God's Economy

Life Together: Sharing

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I’m a little behind posting my sermons, but here are notes from February 5th at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, the next installment of Life Together which deals with the fundamental practice and attitude of sharing.

Good morning again, St. Timothy’s family and friends and everyone who has gathered for worship this morning, and especially welcome to everyone gathered with us online. As we spend time looking into our scriptures, May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our rock and our Redeemer! Amen.

Does anyone else enjoy a bit of retail therapy? Retail therapy is shopping for the purpose of feeling better, raising your mood. Getting stuff! Maybe it’s shopping and shipping things from Amazon, visiting a thrift store or the mall or searching for ridiculous but wonderful things on eBay. A little retail therapy feels good and we enjoy things don’t we? From favorite things we buy and collect to fine meals and cars, we have created an economic system which caters to delivering to us what we want. We’ve been trained to feel good when we buy, to spend money to feel validated and powerful, to rely on our money and wealth for security and well-being. I have to admit, when poorer or richer, I’ve known the joy of a little retail therapy; how much money I had simply determined where I was shopping.

Getting what we want is not necessarily a bad thing, but we have to be careful that all this stuff doesn’t blind us, doesn’t give us a false idea of what really matters in life. We have a faith which calls us to turn to one another in sharing and giving, a faith which has always been about our shared blessings and not just me getting what I want. Our foundational practice for building relationships and community today is sharing.

Sharing is Caring

Like so many things we’re taught as children, this is one of those things we sometimes forget, as though we grow out of or past the call to share, the need to share and the joy of sharing. Our economics of personal pleasure and satisfaction can even leak into our faith making us consumers and critics who become too comfortable with phrases like church shopping and church hopping as we try on different faith expressions until we find one we like. Now, finding a faith community which feeds your soul and lifts your heart and mind is a true gift. The problem comes into play when all I do is I want to receive, and I forget that I’m also called to give.

I love that bit of prayer from our Eucharistic Prayer C, a longer form which is not used very often. It leads us to pray:

“Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the world in his name.”

Book of Common Prayer, pg. 372

In other words, let us not believe that Christ feeds us and fills us for our benefit only, but remember it’s also for the benefit of all who are within our reach! The risk of a self-centered faith and forgetfulness of people around us is nothing new and certainly not something any of us invented. Our reading from Isaiah is a powerful passage about God’s unhappiness with a group of people who do religious things, and do them well and often, but in daily life the economics of their day oppress and refuse to share the wealth and blessing of the land.

Indeed, through our Isaiah reading today God says I won’t listen to your prayers while you are oppressing your neighbor and refusing to share what you have with those in need. But if you will open your hearts to others, if you will share, you will be rebuilt, ancient ruins made new and your streets made livable again.

In our James reading he had a startling statement for us: if your faith isn’t active and enriching for the people around you, it’s probably dead. Seeing a need is our call to meet a need. Faith needs to be active and moving and sharing! Faith needs to breathe and move in our shared life and our shared blessings.

And many of us are familiar with that scene Jesus describes in Matthew 25. He presents us with a final day of reckoning in which some are found to be pleasing to God and others not pleasing to God, and it all comes down to their sharing. Jesus doesn’t list any theological achievements or correct doctrinal beliefs they held. Instead Jesus illustrates their living sharing faith of action and impact.

God’s Economy

Even as we live in this Western economy of getting what we want, our call and our faithful work is about bringing about God’s economy in the world. That economy is shaped by faithful sharing, caring about the people around us and about people having what they need. The Apostle Paul was explicit about this kind of an economy… In Ephesians 4:28, in the midst of some of the things we’ve been reading about correctly using our words and speech to build others up, Paul says “Those who steal must give up stealing; rather, let them labor, doing good work with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.” We change our orientation from just what I want to include what others need, and we work to meet the need.

Again, when speaking to the church in Corinth about their help to others in need, Paul describes an economic value, not of personal gain or loss, but of pursuing equality, 2 Corinthians 8:13-15, “For I do not mean that there should be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may also supply your need, in order that there may be equality. As it is written, ‘The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.’” That as it is written reference is to Exodus 16 when God’s people received the manna, the bread from heaven, and were told to only gather what they needed without greedily hoarding more. Just as we saw in Isaiah, God’s economy of meeting needs has been around since the beginning. It’s not new to Jesus, to Paul or to us.

I suppose it goes back to our prayer with which we began this sermon series: “Open our hearts, our minds and our hands to all you would have us love, know and do.” That’s a prayer of entering into God’s economy. It’s a prayer that orients us to the sharing that meets needs, blesses neighbors and builds communities. May we ever more and more allow God to guide our hearts, minds and hands into sharing the abundance we’ve been given. Amen amen and amen.

Be Blessed, rev. Todd