Sunday, August 1, 2010

The dog days of summer and too much stuff in the garage

Today's sermon is based on Colossians 3:1-11 and Luke 12:13-21.

Welcome to the “dog days of summer,” when the air is stagnant, the trees wilt, and as legend has it, humans become lethargic and dogs go mad.
The dog days of summer: that is my only explanation for why we get these cheery lessons today.
They are telling us to straighten up – no slouching through summer allowed with these lessons.
Paul gives us his list of complaints about his followers, and he pulls no punches: anger, gossip, abusive language, cheap sex, greediness.
And Jesus tells a parable that comes out like this: You can pile up all the toys you want in this life but you can’t take them with you. Not only that, you are piling up the wrong toys.
Selfishness and greed are really at the heart of these lessons. But before we go away feeling guilty-as-sin, let’s step back and look it this a little more deeply.
Some possessions are necessary to live – a roof over our heads, food on the table, and yes, enough money in our savings and retirement accounts for when we are no longer working. That’s not what Jesus and Paul are complaining about.
They are pointing out that some possessions drag us down -- like the un-opened boxes in our garage left over from our move two years ago.
Sometimes our stuff can possess us.
And not all of the stuff we hoard are things. We can hoard our grudges, nurse our prejudices, and stay addicted to all manner of unhealthy substances and behaviors.
Instead of hoarding stuff, Jesus is saying taste and share the abundance with others – the real abundance that comes only from God. Enjoy all the blessings God has given you, and be free enough with yourself to give the blessings away.
And everyone has something to give, everyone whatever the outward appearances.
Let me tell you about someone who gave me a gift recently:
There is a man, Michael, who comes by our church every few days. Outwardly he looks very poor; he might be homeless. He comes here to play the piano.
The other day, as I was sitting in my office working on a sermon for a funeral service, I could hear him upstairs playing Christmas carols. The notes of “Joy to the World” filled the building on a muggy July day.
He gave me a perfect gift in the moment I needed it most.
The more I walk this earth, the more I am convinced that the purpose of life is to give. None of this – none of it – is ours to keep. We get a share so that we can share.
Giving is a spiritual practice every bit as much as praying.

St. Paul’s is a wonderful vibrant parish precisely because we give by welcoming everyone here: people of all ages, students, singles, gay and straight, people of every race and background. We don’t check for a membership card at the door.
We are called to share this church, to give it away. We are the temporary stewards.
Others before us lovingly passed this church onto us. Now it’s our turn.
Our giving includes sharing our personal faith journey once in awhile with people who are not here.
I know that doesn’t sound very Episcopalian. But I am not talking about converting people to dogma.
I would venture that someone you know is in pain, or searching for something bigger than themselves, or a place to bring their children, or a place to ask the deepest most important questions of life.
Maybe someone you know is looking for a place to experience the Risen Christ like they never have before.
Invite them here. Give them the gift of this parish. They might surprise you and come.
Then slide over in the pew for someone new. Wear your nametag – it is a sign of welcome.
Allowing someone to know your name is an important gift. Or give by introducing yourself to someone you don’t know at our social hour after this service. And, yes, give of your money to this church so that others who come will find it as vibrant and vital as you find it.
The point of the parable told by Jesus is we can’t live into the fullness of God’s kingdom by hoarding our possessions.
Our intentions don’t mean much without our actions, and our actions are hollow without our generosity.
Giving can open us up to so much more of life than we can imagine. Giving makes us partners with Jesus Christ in the building of God’s kingdom here on earth – but it takes courage to live by giving, and courage is just another word for faith.
So my friends, have courage, have faith, and may Christ’s generosity bring you boundless blessings forever. AMEN

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