I’m in a state of disbelief (or perhpas denial) that it’s already August! It feels as if summer has scarcely begun, but as Facebook reminds me, kids are headed back to school some places. Most of us are staring at the reality of fall and the program year just around the corner. It’s time to get ready!
Getting ready, being prepared is one of two themes in this week’s gospel reading (RCL readings found here); the other is an admonition to consider what we treasure. If you preached Sunday on the parable of the foolish farmer, this might provide an opportunity to pick up on the similar threads woven through this part of Luke. For most of us, being cautioned NOT to store up treasures on earth is jarring. After all, we’re taught from an early age to save, to prepare for the future financially, just as the foolish farmer was doing. So Jesus’ words are counter-cultural, as is what follows this week:
“Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Is THIS what being prepared looks like? Selling everything and giving alms? For most of our congregations, that message is a non-starter. I wonder, though, if we might approach this as a matter of priorities. Our culture encourages us to accumulate material treasures and wealth – it’s our duty even, we’re told, to support the economy. And not to do so would likely mean putting our families at risk.
Having too much, on the other hand, can also put us at risk – at risk of becoming so self-centered that we lose sight of what really matters – our families, our friends, and most of all, the life Jesus calls us to. How do we as individuals and as congregations set our priorities, keeping our eyes fixed on God’s abundance and God’s kingdom? How do we use our treasure to help God’s kingdom become a reality? How do we make sure our hearts are in the right place?
The passage from Isaiah provides another way to approach priorities. Isaiah proclaims God’s disgust at Israel’s worship rituals and practices – things central to their relationship with God, and sanctioned by Torah. Listening carefully to Isaiah, however, it becomes clear that what God is objecting to most is the failure of the people to oppose injustice, to live ethically. Worship that is not accompanied by a changed life becomes not just meaningless but abhorrent.
Is this a danger for us? No matter how good our liturgy, how excellent our worship, if we prioritize that over living transformed lives, does our worship also become abhorrent to God? We often see worship as central to our lives – and it is – but is it enough?
So where are you headed this week, preachers? As I noted to my congregation last week, for those of us gearing up for fall stewardship, Luke offers us plenty of opportunity to talk about money and treasure; maybe that is your direction. Are you winding down your summer schedule, or gearing up for fall, and how does that shape your preaching? Are you especially inspired this week, or particularly challenged? Join the conversation and leave your thoughts and questions here!
The Rev. Dr. Kris Lewis-Theerman (the blogger formerly known as Rev.Dr. Mom) is an Episcopal priest currently serving a small parish outside New Yok City. She lives in the city with her husband of a year, where they love to wander the city streets admiring architecture and parks. Kris occasionally posts sermons at Run Amma Run.
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