Sermon for August 1, 2010
Possessed by Possessions
Rev. Jim Merritt
August 1, 2010
According to Andrew Greely in his 2004 Chicago Sun Times article, the most serious spiritual problem in America today is unbridled greed. I agree with him. Greed causes every one of the disgraceful corporate scandals we see in the news every week. Greed is responsible in large degree for crooked politicians, crooked cops, crooked preachers, and nearly every form of crooked behavior. Greed produces rashes of tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens of our country and takes food off the tables and out of the mouths of poor people. Greed is responsible for crazy immigration laws that lead to the deaths of thousands of men and women each year as they struggle to cross deserts in search of a job that will pay just enough to keep their children and spouses alive. Greed is responsible for obscene salaries for corporate CEO’s while the workers who really keep their companies struggle with pay that is no possible way a living wage. Greed is killing us; physically, emotionally and spiritually. Greed is what is running a country whose leaders were, according the late President Ronald Reagan, “the haves and the have mores.” Greed is appropriately listed among the seven deadly sins of Pride, Anger, Gluttony, Sloth, Envy, Lust and GREED. We are a people, we are a church, we are a culture absolutely Possessed by Possessions, in every shape manner and form. Let’s look for a few minutes at what scripture has to say about it.
As an introduction to today’s Gospel, I need to make one statement. Let us not be too quick to dismiss this gospel because the term “rich” does not apply to us. Sisters and brothers, because we woke up with a roof over our heads and clothes to put on our backs and more or less what we wanted to eat and drink for breakfast and because we were able to get ourselves to church this morning and we have ways to get ourselves home without walking, because of all these facts, you and I, ALL of us, are among the riches people in the whole world. So, let us listen well to what the Gospel has for us.
In his gospel, Luke uses this anonymous voice from the crowd to set up a lesson about what is lesser and what is greater. The voice wants Jesus to settle a sort of legal dispute. It is not interested in what Jesus has to say and has seems not to know the real importance of who Jesus is. The questioner simply wants what he wants and he wants it right now. Sound familiar? So he misses out on the amazing gift he might receive from mindfully being in the presence of Jesus and hearing what he had to say. Focus is very important. What Jesus, via Luke, has been teaching so far is the ability to face threats, even on one’s life, with a lack of fear. So they, Jesus and Luke, seize this opportunity to teach the listeners and us that if threats against our lives should not produce fear, then fear should not lead us to surround ourselves with possessions that will not protect us anyway. All these possessions really are of no long term value whatsoever. The lesson is clear, finally, that life cannot be secured by possessions. It just can’t.
Possessions cannot buy us happiness. Possessions cannot buy us love. Possessions cannot buy us long term attention. Possessions cannot even buy us self-worth. As a matter of fact, according to Michaela Bruzzese, in his Living the Word, “ the real treasure, the only one able to satisfy our profound hunger to love and be loved, is the unconditional and all-consuming love of God. It alone can quench our thirst; like a parent, God wraps us "with bands of love" and clothes us with new life. And unlike material wealth, this treasure does not trap us, but liberates us, giving us the strength and courage to be liberators in the world. I love the way our MCC Sister, Rev. Lori McPherson writes about this. She says, “Seeking out comfort in anything but God is futile whether that thing is a bottle or a bank account. Jesus’ warning here is not against wealth per se, but against the false security that wealth and possessions can breed. “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15b). We could replace money and possessions with anything we use to seek identity and comfort in rather than God and the same futility (would still be) present.
Brothers and Sisters, where is your treasure this morning? Is it in the bank? Is it in your house? Is it in lots of stuff? Is it perhaps in your status? Let us all hear these words of Gospel together
Strive for God’s realm*, and things will be given to you as well. 32 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Creator’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
Possessed by Possessions? No way. Possessed by God….may it truly be so in our hearts, in this church, and in all we do together.
God, we thank you for your word. We thank you that even in this Gospel written so long ago, life changing lessons are still available to you. Right now, God, in this very moment, we surrender all that we have, all that we are and all that we will ever be to you. We want to be possessed by you in ways that will bring this very good news to all the world. Bless and use us we pray; In the many names of Jesus. AMEN.