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God of the world…

August 13, 2013

The first sentence from today’s Gospel lesson is an amazing promise. We are the recipients of God’s kingdom. Not only that, but God finds pleasure in giving us the kingdom. However, there are a few things we must do… sell our stuff and give alms. What is Jesus trying to say here? To give up what we have worked so hard to get?
We all enjoy material things, don’t we? Whether it is clothing, electronics, food, cars, or collectables of your choice. We all like having “stuff” that we can call our own.
Christians have always believed in a God who is concerned with the natural world. We have prayed to God from the depths of coal mines, to the heights of Everest, and from outer space. We have blessed ships and planes in God’s name, built soaring cathedrals to the honor and glory of the Almighty. And we have even equated scientific achievements to God’s guidance and blessing. These are all material things, because we believe in a material God.
Today’s readings cause us to step back for a moment and consider God in another light, as one who is beyond the material. God defines the relationship as being centered on justice and caring for orphans, not with expensive feasts and liturgies; God commands the people to “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
The quality here is not material, but a spirituality that deeply honors a God who cares passionately for the whole of creation and doesn’t need to be appeased with sacrifice when things are going badly. It’s not about God; it’s about us. And God expects us to address the things that are amiss, not fix them through incantations.
However, we continue to write a check for the hungry without learning why there is hunger in the world. We pass legislation that addresses immigration reform without wanting to know why people want so badly to come to America that they are willing to risk imprisonment and deportation to do it, leaving their families behind while they work to send money home. The truth of the causes for both of these issues has as much to do with our demands for cheap goods and food as anything else. We cannot appease God while we try to have everything we want.
In our gospel reading today, Jesus addresses this issue of how we are to live with God:
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 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.”
Recently, I was doing supply work in another congregation in our district and over-heard a conversation between between two members. The first person was complaining that each week after church she could never find a parking place at one of her favorite restaurants. Her friend, a rather quiet woman, smiled and then shared how she had been praying for weeks for her friend who had received a bad prognosis for her recurring cancer. She had just spoken to her friend that morning and learned that the doctors were now confident that she will have a full recovery after a few rounds of chemo. Both of these women were sincere, but the one who asked for healing for her friend knows what God’s power is for – it’s not for finding parking places!
We are not going to get very far with God as long as we understand the Kingdom as material rather than spiritual. The Kingdom of God knows no boundaries. We are not going to have much of a relationship with God, when we spend more time seeking the material world the Spiritual realm of God.
Sabbath is the rest that helps us to prepare for the return of the Son of Man, the final breaking in of the kingdom. We are given the commandment to observe the Sabbath for our better selves. We are given the space to rest, restore our spiritual lives, and avoid being completely swamped by the world’s material goods. As we prepare ourselves to spend time with God and each other, and seek for the kingdom breaking forth into the world.
Outside of these readings, but deeply inside their message, is the great voice of the Creator reminding us how much we are loved, not for what we have, but for who we are called to be. We are treasures, servants who are blessed by the Holy One. Our economic standing, our homes and wealth are of no account to God. What matters is our lives. How we live, how we approach justice, care for the poor among us, and how we treat one another is the bottom line for judgment. Our success in worldly things will mean nothing.
As school is starting back, it is a good time to take another look at all that we possess and inventory in our hearts and minds the spiritual treasures we have. The friends who love us without condition. The church that keeps us in communion with each other and God. The beauty of the material world can distract us from this communion. It is a good time to look up at the stars in awe, and remember that the God who made us also made them, but they are nothing compared with the treasure we have of being loved by that same God who asks us to show that love and care to every person we meet.

Let us pray.
God of all creation, we thank and bless you for this life you have given us. May we live our lives in a way that everyone we meet sees your kingdom breaking forth all around us. May our faith grow and be multiplied as we grow in relationship with you and those in our lives. We ask this in your Son’s most Holy name. Amen.

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From → jimmyahornjr

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