Saturday, February 26, 2011

Epiphany 8 A Where are your priority?

When looking at the situation our congregation currently finds itself, the first thing that I wanted to yell was, “WE NEED MONEY!  HOW ARE WE GOING TO FIND THE MONEY?”  I am sure many of you out there probably are in the same situation.  Truthfully, our situation looks dire and if we want to do anything, we DO need to take care of this financial shortfall.  This was where my head was, and this was the type of message I was pulling together.  I was all ready to approach our financial situation head on and grab that bull by the horns.  I was ready to hit everyone over the head with the checking account balance and say, “So what are we going to do about this?”  But then I saw the gospel reading for today.  We are to trust in God; we are to serve God, not money.  How am I supposed to preach on that?  WE HAVE MONEY PROBLEMS!  But with some guidance from a wonderfully insightful Canon to the Ordinary, I began to see that I had it backwards and that we, as a congregation, seem to have it backwards too.  If we approach our situation from a purely financial viewpoint, if we just focus on how we can make money, we are indeed trying to serve wealth and not God.  But God does not want us to be focusing on money, God wants us to be focusing on God.  And it is in bringing our focus back to God that we can find our way out of the valley we seem to be currently stuck in.
Our gospel reading for today would have us look at how we, as a community of faith, are serving God.  How are we showing the world that we are a community who is looking beyond itself to the greater truths we are taught in Christ.  Our vision is to be toward those ideals that Christ sets before us; feeding the hungry, tending to the sick; going out and making disciples.  That is what we are to aim for and where our energy is to be focused.  Once we have our focus set on God, then, and only then, are we to start focusing on other aspects, such as “how are we going to make this happen?”  Once we have our vision, it is then that we are to look for the practical tools to make the vision a reality.
You know I just got back from a vacation, so I am still thinking in a vacation mindset.  But when we go on a vacation do we just start saving money and then decide where we are going to go?  Generally not.  Usually we have a destination in mind and once we have our goal, then we start thinking about how we are going to finance this endeavor.  First we plan what we want to do, and then we look for ways to make this happen.  When we start out with the financial end of things, when we have a pool of money sitting there for “whatever,” it becomes too easy to just tap into it for “whatever.”  We need money to paint the building?  Just go to the piggy bank.  We want to buy a new instrument, just go to the piggy bank.  When we have the piggy bank sitting there, we can just keep taking money out of it for whatever reason.  And eventually we will find that the piggy bank is empty and we really don’t have anything to show for it.
But when we first focus on God and on serving God, we have goals for the money in the piggy bank.  Just as we are more likely to save money if we are planning a trip to Italy; we are more likely forgo lunch at McDonalds if we know that money will go for the Food Pantry.  We are more likely to find the financial resources we need when we see those resources being used for projects we have a passion for.  In our congregation, service to God and a passion for that service MUST come first.  If that passion is not there, then anything else we do WILL fall flat.  Without a passion for service, and without placing God as our priority, we will become a ghost.
Now when we turn our attention to God, we must also open our minds to what God wants us to know.  Short of a psychotic break, God is not usually talking to us in actual words.  God gives us our talents, our passions, and our desires, as a way of leading us to find our full potential.  God brings us together as a diverse people to give us the tools we need to spread the word.  God uses our “God Given Talents” to help us be about God’s work in the world.  When we pay attention to these gifts and passions, we each can bring our part to the working of God in the world.
But why do we have such difficulty with setting our sights on God’s will?  Why are we afraid to casting a vision?  Are we afraid of falling short?  Are we afraid of missing the target?  Are we just afraid, period?  Often when we look to the future, fear is an understandable emotion.  But what is the thing that the risen Christ was saying to his disciples?  That is right, “Do not be afraid.”  Quite often we fear when we turn our focus away from God.  We fear when we place other things in place of God.  But we are told to trust in God and not fear.  And we too are told to not fear by the risen Christ.
The prospect of change usually brings fear, but why?  What are we fearing?  Are we fearing being left alone?  Are we fearing God abandoning us?  Are we afraid that our plans may not be God’s plans?  Are we afraid of not being in control?  We fear and then we stop moving, stop acting.  We fear and we place blocks to the changes that are occurring.  We become afraid and we move away from trusting in God and begin to place our faith in our own limited vision.  That is a very easy thing to do, and a very human thing to do.
But Jesus asks us to move beyond the easy.  Jesus calls us to seek the righteousness of God and to trust that God will provide for our needs.  Jesus commands us to aim for the vision that the Holy Spirit has placed in us and trust that God will provide.  The risen Christ tells us to not be afraid and to seek God’s vision and then to step out in faith.
We have also been given reason.  Going back to the vacation example; we may want to go to Paris, France, but we may only have the money to go to Paris, TX.  Just because we cannot go to France, does that mean we don’t go on vacation at all?  No, we keep the dream of France and work toward what we can do.  We might not be able to afford a full out pipe organ, but does that mean we stop dreaming?  No, maybe a different keyboard.  Maybe we need to give everyone tambourines.  We look to God, we dream our dreams, and then we trust in God’s working in our lives.
I believe God still has a plan for us.  I believe God wants us to trust and to believe.  I believe God wants us to be a community of faith that can be a beacon of hope to others.  I believe this, and that is well and good.  The question is do you believe it?

1 comment:

suz said...

Nailed it!

Bravo! That was beautiful, Ben!!!