Sunday, August 12, 2007

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

18th Sunday Ordinary Time
August 5, 2007

Be rich in what matters to God.

So the rich man had a great harvest, built bigger barns, and then he died before he could enjoy any of it. What a tragedy. What a shame.

And important for us to hear in this day and age. We are the richest country in the world. We, the people of Shelby County, are generally very well off compared to the rest of the world. Maybe not compared to our neighbor down the street, but believe you me compared to the rest of the world practically every person in this parish is in the top 2%.

Which is why Jesus’ instructions about wealth is important for us. Jesus told the rich young man that he had to sell everything, give it to the poor, and only then could he follow Jesus. Jesus told the people that it would be easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. So in case you don’t quite get the instructions from the gospel, our wealth and possessions can be a real obstacle to our salvation.

So many folks get possessed by their possessions. They get so consumed by the stuff in their houses and their savings and stock options that they diminish the space in their lives for God. How many of us can easily get caught in that kind of cycle. We can spend lots of our energy on our stuff and our money and for what. Do you want to know what God thinks of that?
Well, this is what God said of the rich man in the parable today. He said, “you fool.” God could certainly say that to this present foolish generation. Would he say it of you? Of me?

What can we do to practice the wisdom of God in regard to our money and possessions? How do we become rich in what matters to God?

I have five little instructions for us today. They are as follows:
Acknowledge that everything belongs to God.
practice gratitude
Practice generosity
Practice tithing and giving offerings
Practice good stewardship.

Acknowledge that everything belong to God. Your stuff really isn’t yours. You are just a steward of what ultimately belongs to God. A good way to practice this acknowledgement is to have a little prayer ceremony at home where you dedicate every jot and tittle of your stuff to God. Repeat this kind of prayer as needed until the idea sinks in. All my belongings belong to you oh God.

Practice gratitude to God. Gratitude is a key to the spiritual life and it helps us to understand that God is our gracious provider. Gratitude leads us to deeper trust in God.

Practice generosity. Since none of us can out-give God, then we can trust in his provision for us. Consequently, we can feel a willingness to become generous with our money and possessions. Remember, Jesus made this promise: give and it will be given to you, pressed down, shaken together, a good measure. For what you measure out will be measured back to you. I tell you that I personally have found this principle to be true over and over again.

Practice tithing and giving offerings. Tithing is the biblical discipline of giving one tenth of our income to God – usually through one’s local parish, archdiocese, and other organizations dedicated to building up the kingdom of God. Offerings are what are given above and beyond the tithe proscribed by the bible. In fact, I will be bold enough to say this. Any lack that we have in our ministry of the parish has much to do with disobedience to God in these matters of generosity and tithing. Conversely, any abundance we have in ministry stems from those individuals who become obedient to God’s work in regard to our money and possessions.

Finally, practice good stewardship. Care of our possessions and prudent investment of our resources, coupled with a willingness to be generous with is, even to give it all away when called upon, leads to a powerful sense of spiritual freedom.

Good people, be rich in what matters to God. Acknowledge that all belongs to God. Be grateful. Be generous. Tithe and give offerings. Be a good steward of God’s gifts. And then you will become rich with the treasure that does not rust or wear out. It is the better part that will never be taken away from you.

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