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 tells us that there are three rules for the handling of money.  The first is 

  1. Make all we can.  However there are caveats.
  1. Without hurting your neighbor
  2. Without hurting yourself
  3. Then we are to save all the money you can
  1. Here, Wesley is a true minimalist, suggesting only the bare essentials of food, drink and furnishings…
  2. And leaving to children only the bare minimum to keep them above poverty
  3. Finally, we are to give all you can

Clearly, money was a part of John Wesley’s spirituality.  However, is it part of ours? Our western culture tends toward an artificial dualism that separates spirituality from money, work, recreation and politics among other things.  

But spirituality teaches us that segmentation is an illusion.  Dissolving that illusion in light of our finances is one step. However, no part of our lives is independent of a sacred center.  Our spiritual work is to connect with it.

Similarly, none of us are separate from one another.  Our lives are filled with pain, mess, laughter, sorrow, and peace.  While our spiritual journeys are unique and personal, we are not separate from each other.  

Ultimately, we are all part of one story. Spiritual practice helps us experience moments of connection and enhances our experience of compassion, love, empathy, beauty, and all of reality.  This is the wholeness for which we yearn.  

The last two Sundays, I have suggested practices to help us understand our wounds and joys around money, our tendencies and patterns as they relate to financial activity, and how to determine a courageous vision.  In all aspects of our lives, even money, we should listen carefully to our inner heart. This involves paying attention to our choices and being honest in our responses to what life offers us. Then we can determine a direction to look out.

There are many spiritual practices for looking out.  Find one or two that really resonate with you. Here are a few:

  1. Start reading, taking workshops or finding a group that addresses the yearning you have discovered in your heart.  Maybe it is a type of artwork or music, or a social subject like racism or sexism. Maybe it is our economy, climate change or healthcare.  Learn about what’s calling you.
  2. Pay attention to the symbols in your life, including your dreams or unusual events.  Dreams often open up repressed feelings or ideas. 

Unusual events can also guide you.  I heard about a man who was struggling with something he had done as a youth that had harmed someone else.  He had felt guilty for over 30 years and finally admitted out loud to someone else that he wanted to make amends.  Within 2 weeks of expressing his desire out loud, the person he had harmed miraculously came back into his life again and he was able to make amends.  When these things happen, ask what God may be trying to say to you.

  1. Be mindful.  That is, be aware of your mind and body in the here and now.  Be fully present in the moment. This might mean meditating, listening to music, or simply keeping your mind on your tasks as you do them.
  2. Gifting, spending your time and money for the good of others helps them, but also helps the giver.
  3. Start a journal in which you write about the things in life for which you hope or want to give.  See if any patterns arise and take note of them.

There many others practices you might try, but these will give you a place to start as you look out into the world, and wonder where you can have the greatest impact.  Much like the saints before us did…