190922 – That’s Rich

Yr C ~ Creation 2 (Stewardship 1) ~ 1 Timothy 6:6-19

Today we’re launching the worship focus part of our “Giving in Faith” campaign. It’s a stewardship program.
Stewardship is all about how we deal with the resources we are entrusted with.

Probably the most important element of stewardship for us is the stewardship of our time.
There are 168 hours in every week. You spend one of them here every Sunday morning (ok, most Sunday mornings, or maybe Sunday Nights!!!). That leaves you with another 167 hours to deal with. But rather than think about how you’re ‘supposed’ to be spending those hours, or even what you, as a person of faith, are ‘called’ to do with those hours – I’d like to focus on that word ‘entrusted’.

We have each been entrusted with all these hours every week.
Entrusted – as in, given a precious gift to have, and to hold, and to deal with in a careful and thoughtful way. I have absolutely zero intention of saying word one to you about how you ‘ought’ to be spending your other 167 hours for this or that good cause. I just want to keep saying the word ‘entrusted’ until it resonates fully and deeply and shifts our thinking.
You have been entrusted with all these hours. That makes them very valuable. You possess a thing of great value. I want us to feel immensely grateful for such a gift.

Let’s keep drilling down here.
Entrusted…with a gift.
One does not earn a gift. If you try super hard, and out-work the next person you don’t get to accumulate more hours. Trust me, I’ve tried!

You may argue that it’s just how it is. The planet we inhabit spins at a certain rate, we’ve developed language that describes the science of it, and therefore every human lives 168 ‘hours’ per ‘week’ automatically and without thinking about it. It just happens because we’re here. Nobody gave me anything, nobody entrusted me with anything; it just is. That’s a perfectly fair argument – except for one thing.

We are all sitting here in this place today because somewhere along the line we had some sort of experience that moved us to consider something else – that there is, somehow, Something More than just the random spinning of a planet and some words to describe it. We may not agree on exactly what that Something More is, but we, folks like us, folks who gather in places like this on days such as these, are persuaded that this Something More is real, and true, and ultimate.

This Something More is fundamental.
This Something More matters.
This Something More is at the heart of everything.
Yet, this Something More is an utter mystery.
And, this Something More is, well, holy, sacred.

And the word that seems to be the most appropriate for describing this Something More is loving-kindness – that whatever or wherever this Something More is that a benevolent loving-kindness is its nature, and that loving-kindness is relentlessly emanating from it, and that loving-kindness is not only far beyond us, but is also all around us, and even more astoundingly deep within us.

So why did I go into this great long explanation about the fundamental reality of God’s ultimate and foundational Presence?
Because once you go there, once you awaken to this ‘loving-kindness-emanating-Something-More’ that is everywhere and always, you are inexorably and forever changed.
And once you’ve awakened to this Presence you begin to experience it everywhere and always – at least when you take time to notice.
“Surely God is in this place,” we say.
“Help me notice,” is our prayer!

And now that this Something More, this holy mystery that we’ve given the name God, is a present reality for us, our entire worldview is impacted. Everything has to be re-examined and reinterpreted through this new lens. But it isn’t that we’ve added a new thing and now we see differently – no, it’s that we’ve actually peeled away a blurry film that was previously distorting our perception and now we can see the really real, not the imitation that we thought was real.

We affirm that there is a ‘loving-kindness-emanating-Something-More’ at the heart and centre of everything that is – and with that fundamental new perception we get to look at every aspect of our lives and re-evaluate. And today, we’re starting with time.
We’re re-evaluating our perception of time. We’re seeing that those 168 hours a week are pure gift – an expression of that emanating-loving-kindness that flows from God.
And the word ‘entrusted’ gets new depth – because these hours really are a sacred gift to us – a gift that comes not with the word ‘ought’ but the word ‘aspire’, or maybe ‘inspired’ – in how we might respond to this gift we’ve been entrusted with.

This isn’t news to you.
It’s easy to look around this place and see how folks who gather here have been using the hours you’ve been entrusted with – and man, let me tell you, y’all are some inspired!

