Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pentecost 11 - C

Money Where Your Mouth Is


It was about a decade ago when I saw the most unnecessary product ever invented. Christmas was coming and all the television channels were abuzz with the latest must have kitchen gadget… the electric iced tea maker.

Now, think about this for a second. First off, that Nestea tropical iced tea instant powder is the best stuff on the planet. Secondly, growing up I always made iced tea by putting tea bags in a jar of water and putting it out in the sun to brew, lastly, boil water, add tea bags, and put it in the fridge.

If you need a machine to do this, you are really just looking for something to buy. You must already own everything in the world.

It begs the question, what is important to you? Where do you put your energy?
And to be honest, we all like to buy new things. Sometimes we only buy useful new things.

Sometimes we just want the newer thing. I, for example, do not own a modern flat screen television and I would really love one.

But then again, when I have to decide, should I take my kids on a trip or buy a television, the kids win.

So that is what I invite you to take some time this morning to think about – what it is that you think is the most important to you, and why.

First Reading
Colossians 3:1-11

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 

When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.

But now you must get rid of all such things--anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.

In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Doing the Right Thing

We know that Paul wrote to the churches in order to give advice on righteous living. Whenever we read these passages we should always be thinking of them as a sermon on good living. Paul also believed the world would end soon, so he was always making it sound urgent… you better straighten up and fly right or else the world will end and you will find yourself on the wrong side… that is essentially his message.

But if we were a little calmer, if we took away the life and death urgency of Paul, that moral advice is still right.

We should not let our passion, or our greed, or our anger, make the decisions for us. We should be focusing on the good and trying to live the example Jesus came to show us.

It is quite the list…. Stop doing all things that are wrong, and stop thinking all things that are wrong. Stop focusing on the wrong things and start focusing on Christ.

If you manage this, you will be able to see everyone as equal, you will be able to focus in a way that allows you to see the good in everything… you will know Christ as being in your heart. Which is Paul’s way of saying you will be living the way God intended.

I think of this as just being good advice, sort of like parents advice. You know you shouldn’t make fun of that person… You know if you just try to be nice… things like that. I think of this advice as being like the beginning of values.

Somewhere along the line we have all had people who have given us this advice, whether it was a parent, a teacher, a preacher, a boss…. And it comes in all sorts of ways, treat people like you would want to be treated, focus on what makes you happy… any of those sorts of things.

At the back of our minds, we all know this… so this is where we start.

Luke 12:13-21
Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." But he said to him, "Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" And he said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions."

Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'

But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'

So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."

Seek Ye First

I read a book once by a guy names Steven Covey, it was about the habits of highly effective people. It was sort of a business guide, how to be the best at what you do… but one of the idea in the book really stuck with me…

When you are dealing with someone, talking to them, whatever, treat it like it is the last time you will ever see this person.

I don’t know, maybe I will get hit by a bus this afternoon and this will be my last sermon ever. Maybe you will all die in a freak tornado that wipes out just your houses and I will never talk to you again….

It is a morbid idea, but it works. If this was the last time you would ever see your spouse, your child, your friend, what would you say? Would you argue about who misplaced the keys if it was the last thing you ever did?

It is a simply a tool to focus.

I think Jesus was being a realist with this parable, and it hits home with me in just the same way; what if I am focusing on the wrong things? What if I spend all my time worrying about the finances and forget to enjoy the day and the world ends tomorrow?

What if I have a heart attack? I probably will someday. Will I have put off for tomorrow a lot of the things I should have done today?

When someone came and said, help me get my inheritance from my brother, they were essentially saying, this money matters more to me than my brother. So Jesus answered in the same way I began this sermon, what is important to you? What do you value the most?

Have you given that any thought as we have been going along?

If you were given a thousand dollars right now, and could do anything with it, what would you do? Not a million, not ten, but a thousand. Enough to be extravagant but not enough to have to worry about it…. What would you spend it on?

Right about now I want to be on vacation, since it is only two weeks away, so I might do a week long hotel stay somewhere with a pool and whirlpool. In this moment, that is what I feel like I need.

If you asked me at a different time it would be different… but I do know that I value friends, family, trips, and food a lot. I also like to care for people, and want everyone to find happiness. Those are the things I put time and energy into the most.

And if in the end I walk out of this building and get struck by lightning, I know I have lived my life well. I have tried to do the best I could with what I have, and I have not put too much focus on the wrong things.


This is a pretty universal story. You might remember the Ant and the Grasshopper… the grasshopper wasted away all his time focusing on the wrong things… in one book I read it was playing the guitar… while the ants made sure they had enough food for the winter…

That was one of Aesop’s Fables, written for the ancient Greek children so they could learn the same values Jesus was trying to get across, the same values Paul was trying to teach the new church.

It is simply this – focus on what is important. We all know what that would be, focus on love, on family, on health, on happiness, on helping others, on caring and sharing… focus on living the good life in a way that you enjoy the gifts God gives you…

And when you do this you will find that your life is easier, that you have more happiness than an electric iced tea maker will ever bring you, and that you feel fulfilled in all you do.

So think about it this week, and try to see what needs changing, or focus on what you are already doing, but be conscious about it…. That is part of faithful living too.

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