Posts Tagged "Wonder Full Life"

11/10/2019: Looking With Gratitude

Posted by on Dec 5, 2019 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on 11/10/2019: Looking With Gratitude

Season      22nd Sunday after Pentecost Date        11102019s Scripture    Acts 4:32-35 Prayer Week 4: “Looking with Gratitude” For the past 3 weeks we have talked about the integration of spirituality and money. Using some of the best resources around, the Bible and It’s a Wonderful Life, we have considered the many ways we, as well as others around us, and the world we live in,  relate to money. We have looked back to determine how our past has influenced our spending and giving habits. We have looked inward to determine our values. We have looked out to see if our values align with our spending.   I think we agree that we live in a system of money that is quite a bit larger than we are.  In fact, on our first Sunday of this series we compared our money system to the East African legend of King Sulemani and the giant whale.  It is bigger than a mountain with an appetite equally enormous.   We don’t have the power to change the system alone, but through our spiritual disciplines, like meditation, journaling, walking, meeting with others, researching possibilities, many of us together can make small changes.  And small changes lead to bigger ones.   I am not suggesting that we should choose to share all things in common like the early Christian community.  The early Christian community expected Jesus’ return sooner rather than later and so their communal practices of selling everything may have actually led to some unfortunate surprises down the road. But let’s not dismiss the story because of their expectations.  Instead, let’s acknowledge their faithfulness and gratitude that invites the kind communal living in which no one is left out, no one feels alone, no one fears for their well-being. Even today, we find people of all ages coming together in communal housing situations to make life more affordable.  And in so doing, avoiding the latest health epidemic, loneliness. The true richness of a wonder-full life may be this sort of communal living that avoids the pitfalls of loneliness. We wonder at the companionship and hospitality Jesus’ followers offered  everyone in all walks of life. It doesn’t matter if we “have it all” or don’t have “two pennies to rub together.” The more we cultivate relationship in our lives, the more we increase our chances that we will be loved and supported and will have the opportunity to pass it on. This is what Christ called the beloved community, the reign of God, and our participation increases our constant and enduring hope and gratitude. We do this in a micro way when we participate in the church, when we offer a portion of our income to the good of the community, when we join together to put on a bazaar, when we donate food to the cornucopia and local food shelves (both South Burlington and Chittenden Country).  Yes, all of these are micro expressions of the beloved community, a different financial arrangement than King Sulemani’s giant whale of a system. A way of saying that we yearn for a system of money is not about “dying with the most toys and investments,” but about leaving something for the next generation to have a model of how to use money that will help the generation after them, and so on. Today, there is a growing movement toward alternative economies based on relationship and people.  One that emphasizes a reduction in consumerism and a focus on minimalism (think Marie Kondo). I see a rise in socially responsible investing, financial literacy in schools, ecological and green business.  This movement is...

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11/3/2019: Looking Out

Posted by on Dec 5, 2019 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on 11/3/2019: Looking Out

Season      21st Sunday after Pentecost Date           11032019 Scripture      1 Timothy 6:17-19 Prayer    Merciful and loving One, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to you, our greatest love.  AMEN. Week 3: “Looking Out” Today is the Sunday that we observe “All Saints Day.”  In the early church, All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows, was a commemoration of the martyrs, those who gave their lives for the faith.  In the Middle Ages, it became an occasion to honor all of the saints, particularly those who didn’t have a saint’s day of their own in the church calendar.  During the Reformation and its insight that all Christians, while being sinners are also saints, the holiday became an occasion to reflect on all of those who have passed from this life into the next, especially friends and family members who have died.   It is a kind of Memorial Day in the Church, a time that we remember the people who have gone before, the gifts they gave freely, the love they shared, and the sacrifices they made, so that we might have the many riches we enjoy today. Those riches may be as simple as a healthy outlook on life, the building we are worshipping in, or the endowments that have seen us through difficult times so that we might continue to be community, together.  These saints were looking out. They saw beyond today or even tomorrow, but into the long term challenges that they imagined for their friends and family.  Their vision and wisdom was the basis for the benefits we enjoy today.   This morning you heard from Peter and George Bailey, the father and son from the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.  We have been following them through this 4- week sermon series as we consider our relationship with money. The Baileys’ have a vision for the community of Bedford Falls, just like the saints had a vision for us, for our church and our community.  That vision included everyone having a roof over their heads. In the movie, George Bailey makes multiple sacrifices to move toward that vision, much like the early Christians who shared all of their belongings.  It is true that the early Christians were meant to be a counter-cultural movement concerned with a more equitable distribution of resources and care of those who needed help the most. But this did not mean that those who had money could not help the movement. Benefactors were essential to the spread of Christianity and support of teachers and apostles. Money, when coupled with alignment of values and vision for a more just world, results in the kind of generosity that gives life not only to the Church, but to the giver.  As Paul tells us in his letter to Timothy, Christians did not criticize material wealth as much as the attitude of the person owning it.  Does material wealth get in the way of putting one’s trust in God? Is it a hindrance in following Jesus? Without the financial resources of those with means who are willing to share, the Christian movement and the Church would have crumbled long ago.  Rather, those who have resources “are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.” We hear a similar message resonating in John Wesley’s sermon, “The Use of Money.”  The Father of Methodism clearly...

