Friday, September 17, 2010

Proper 20

God or Wealth? That seems to be the question we're being asked. When I was a kid I hated this lesson. It used to really tick me off that Jesus seems to be saying pick one and only one, God or wealth. Why can't we have both? If we have wealth why can't it be okay to do some good things with that wealth?

I suspect the real issue here is who are you going to worship, God or wealth? Back in the old days, when we used to actually go inside banks, I noticed stained glass in the windows at my bank. I also looked around and noticed high cathedral style ceilings. The bank building looked like a church and contained many of the same trappings you might find in a church. This bank looked like a modern place of worship. I believe Jesus is trying to say worship God not money and wealth.

That's the problem for many particularly in our world where we can have anything we want with one quick mouse click. Many worship their possessions and wealth rather than our Lord. It is so easy to place priority on obtaining things and protecting wealth rather than focus on a relationship with God. It is easy because our world bombards us with "things and stuff." We all want to the latest and the greatest things and the coolest stuff. We work hard for the money we have and want to spend it "our way."

Jesus is telling us that a relationship with God is worth more than all the wealth in the world. He is actually saying pick one, wealth or me. But, it is not so much a referrendum against wealth as much as a highlight of the importance of a life with God. When we place a life in relationship with God as our priority we are being led by the Kingdom and being taught to choose that relationship above and beyond all else.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Proper 19 - Pentecost 16

This is a rambling and thinkin' out loud kinda blog. In all my years I don't think I have ever approached this text from Luke, the parable of the lost sheep, from the perspective of the lost sheep. My tendency is to always view it as someone looking in on the scene or from the perspective of our benevolent Lord never giving up on us. Think for a minute about the Lost Sheep. How must they have felt or better yet think of a time you were physically lost ... it's scary!

Emotions run wild when your lost. At first you might be embarrassed about getting turned around or missing a turnoff. Then that embarrassment turns into some concern about hurriedly getting yourself out of the situation. You know the quick, quick look around see what looks familiar thing. Then fear begins to creep in ... "oh no, what if I end up in the wrong place. What if ..." The fear can turn to panic when you realize that no one knows to look for you. No one knows where you are nor has any reason to come looking in the place where you might be lost. That's the greatest fear that no one will come looking and that you only have yourself to rely upon.

When you know someone is gonna come looking you can get proactive. You can build a shelter or sit in a coffee shop or wait near a landmark because someone is coming. There is peace in know that someone is looking for you.

Never thought about this parable that way. Simply stated Jesus is always looking for us. We don't need to panic because he is always looking for us. When our daily grind seems like to much or when we feel lost and estranged from the conditions of life he is always looking and seeking to move us to a place of familiarity, comfort and peace.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Proper 18

This story/anecdote is kinda corny. I've used it in sermons and talks many times. I actually first saw it in a church bulletin probably 20 years ago. The story goes like this,
A man was walking on the beach saw that it was littered with thousands of starfish. A little boy was picking up the starfish one by one and throwing them into the ocean. He asked the boy, "What are you doing?" The boy replied, "I'm throwing starfish back into the water. If I leave them here they'll dry up and die." The man said, "But look how many starfish there are. What you're doing can't possibly make a difference." As the boy picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean he said, "Well, it makes a difference to this one!"

See what I mean ... you've heard it before. The boy understands that he can't help every starfish on the beach but he also understands that he can make a difference to at least one. I believe God is using Luke's gospel to tell us to be sure that we know what we are capable of doing. He's saying something that we sometimes tell our children, "don't bite off more than you can chew."

After the preceding explanation you're probably saying, why does the the scripture have to be so disturbing and upsetting? I agree. None among us wants to hear that Jesus is calling us to hate our family members. I don't want to hear that and you don't want to hear that. Families and homes are supposed to be a place where we are nurtured, fed and loved ... not hated. Robert Frost once said, "home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."

It seems to me that God is calling us to carefully understand that complexities of our commitments to him. In Luke's gospel Jesus is saying, my ways might put you at odds with the ways of the world ... they might even put you at odds with your family! In the 1st century world Jesus was preaching to an audience that had gotten very comfortable with a socially accepted religious tradition. He is telling his listeners this is a new way of doing things. Know that your family and friends may no understand "my way" but stay the course and don't give up. Further, he counsels to understand that "you can't save everybody but your commitment can lead some not all to me."

Jesus is asking us to commit to him as he committed to us. The cross is representative of his extreme and awesome commitment. His resurrection is a commitment to walk us through all the highs and lows of our life and to be with us every step of the way.