9.23.2010

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 21), Year C

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 and Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16 •
1 Timothy 6:6-19 •
Luke 16:19-31


Depending on how well you know us, this may or may not surprise you: we like having Things.

We enjoy Beautiful Things, Well Made Things, Amusing Things, Things that Provide Security, Things that Provide Sustenance, Frivolous Things, Things that Are Useful, Things that Sit on a Shelf, Big Things, Little Things, and on and on.

The world is full of Wonderful Things for us to possess. And if you were in our home, you would see that we do.

Possession is a tricky thing though. On the most consumeristic end of the spectrum folks believe that we should own any and everything we see--from shoes to forests--and we will make a space in our garage or off-site storage space to keep it. And then on the other end of the spectrum folks believe we should own very little if anything at all. Some orders of monks who sleep in a space that is not their own and wear clothes that are not their own borrow a bowl to acquire anything they might eat in a day.

It seems we all have a drive to possess things. Most of the time it comes from each of us discerning the Things we MUST have to survive, and owning those things and keeping them close. Of course, in our culture there is a pretty wide interpretation to the question of what is necessary to survive.

There is some personal satisfaction that comes from owning something. There is some healthy pride involved in working to earn enough money to buy something that keeps you alive and prospering.

This week's passage from Jeremiah finds Jeremiah in the middle of Jerusalem being seized by Babylon. And in the middle of this fight, surrounded by what we imagine to be high anxiety and stress, God instructs Jeremiah to conduct some Real Estate business. Jeremiah was to gather two land deeds together, and then preserve those deeds so that one day, when Israelites returned to Jerusalem "fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land." This was an issue of the preservation of a people and their history and their land an their Things.

Perhaps the psalmist is hinting at where we should put our faith and our effort? Perhaps the song is one that reminds us that God - not Things - is our comfort and our strength?

In the letter to Timothy we get a couple of popular phrases people use around money and possession of Things. "We brought nothing in to the world, so that we can take nothing out of it." and "The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil." In this passage the writer is encouraging his readers to appreciate the Things that are necessary for life, but to not put too much focus on the Things themselves.....use the Things as tools to help you focus your life on God and on doing good works for others. He is saying that Things are not evil themselves, but focusing too much on those Things will get you off track.

And in the Gospel of Luke, we read another troubling parable about a fine man dressed in purple and Lazarus, the man covered with sores lying at the fine man's gate. After they've both died, the fine man faces Abraham and asks why Lazarus seems so comfortable in the afterlife. He's told that he had his comfort in his earthly life...and now he's condemned to flames. Um....does that mean we have to suffer? Oh dear. Please say that isn't true. Surely there is middle ground.

We have laughed these past weeks about a couple of mishaps in our world. First, pantry moths invaded (INVADED) our stockpiles of flour and grits and oatmeal and beans and pasta (not once, but twice). Yuck. And then, one of our very full closet shelves fell (not once, but twice). And we wonder, is there some reality to the wrongness of having too much? Of storing too many Things. Are we lacking Faith that we will have what we Need when we Need it?

God,
help me to remember
that I am loved
that I am sheltered
that I have hope.
And when I don't
have these Things
help me remember
that You are waiting
to hear my voice.
Amen.

© matt & laura norvell 2010 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.

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