We’ve called this year’s stewardship campaign “Giving in Faith”.
Well, when it comes to your time, that sacred gift that you’ve been entrusted with, you have clearly been powerfully inspired because you give generously.
So generously.
The person-hours lovingly invested into the ministry we collectively share here at Faith United are astounding, and humbling. No one gives that much time and energy out of ‘ought to’ – they only give so faithfully out of love.
So thank you.
Thank you for all you do both here and beyond here as an expression of your faith and values.

And now, we turn. Just as we reinterpret how we engage the sacred gift of time that we’ve been entrusted with, so too must we reinterpret how we engage the sacred gift of monetary resources that we’ve been entrusted with!

Last week we talked about God’s economy, and how instead of holding tightly to what you have and cutting one’s losses God is all about relentless, extravagant, inclusive love. That’s a great concept for inspiring the way we approach our relationships. I wonder though, does God’s economy apply to our resources, and particularly to our money!

Yup. We’re gonna go there! And instantly I can feel you squirming in your seat. It’s a curious thing. Talking about money in church makes people uncomfortable. I wish it weren’t so, but it is.
Perhaps it’s because we haven’t done as good a job theologizing about money as we have about time.
Or maybe it’s because time is a relatively abstract concept, but money is tangible.
Or maybe it’s because when money does come up in the bible we default into, “Oh boy, here we go, the church has their hands in my pockets again” and we close ourselves off.

And when we finally do talk about money in the scriptures – and it comes up far more than we probably think – we tend to get it wrong. For example, how many of you have heard the phrase, “Money is the root of all evil?”
The bible absolutely does NOT say that! It’s a mis-quote.
There is nothing inherently wrong with money. Money can do great good, or great harm.

Here’s what 1 Timothy 6:10 actually says:
6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, [and now listen to this part] and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

Money isn’t evil – it’s the love of money. It’s that some people get so caught up in the chase after money that it causes them to wander away from faith – and cause themselves (and no doubt others) a lot of pain. The ‘love of money’ means greed, avarice, covetousness. We all need money. (So does the church!) But money itself is neutral, not evil – it’s how our hearts are oriented to it that makes all the difference.

1 Timothy 6:17-18 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share.

So, a message to the rich. I know what you’re thinking, “Whew! Dodged a bullet there! I’m not rich, so he can’t be talking to me!”
Guess again!

One could make an argument that the least wealthy person in this room is still among the top 10% of wealthy people in the world.
It’s true. I read it on the interwebs!
No really, it is true. Over 90% of the world has fewer monetary resources than every single person in this room does.
That doesn’t mean we’re all rolling in it – and it doesn’t mean we’re all on easy street – but it surely means that we have ‘enough’.
And it likely means that we have an abundance.

And that, in fact, is what the word ‘rich’ actually means in this passage.
It doesn’t mean wealth – it means abundance.
Listen to the wordplay.

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share…

It moves from having abundance, to God abundantly blessing us, to us responding by being abundant in our loving, serving, sharing, giving.
The world’s economy instructs us to hold tightly to our resources for they are scarce.
God’s economy challenges us immerse ourselves in this ‘loving-kindness-emanating-Something-More’ that we call God and to respond in relentless, extravagant, inclusive love ourselves.
The shape of that love is often about what we do with what has been entrusted to us.

This is the very heart of stewardship.
We’ve been entrusted with blessings in abundance.
How shall we respond? That’s a deep faith question.

I hope you’ve noticed that I’ve kicked off our big stewardship initiative and didn’t once say anything about giving more. And I’m not about to. That may well be a by-product of our thinking and praying and pondering, but that’s not my purpose today. Honest!

My purpose is to remind us of the foundation of all this – this place, our faith, our ministry together – and then I’m happy to let come whatever may come.

So we’ll finish up with verse 19, because it contains just about my favourite two words in the bible – so that!
Why do we do all this?
Why is it so important to ground our values, our lives, in God’s economy?
Why is noticing, sensing, savouring God’s Presence so vital for influencing the way we see and interpret the world?
What is the benefit of all this faithful stewardship of our resources – our time, our money?
Why all the fuss?

So that…
Verse 19 – So that [you] may take hold of the life that really is life.

So that you may take hold of the life that really is life!
That’s rich!