Monday, October 4, 2010

God invests in us

Proper 21-C September 26, 2010
Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15; Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16;
1 Timothy 6:6-19 ; Luke 16:19-31

Today’s lessons would, on the surface, to seem to have nothing to do with us.

The prophet Jeremiah, whom we have been reading for some weeks – Jeremiah, the prophet who is speaking for God, telling the people of Israel why they are about to be invaded, their temple destroyed and their families moved into exile – Jeremiah now is talking about buying land – in Jerusalem! As the invaders approach! As the Temple is destroyed! In the face of the end of life as they knew it, Jeremiah buys property. Jeremiah invests in the future – in a land that will not belong to the people of Israel for a very long time. Jeremiah buys a stake in the future – a very far off future, to be sure, but a stake nonetheless. Jeremiah buys a stake in God’s future: the people of Israel will be restored to their home. Not now, perhaps, but some day.

The reading from Timothy, and the gospel parable from Luke, are admonitions against the rich: the merciless, wealthy man is sent to Hades, to suffer torment, because he did not share his abundance with the poor man, Lazarus, who after death rests with the blessed Abraham in heaven. In the words of a parable, “a great chasm has been fixed” between the poor and the wealthy, and it is clear what side of that chasm God wants us to be on. Timothy, too, hammers the point home: if we are trapped by our desire for riches, riches and more riches there will be no room in our lives for God. What does Timothy tell us to do?

… to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for [our]selves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that [we] may take hold of the life that really is life.

Why do these lessons seem to have little to do with us? We have just heard the news that our church will close – because we aren’t wealthy enough to keep it going. So, we know the opposite side of these lessons first hand: we are about to go into exile ourselves, like the people of Israel; and we know all too well the life of Lazarus. We know of that “great chasm” between the wealthy and the poor, and we know what side of that chasm we are on.

There are plenty of religious groups who base their faith on optimism. Everything is getting better and better all the time. For some of these people, life is always Easter. You get richer? It’s a sign of God’s blessings. You get poorer? Well, you’d just better work harder and see what God can do for you. I wonder, sometimes, when the tsunami of life hits people in those churches, what they would do? If God is always about sunshine, can they see God in the shadows? If God is always about growth and increase and building, can they see God when things are falling down around them?

Like Jeremiah, I KNOW that God is in a place like St. Paul’s Church. I KNOW that God stands with a family whose house is being foreclosed and taken away from them. I KNOW that God eats lunch at the Table. Like Jeremiah, I KNOW that God invests in the future and that God is with us, here and wherever we go, for the long haul.

St. Paul’s has been a church of remarkable generosity. St. Paul’s has been a church of sincere good works. St. Paul’s has been a church always ready to share.

Like Jeremiah buying that plot of land, God has invested in you. You are the deed that will last a long time, and in your very selves you embody the promise that God will always be here.

Picture Jeremiah, standing in a field which is surrounded by land no longer owned by the people of Israel. He has staked out this little plot in a world now taken over by strangers. In the midst of something that should seem desolate, Jeremiah – and God – have grabbed hold. They have faith, so why shouldn’t we, that even when so much changes here, when other people are in charge, that this very ground on which we stand belongs now and always to God.

We have been entrusted with this plot of land for some time, and now it may pass to someone else. We have been entrusted with a piece of God’s mission for some time, as well, and have faithfully fulfilled that mission with grace, generosity and compassion. We have welcomed the stranger and fed the hungry. God has invested in us, and we, who have been shaped by the work of this place will carry that mission with us wherever we go.

No comments: