Sunday, August 08, 2010

Pentecost 11C

NB: With a little help from Willimon's Pulpit Resource.

“Do no be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

I don’t know what you hear in this passage, but sometimes such promises increase my blood pressure. Mainly because of the second half of Jesus’ statement:

“Sell your possessions and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

No doubt Jesus is right. We spend money on things that are important to us. All spending is emotional spending. It comes from the heart, not from the mind. It’s not rational. No matter how much we tell ourselves otherwise. And I’d rather not have Jesus poking around in the most personal areas of my life.

I’m reminded of this passage each month when my credit card bill arrives. I dutifully check each item to make sure that there’s nothing on there that shouldn’t be. Or that I wasn’t charged twice when Amazon.ca made me click two times to make complete my transaction.

I don’t know if this happens to you, but every couple of months I’m surprised by where I’ve put my treasure. I’m staggered by some of the stuff I’ve purchased after sober reality kicked in. But I know, at the time, such purchases must have seemed like good ideas.

A subscription to a magazine that I could easily flip through at the library. The extra book that will give me free shipping, but which might not get around to reading any time soon. The organic olive oil in the fancy bottle to give my little cubby-hole of an apartment some semblance of class. And a few other items that shall remain...um....private.

They were all emotional purchases. I handed over my treasure to where my heart was.

And Jesus clearly tells us where he wants our hearts to be. “Sell your possessions and give alms. Make purses form yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”

The fear that Jesus is talking about is the fear that the stuff we have will be taken from us - stolen or destroyed. Jesus said that it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom, and that kingdom apparently does not include the things we accumulate. The kingdom is that which God gives us and cannot be taken away. It cannot be stolen or destroyed.

Our relationship with the material stuff of life is conflicted at best. After all, most of our purchases keep in economy’s engine humming. My magazine subscription and book purchase provides royalties to the authors and keeps the publishing industry afloat. The organic olive oil helps the farmers and processors make a living, and encourages sustainable agriculture. My purchases were a source of some good.

But that can go too far. We can pay a high price for our accumulations. We neglect our health, our families and friends.

We spend too much time at work, giving too much of our labour to those who don’t deserve it, thinking that we’ll get a worthwhile return.

Retail-therapy blasts endorphins into our pituitary glands providing a momentary sense of well-being, but evaporates once the bank statement comes at the end of the month, sending us out for another shot.

So what do we do about this over-striving, over work, and over accumulation?

The church says that we can put it all on the altar. We can take this morally ambiguous money - the root of all kinds of evil, and the source of so much good - and offer it back to God. In doing so, our daily work is redeemed.

What we are doing, in our offering, is transforming our days the mere making of a living to the living of a life.

Whatever we do for a living, we now do for the glory of God and the giving of others. We offer our gifts for the work of Christ’s church. And the work of Christ’s church is the kingdom of the God.

The offering is probably the most counter-cultural act we do as a church. It’s at that moment that we take a stand against the consumerism that tells us that we are what we buy.

When the plate is passed around we put our beliefs into action that God’s kingdom has come in Jesus.

When the offering is taken our hearts begin to transform from being self-centred to God-centred.

It’s a minor sport to make fun of churches who ask for money. And for good reason. The last couple days I’ve been watching the Miracle Channel re-invent indulgences for today’s troubled consciences as they go about their fund-drive appeal.

And we know of sham-preachers who lie, cheat, and pilfer folks out of their hard-earned paycheques to pay for their air-conditioned dog houses.

Or we hear of the pastor in the $2000 suit who flies around the world by private jet, sharing the message of the poor wandering preacher from Nazareth. The record is spotty at best.

As a congregation, we don’t like to talk about money because I understand that there’s been a history of negative experiences with fundraising. And some might look at how we, as church, allocate our resources and think that we’re being stingy when it comes to those outside of our church.

But if we look at where we put our treasure we’ll see where our heart is.

Training Stephen Ministers for one-on-one caring visits does not come cheap, but is extraordinarily effective.

Nor does building helpful ChristCare small groups who learn and minister together. Our very successful Vacation Bible School came with a price-tag.

As did the Spiritual Gifts and Ministering to Inactive Members classes.

Not to mention the elevator which will help people participate in every area of our ministry together.

The list could go on. This is kingdom work. This is where we place our treasure. This is where our heart is. This is stuff that cannot be stolen or destroyed.

So watch as the plate goes around. You will see the church at its best. We take the stuff of our daily lives and we give it back to God, for God’s work.

May this be so among us. Amen.

3 Comments:

Blogger 偉曹琬 said...

easier said than done. 一起努力吧!............................................................

10:37 PM  
Blogger 易強青易強青易強青 said...

累死了…來去看看文章轉換心情~............................................................

10:41 AM  
Blogger 洪涛 said...

凡事三思而行,跑得太快是會滑倒的。..................................................

4:58 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home