less than 500 verses about faith and more than 2000 verses about possessions and “stuff”. From time to time over the nineteen years plus I have spent in full time ministry I have had people counsel me that it is a bad idea to talk about money and stuff. It makes people upset and they might stop giving the money they do give to the Church. I remember in my last parish being told not to tell people that I should not tell people to honour God by coming in from their cabins for public worship. That it was their duty and responsibility to be present for worship of God almighty in the summertime. My predecessors had done it and caused a lot of pain for the people and in turn for themselves – it was better not to do it.

The story of the rich farmer tells not of a man who work hard all his life and didn’t get to enjoy it. Rather it speaks of our foolishness in forgetting God in the midst of life. We work in the mistake belief that things can insulate us from the harsh and cruel life around us and if we work hard we can have just a little more of the plenty that is out there to be had. The farmer was foolish for put his trust in his wealth and in himself because he had earned so many things. It was only in the last hours of his life that he realized that he had valued the wrong things – things that won’t make him rich before God. Money will buy a bed but not a good night’s sleep. Money will buy books but not brains or the use of common sense. Money will buy food but it can never satisfy the appetite. Money will buy the fine things but it cannot beautify or enrich the soul. Money can purchase a house but it cannot make it a home. Money can buy medicine but not improve our health. Money can buy luxuries but those comforts are fleeting at best. Money can buy a time of amusement but it cannot hold on to happiness. It can buy wood from which a cross can be fashioned but it cannot get a Saviour or salvation. Money can get the use of a church pew but it cannot draw someone to new life and to the new creation which is coming in God. And at the same time let us be clear and be aware that money is not the root of evil – it is the love of money which is the root of all kinds of evils.   
So if when you woke up this morning with a roof over your head, clothes to put on to come to church and had a meal from your own kitchen, you are richer than 80% of the rest of the world in this moment. the question is how will you use your giftedness is week?  Every time I celebrate the Eucharist I say to you “The gifts of God for the people of God”. This little bit of liturgy reminds us of who is giving and what is being given. God offers all of the good things that Christ has won for us through his death, resurrection and all other benefits of his passion. And not only does this bit of liturgy tell us who gives and what is being given, it also tells us who such things are being given to. All of these good things are offered to you and I that we might make God and his coming creation known to all the people of the earth. The Eucharist is not just what we get week by week – it is about what we can offer week by week to those who are around us. To think that receiving the Eucharist is just about us is self centered which is the opposite of what the Eucharist is about. If we refuse to be generous with what God has given us then it negates the powerful proclamation of the Gospel and it robs us of both our sincerity and our security.  The Christian life isn’t about what we can get out of it for ourselves; it is about what we can offer to those around us from the abundant riches of God’s grace. A gift can be given and it can be received but it can be gotten. The price of a gift is paid for by another.

So let us remind ourselves this week that time is short and we are free to live for Christ. And let us go and give and find life in Jesus name.  

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