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10/27/2019: Looking In

Posted by on Dec 5, 2019 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on 10/27/2019: Looking In

Season:      20th Sunday after Pentecost Date:        10272019 Scripture:    Matthew 6: 19-24 Prayer:    Most merciful One, you know us better than we know     ourselves.  Help us as we explore our relationship with one another     and with money.  May we use our money to make our lives truly full of     wonder.  May my words be pleasing to you, and our hearts and minds     aligned to your will.  AMEN “Looking In” During this season of plenty, a season of harvest and giving thanks, we have been looking at a sticky subject: money.  What is our relationship with money? How does it influence our lives and control our decisions? Jesus knew that money held powerful clout over the choices we make.  You have heard that Jesus talked more about money than any other topic in the gospels, with the exception of the Kingdom of God. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions. In the Gospels, an amazing one out of ten verses (288 in all) deal directly with the subject of money. When I first heard that Jesus talked more about money than love, about heaven and hell, about healing, I found myself wondering what this could possibly mean about Jesus.  How does this change what I thought I knew about faith and about God? I discovered that money and spirituality, faith and God are deeply interrelated.  So often we attempt to compartmentalize money and spirituality, as if they have nothing to do with one another.  I go to work Monday through Friday, run errands on Saturday, that’s money. Church and maybe some rest, that is spirituality.  However, as I stated last Sunday, God’s realm is over all of creation, even the institution of money. These are not things we can somehow compartmentalize.  Spirituality and money coexist, under God’s careful watch. And, people desperately need wisdom and guidance when it comes to their relationship with finances.  Money has far too much power in our lives. In the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey thinks about ending his life because of a financial crisis.  In fact there is a strong link between money and life.   You’ve heard people say  “Time is money.”   “Your money or your life.” “Worth more dead than alive.” “The two things you can depend on are death and taxes.” The prospect of time, and that our days are numbered, is what drives us to make and save more.   Joe Dominguez defines money as “something we choose to trade our life energy for.”  Do we save our lives by saving money? While it is possible to make more money, there is no way you can make more time.  This is a fascinating dilemma and, while there are no correct answers, it helps no one to make believe this tension doesn’t exist.   Last week, I asked you to look backward to think about the messages you have received about money throughout your life, and how they have influenced your thinking, your spending, your saving.  Today, I am asking you to look inward, with courage, while we explore what is truly important to you. Last week I suggested some spiritual practices to look back about money.  Today, I want to suggest a way to look inside of ourselves as we think about it. We can do this together.  It helps to talk some notes, so I invite you to grab a pen or pencil.  I’ve asked the ushers to distribute some. Let’s begin our experiment: Today you learned that you have 5 to 10 years to live.  You...

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10/20/2019: Looking Back

Posted by on Dec 5, 2019 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on 10/20/2019: Looking Back

Season 19 th Sunday after Pentecost Date 10202019 Scripture Matthew 22:15-22 Prayer May the words of my mouth be pleasing to you, God. May our hearts and our minds be wise as we enter into a season of openness and love. AMEN Week 1: “Looking Back” Money, the financial systems that surround us, are much like the East African Legend of King Sulemani and the whale: This fish was bigger even than any whale we know – as big as a mountain! – and it had an equally enormous appetite: it ate and ate and ate until it had eaten all of the food in the kingdom. Then, it roared at the kind for more! These kinds of myths about giant fish or whale that devours entire kingdoms, are exactly that, myths. Yet the myth is good, a reasonable way of thinking about our own existence within a giant financial system that in many ways holds us captive, if it is only in our desire to not think about it too much. For some it creates anxiety, worry, stress, confusion, and sometimes joy. It seems to morph in complexity and lack of transparency. And while we talk about almost everything else, we rarely talk about money. Yet it squeezes its way into every aspect of our lives: education, politics, religion, food, health, entertainment, art. A fine example of this was the 2016 US election in which a billionaire businessman and reality TV star with no experience became the leader of the free world. In the words of Maggie Kulyk, “Money doesn’t talk, it shouts.” Anxiety around money has been always been a part of my life. Mostly because my family was always careful with money. We lived with a sense of scarcity. On grocery trips, I remember messages that certain foods, like cereal and meat were too expensive. I was taught to carefully manage my allowance, including giving 10% of it to the church. I tell you these stories because I think they might resonate with you. The anxiety when money is tight, the good intentions of budgeting and the challenges it presents, the competing stressors of paying taxes, and even contributing to the church, all swim around us in the giant financial system in which we live. So how does this connect with the spiritual world, the world in which we also reside, a place we are also responsible for cultivating, nourishing and growing? We cultivate spiritual practice using prayer, meditation, community worship. When the Pharisees try to trick Jesus in a question about money, his answer puts money in perspective, but it is complex. The people in Jesus’ day live within the oppressor’s systems of money and the Romans have the power to take it. But throughout Jesus’ ministry, he indicates that ALL things are within the realm of God. Even the decisions made about what to do with money have spiritual implications. We, too, exist in a time when we live inside of a system of money that is not always just or fair or equitable. And yet, how we live within that system is a matter of spirituality and faith formation because it affects our sense of call to do as much good in the world as we can. So, what would it look like to add money to our spiritual practice? And why would we even want to do that? First, it is important to name the power and the influence the system has over us, so we can work to alter the influence it has on our lives, our anxiety, and our stress....

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