A Lamp to the World

http://place-des-coachs.com/coaching-coach-personnel-professionnel-dans-ma-ville/coaching-rhone-alpes The Sunday Sermon: 23nd Sunday after Pentecost – October 23, 2016

meth and neurontin Scripture:  Matthew 6:19-24

sitio de citas en calella A Lamp to the World

Third Sunday set aside in our Stewardship Season. I remembered an old Presbyterian joke last week:

Did you hear about the man who sought a religious burial for his dog? He was a real dog lover and when his own beloved terrier died he was broken hearted. The man decided that the only comfort he could get would be to see that the dog had a burial ceremony as elaborate and solemn as a human being would get. He was not a devoted church-goer, but there was a Presbyterian Church on his street so he went there to ask for a religious for his beloved dog.

Pastor Calvin listened as the man talked about his love for his deceased terrier and how much it would mean if he could give his pet a religious burial. But after the sharing was over, pastor Calvin said, “I sympathize with your sorrow, sir. I truly do. Your dog must have been a wonderful companion. Still, It can’t be done, I’m afraid, a full religious service for your pet.”

The poor man was disconsolate. Finally replying, “Well, if it can’t be done I understand, but it grieves me. I was prepared to donate $10,000 to any house of worship that would have taken care of my little terrier.” As he rose to leave, Pastor Calvin lifted his hand and said, “One moment, my friend! Perhaps I was too hasty and didn’t understand all the facts of this case. Did you say the dog was a Terrier?”

“Yes,” answered the man.

“Was it by chance a Scottish Terrier?” the pastor asked.

“Why yes,” answered the man.

“Well,” the pastor exclaimed, “that makes all the difference!   A Scottish Terrier is bound to be a Presbyterian! Have a seat. Let’s talk.”

Well, I’m not sure what beginning that was has to say to us. I suppose some sort of reminder as we get closer to our Pledge Dedication this year on November 13th. So many people think the church and its leaders are like the Pastor in this joke: Only interested, or more acutely interested, when money is involved. And a lot of church leaders may feel that most people use the church like our dog-lover: As a place to go for certain goods and services that they may be willing to pay for, but that they don’t have any real connection to. Anticipating our scripture reading this morning, we may wonder: Where are our hearts?

Pray with me …

We’ve been talking about giving to and receiving from the church for the past couple of Sundays trying to understand all of our giving and receiving in the church not as a consumerist transaction where payment is received for services rendered. Rather, we have been engaging stewardship as a commitment. Our “Moment in History” this morning, the bulletin cover of an October Bulletin in 1958, expresses just that sentiment.

Yes, stewardship is about money … and time and talents. But those are, or should be, simply the sings of something deeper. Stewardship in the church is about making a commitment, about understanding what it means to belong to something beyond ourselves, to believe in something bigger than ourselves. As that old bulletin cover notes, stewardship is not about the giving. It is about the giver.

Let’s read our scripture lesson this morning. I’ll bet you’re as familiar with it as I am. Read Matthew 6:19-23

Our scripture reading this morning is unequivocal in its teaching on the giving of our material possessions. What seems to begin as prudent advice on long-term investment (Don’t invest your money and property in things that can be destroyed or stolen) turns out to be a radical challenge calling for the reorientation of our whole life (Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also). Where is our heart? With our “possessions,” our wealth, our money? That’s the question we respond to again this morning as we pledge our money to the church for the coming year.

In the last sentence of our reading Matthew reminds us we cannot serve both God and “mammon,” translated for us as “wealth,” though more literally “property,” which includes, but is not limited to money. In itself this Aramaic word is neutral, it has no sinister connotations. But when humans begin to make a false god, or idol, out of that which we possess, out of our “mammon,” when our possessions begin to define our lives and are used to judge and manipulate others, including the Body of Christ, then we have placed them on a par with God a rival object of service and devotion.

Jesus is well aware of our attempts to balance our lives between the one true God he calls us to: sacrificial love and a life lived with compassion for all others, and the false gods we too easily find comfort in. He has heard the pious affirmations that those who follow him have chosen to serve God, not mammon. But he witnesses that in their daily lives it is mammon that sets their priorities and determines their choices.

He has listened as those who profess him “Lord” express a desire to show a more bountiful eye toward the poor. But because they “need” so much for themselves, they always seem to come up short. He watches as disciples plan to be more charitable in the future, but find that the present contains too many things they have to have from themselves.

They all mean well. We all mean well, I know that. You know that. It is not with our minds, but with our lives that we betray our loyalties. Let us be honest with one another. More often than we care to admit, God receives one hour on Sunday. Mammon gets the rest!   And so we gather on these mornings in this special season we dedicate to Stewardship to turn that around, if only a bit. Whom shall we serve?

Verse twenty-four of chapter six in Matthew is most often read to instill some sense of guilt or shame. “You can’t serve two masters … “ But I don’t do guilt from the pulpit. I know how laughable that is, but I never have. These things are sustainable, anyway. If you’re feeling uncomfortable or agitated, let that go. Verse twenty-four simply states what we already know to be true: Human life is not self-sufficient. Choice is inevitable in our lives as people of faith, we can’t avoid it. We find the meaning of our lives outside of ourselves. Whatever we choose to call the mystery, we inescapably find the meaning of our lives there. So, the choice is not whether we shall serve, but what or whom we shall serve. Stewardship in the church is about making a commitment, about choosing to serve God through our service and our giving to the church. And it’s about being an example for the world. A light, Matthew 6:22 says.

The two small, less familiar, verses between our treasures and our choice, instruct us not just to reorient our own lives, but to present this “more-perfect-way” to the world. These two verses are usually omitted in the reading of the ones that precede and follow them. The lectionary reading is Matthew 6:19-21, 24. After all, what do our eyes have to do with our treasures?

We think of the eye as a window that lets light into the body. But listen more closely to what Matthew writes: “The eye is the lamp of the body.” A lamp doesn’t’ let light in. It shines light out. The ancients, Matthew among them in his gospel writing, understood the eye not as something that lets light in, but that lets light out. Your eye projects your inner light onto the external world. This light, from within, shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it (sound familiar?). When our “eye is healthy,” or more literally “singular in focus,” then our whole body, our lives, will shine in the world as proof of God’s presence with us and God’s promise for us – abundant life for all. We offer ourselves, then, out of that abundance – time, talents, and tithes.

As we give of our “mammon,” our time, our talents, our money, may we be of singular vision, choosing to trust in and serve our true Lord and his more excellent way. May our vision be singular in our commitment this year, not illuminated by guilt or shame or fear, but shining forth with our trust in God and our commitment to this humble Body of Christ as we seek to share our Light with Pewee Valley and with the world.

Amen.

Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor / Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / October 23, 2016