Sermon – 10-10-21 – Proper 23 – Cycle B
Scriptures – Micah 6:6-8; Psalm 100; 1 John 4:7-16; Mark 10:17-31
Sermon Title: “The Love Is In The Giving”
Wealth is in the news lately. Well, maybe it is always in the news and in the back of our own minds. It is tempting to think that money solves everything. Well, money without wisdom is foolishness. Am I talking about the wisdom of financial planners or relatives?
Just today, as I opened the computer to write, I first scanned my AOL news. Wealth is coming to our country as a safe haven from taxes just as wealth from the United States had, for years, been finding its way to Switzerland and other tax-escape places. Of course, this wealth is very likely not honestly-gained or wisely-gained wealth. People equate wealth with power and more power and as a sign of success.
Not all wealth is gained wrongly or hurtfully. Some wealth is gained through hardwork and good, honest decisions or good luck. Neither is having wealth wrong IF we use it humbly and wisely; if we use it to help other people. Just last week in our communion service we read or heard that there is enough wealth in the world for every person to have enough goods for a decent living. Where is this wealth? Is any of it sitting in our bank accounts? Maybe for good reason. After all we do not know how much money we will need until we die!
“What do we need” and “what will we need” are huge questions. Even though I say that I don’t gamble, life is a gamble! Between “we never know how much we will need” and “you can’t take it with you” what is the balance and how do we know the balance we should maintain?
Each of us at some time in our lives probably had to stretch every paycheck. Life was very uncertain. Maybe some of you are doing that at the present time. That is why the mortgage at 200 West High Street could not be paid. We simply don’t have that kind of wealth in our personal lives. But God provides. We are worshiping in this lovely sun-filled room, with air-conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter. We indeed are thankful to our faithful God.
Today is an example of how we “pay it forward.” To the many people in our community who truly can’t afford healthy food and heat and water and electricity, we are wanting to give from whatever abundance we find in our lives. In 2021, you have given $2,448.00 to the Conrad Weiser Food Pantry. Today we give actual food and other necessities to Helping Harvest which packages them for our Conrad Weiser food pantry to distribute. Laundry detergent is much appreciated by families who have used their last drop or last grain of detergent.
It matters how we “carry our wealth.” Do we wear it on our sleeve or do we quietly tend to our money making sure we are pleasing God with it? Did you ever notice how some people seem to be born with a green thumb – not the kind for raising plants , but the kind for growing money. On the other hand, do you know people who can’t seem to get their heads above water even when they try very hard?
When we give alms, Jesus says, we should do so quietly, without expecting notice or reward. We shall be humble. We shall help other people because it is the right thing to do. We are each natured differently. Some of us are natured to be givers and some of us are natured not to be givers. There is the theory that when we are generous to other people, God will bless us many times over.
We are so blessed. We need to praise God. We want to praise God. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before his presence with singing. That is what we do on Sunday mornings together. It is fine to praise God as we walk out the door to get the paper or to go to our car or to fill the bird feeder. It is fine to sing around the house and in the garden. But coming together to thank God for his blessings upon us is a thrill beyond all thrills.
So you say, “Whoa, where is the thrill I am supposed to be feeling?” I say, “Did you ask God for this thrill?” Did God get you through the week well? Did we think we did it all by ourselves? God was so good to me this week. Mixed in with the challenges, the disappointments, was a very serious concern for someone other than myself. All other concerns melted away underneath this deep anxiety. There were other concerns and a multitude of deadlines. But one concern consumed me.
I prayed constantly. Before 48 hours was passed, God’s mercy was revealed. Darkness turned to light, I just kept saying, “Thank you, God; thank you, God!” That is why I come here today to worship the Lord with gladness, to acknowledge that we are the sheep of God’s pasture, even though at times the pasture seems like sharp glass. When we stay calm and pray, the glass becomes like velvet. Then we know without a doubt that God loves us and that he will make straight our paths when all we could see were curves on narrow dangerous paths.
This love from God is not a one-way flow. Beloved, let us love one another because love is from God. God did not send his Son to the cross as punishment for the Son. The Father watched his Son die out of love for us. And we know that the Son did not die permanently. At this very moment Jesus is loving us from heaven at the right hand of the Father. I do picture Jesus walking around, greeting people in heaven. Spending 24/7 sitting on a throne is not my image of the person who allowed himself to die so that we might have eternal life – glorious, light-filled eternal life in the presence of the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit swirling around.
This rich man wanted to make sure he would have eternal life but Jesus challenged him big time. “Give all your riches to the poor; then you will have treasure in heaven.” This man’s possessions were a wall between himself and eternal life. It is like trying to thread a camel through an eye of a needle. Of course that is exaggeration. Jesus used exaggeration to make his point. It is called hyperbole. It is only with God’s help that we can overcome our hunger for possessions; to be content; to share our possessions, not from fear, but from love.
Let’s take it a step forward. Can we give up our prejudices just as we give up our possessions? Can we love all people despite who they are, what they are, how they live, even if they are hurting us? That is a huge challenge! Will our love ever overflow to that degree? “For mortals it is impossible. Translated that means for humans it is impossible. But for God all things are possible. So let’s get busy praising God for the impossible things God does for us and with us. The goal is not to be right up front with the most wealth. The goal is to be somewhere in the back growing love and sharing it as fast as God gives it to us. In God’s eyes we will be first. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Amen