“The Heart of Money”

Rev. Caroline Lawson Dean

November 4, 2018

 

Mark 10:17-31

Jesus was setting out on a journey, and just then a man ran up and knelt before him, asking, ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’  Jesus said you know the commandments: “Do not murder; commit adultery; steal; bear false witness; defraud your neighbor; Honor your father & mother.” The man said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’

Jesus, looked at him, and loved him and said, ‘You are lacking in something; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were shocked and said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For human kind it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’

Let us pray:

God of Abundance, show us this day – in love & grace – the way of soulful abundance – the kind of abundance that draws us to you, towards each other – the kind of abundance that draws us together with the “least of these” we pray – Amen.

 

Dramatic Reading:

Thin thread by Steve Garnaas Holmes

 

All of your smarts

don’t fit in the lifeboat.

Your accomplishments

are too heavy for this parachute.

Even your thoughts

are only junk in your pockets.

The ideas people have of you,

even your own,

make quite a pile,

don’t they,

enough to fill a grave,

too big a pile

to fit through

the tiny door to heaven,

the little keyhole

into real life.

All that fits through

the needle’s eye

is your soul.

Why are you

afraid of that?

Thread this realm

with your beauty.

You are a song,

it passes through,

whole and perfect,

and fills the world.

 

Mattie Azurmendi and our PreK students have a beautiful ritual. Each week they write on a giant pumpkin with a black sharpie the “Things They Are Grateful For.”  The list is inspired: “leaves, maple trees, God, the wind, my friend Harry, beds, my cousin Liam, my cats, dogs, my house, my food, juice, puddles, butterflies, school, parents (phew glad parents made the list), apples, paint, water, Jesus, pizza, beaches, whale sharks, crab fishing with dad, stuffed animals, snuggling & the pumpkin patch, the right to vote (okay I added that last one…) J

But doesn’t that list sound just about right – the formula for fall happiness?  Even better than a pumpkin spiced latte.  And to be clear the formula for happiness is not to own, befriend, or participate in all of the things listed on the Giant Pumpkin, but maybe the formula for true joy is to stand in awe, wonder & gratitude before the amazing gifts in our lives – yes even the whale sharks.

If you were to flip through a magazine or watch the commercials during an NFL game (or any show for that matter) you would think that the list of true joy looks a lot different:  “A big house, retirement, success, clothes, shoes, cars, new stuff, a vacation home, another car, another pair of shoes, more money and the list goes on…” That’s the trick about consumerism, is that it is a never ending list – there is always something more to add!  The Giant Pumpkin doesn’t even have enough room for what we think we need.  And so the question is “how do we reconcile these two lists?”

One day a young man kneels before Jesus and asks him.  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus says, “You know the list, love God & love your neighbor – more specifically don’t murder your neighbor, commit adultery, steal, lie etc.– OH and honor your father and your mother (Phew parents also made Jesus’ list!) J

The young man said, “I have kept these commandments since my youth!”  The scriptures say that Jesus looked upon the man with love.  Jesus did not look at him with disappointment, or shame or anger or even pity.  He looked upon him with love.

Jesus says “There’s one thing left, you are missing one thing on your Giant Pumpkin list.  Go and sell whatever you own and give it to the poor and you can follow me.”  This was the last thing the man expected to hear & he walked off with a heavy heart.  Jesus told the disciples “Do you have any idea about how difficult it is for people who ‘have it all’ to enter God’s kingdom?  It’s easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye!”  The disciples equally shocked asked Jesus, “Then who has a chance at all?”  And Jesus said “If you think you can pull it off by yourself it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’[1]

So what is on your list?  How are you inheriting a full and abundant life here and now, in the future and in the eternal?

In Mark Scandrette’s book entitled “Free: Spending Your Time & Money on What Matters Most” he writes, “Let us begin with questions of meaning and vision.  What really matters?  Am I spending my time and resources on what I say are most important?  First we address soul issues, our beliefs and then the practical aspects (like financial management) are more easily navigated.  What are the steps I can take with time and money that will help me be the most free to pursue what matters most in life?”[2]

What are the things that drive you?  Your core passions, beliefs – what are the moments when you feel most spiritually alive?  How can you more closely align your spending & your time in these areas to help you find more meaning?  Jesus’ words are pretty sharp – but they are said in love – he asks “what can we let go of in order to regain some of our soul?”  These words aren’t judgmental or condemning – they are meant for our own wholeness or our own abundant life.

And to be clear, there are two models of abundance before us.  There is the abundance that is rooted in the mantra of consumerism “there is not enough.”  “What is missing in your life?”  It is an abundance that promises security, worth & meaning only to come up empty.  It is a lonely kind of abundance.  There is a kind of abundance that cuts us off from each other and from “the least of these.”  We lose any sense of reliance upon God.  We are cut off from our true selves – we lose our true passions and replace them with worrying about “stuff.”  There is a kind of abundance that is itself a god – we act like there is nothing bigger.

And then there is the kind of abundance that Jesus models.  The kind that creates community.  Jesus turns water into wine & multiplies loaves and fish.  Jesus’ life & ministry proclaim the truth that “there is enough!”  Jesus models abundance rooted in gratitude and celebration.  The kind of abundance that draws us into sacred relationship with God, with our neighbor & with the marginalized.

What does abundance look like in your life?  No matter the amount of money – no matter the time or talent offered up – Does our generosity – draw us into relationship?  Particularly relationship with the least of these?[3]

In our giving season here at Christ Church we ask you to take stock in these questions.  Not only for the health and vibrancy of this sacred spiritual family.  But also for your own wholeness – for your freedom!  Jesus asks each of us– “what can we give up in order to reclaim our soul?”  And so let us reorient our time & our giving around what we love, indeed around God’s great loves.  And let us remember that Jesus beckons us with love, for even in our stumbling flawed attempts to begin again –- we know that “nothing is impossible with God.”  And the abundant grace of God holds us now and into eternal life, Amen.

 

 

[1] This narrative section relies heavily on “The Message” Translation by Eugene Peterson

[2] Mark Scandrette “Free: Spending Your Time & Money on What Matters Most” https://www.patheos.com/blogs/takeandread/2013/08/living-free-a-qa-with-author-mark-scandrette/

[3] “How to overcome the spiritual ‘power’ of money?  Not by accumulating more money, not by using money for good purposes, not by being just and fair in our dealings.  The law of money is the law of accumulation, of buying and of selling.  That is why the only way to overcome the spiritual “power” of money is to give our money away, thus desacrilizing it and freeing ourselves from its control.  To give money away is to win a victory over the spiritual power that oppresses us.“ French Philospher and Lay Theologian – Jacques Ellul