Season 22nd Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture Acts 4:32-35
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 made up of people like Charles Eisenstein, who has written 6 books in the last decade about his vision. He is concerned not about the consumption of capital, but the social, cultural, natural and spiritual development of capital. It will be a mechanism for
- Sharing wealth, not accumulating it
- Creating beauty, not diminishing it
- Barrier to greed, not incentive
- Encourages joyful, creative work, not necessitates jobs
- Enforces the cyclical processes of nature, not violating them
- Accompanies a shift toward a connected self in love with the world.
Yes, it sounds fanciful. Yes, it is hard to believe. However no change has ever happened without a dream, without a vision for something better.
So, today, we are looking with gratitude that our courageous vision of what the world can be might be realized. Melody Beattie has been quoted as saying this.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
Friends, this vision is so different, different enough to make it frightening. And we can’t see the whole path toward a different system of economics, here or throughout the world. We will never see it. Our focus is on our own practice. We can learn to address our past, looking in at our true values, not those imputed on us by society. Once we have determined those, we have the freedom to look out into a world in need. We can choose where our resources are best spent: in our families, in our church, in our community, or beyond. We get to decide where our hearts are leading us.
Where is your heart leading you today?