Eighteenth after Pentecost - Year C
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Eighteenth after Pentecost - Year C
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Let us pray: Creator God, you have given us more than we can ask or imagine. Help us to be generous in sharing the good things you have given, so that all may come to know your love. Amen.
†† †I canít and wonít claim any more than a general knowledge on the subject of investment. Whenever our† financial planner interviews me, as required by the guidelines set out for the industry, for my knowledge of such things, he invariably puts me somewhere in the middle in terms of what I know and our willingness to tolerate risk. So, if you noticed the title of this reflection and thought to yourself that you were going to get some free investment advice, you may well be disappointed. Some of you may be thinking that you get what you pay for! Others of you may be tempted to stop listening - not just because of my disclaimer as to the amount that I know, but because of a general sense that the spiritual and the temporal should remain in the separate spheres where they are often placed.
†† †I hope that you will continue to tune in for just a bit longer, not because of any advice I might give you, but for the advice that I am attempting to interpret for you, as revealed to us in the scripture passages we heard a few moments ago.
†† †One thing I do know, from the various newsletters and articles Iíve read that any attempt to time the market is a recipe, if not for disaster, at least disappointment. I expect there are many people who are feeling that kind of sting after the market slump that happened earlier this month because of the sub-prime mortgage crash. Notice how those words flowed off my tongue, as if I knew what I was talking about!
†† †Add into this the more recent flurry of news items and ensuing casual conversations weíve all had about the surging loonie, and it would seem that a reflection on the topic of investment, if the words of Charles Wesley - that a preacher should have a copy of the newspaper in one hand and the bible in the other - are to be followed, is very much apropos.
†† †So, here goes, investment advice from Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus, as reported by Peter. Let me begin with a challenge to the assertion I previously mentioned that the spiritual and the temporal have little to do with each other. Itís an assertion that has always confused me even in connection with church membership. The Manual of The United Church of Canada is quite clear in saying that matters of a spiritual nature can only be decided by members of the church, while temporal matters - in other words, matters involving issues of finance, can be decided by both adherents and members, as long as the members agree. Iíve never thought the separation should be so easily made. The revenue and expenditures of our church are spiritual matters. The way we spend the money has a lot to say about what we believe. The way we decide individually how much the church will have to spend is also a spiritual matter and also says a lot about what we believe.
†† †When the Right Reverend Bill Phipps was serving a term as moderator there was a small furor created because of an interview he did with the Ottawa Citizen. There was lots of reaction to the article in church meetings and in The United Church Observer, most of which has blown over. However, one thing that remains from that episode for me is a comment that Bill Phipps made in trying to turn the conversations towards the things that mattered for him. He was quoted as saying that Jesus had more things to say about money and the economy than any other topic. That might be a surprising revelation, and Iíve never actually checked it out, but Iím inclined to think that it is true.
†† †The reading from Lukeís gospel this morning is an example. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man is a story about financial matters and spiritual matters. Itís also about investment and the meaning of life. One of the issues that created the biggest fury around the aforementioned Ottawa Citizen article was Bill Phippís statement that he did not know if there was such a place as heaven. Many people felt that as the leader of Canadaís largest protestant denomination that he should not be demonstrating such a lack of faith. Interestingly enough, in the aftermath of the article and subsequent reactions and clarifications, Phipps made it clear that he believed in heaven, but he did not KNOW if there was such a place as heaven - so it turned out that Phipps was absolutely speaking about faith, as compared to objective knowledge. The point of this morningís parable is not so much about what happens to us when we die as it is to guide our actions in our life on earth. The rich man, failing to achieve resolution for his agony after death, at least wants to make sure that his still living brothers arenít confined to the same fate. The clear answer is that the decisions we are encouraged to make in our life on earth are well laid out. The currency for a meaningful life is not prescribed by dollars but by love. Love for neighbours. Love that transcends social barriers. Love that reaches out beyond judgement.
†† †Paul adds to the list. A meaningful life, a faithful life is measured not just by love but also by loveís companions which according to the translation I was reading are: wonder, faith, steadiness, and courtesy. Canít buy me love, the Beatles sang, but our love is shown in the choices we make in the use of our dollars and cents.
†† †Would any of you, knowing that a piece of land was about to be expropriated without compensation, spend above the going rate for such property in other lucrative markets? It seems a foolhardy investment. Yet, thatís the investment advice that Jeremiah followed. He bought land as an act of faith. This is not the economy defined by human terms. This was a transaction enacted in Godís economy. The currency here was not dollars and cents - the desire to make a profit. The currency here was faith and hope. Jeremiahís land transaction was a statement about hope and trust in God.
†† †Thatís the way it is with Godís economy. It is not measured in dollars and cents. It has other currencies. Just as Abraham said to the rich man in Jesusí parable, that message is well known. It is written in the books of Moses and the prophets, and might I add - the letter to Timothy and others, and all through the gospels.
†† †Investment advice? You bet! But not the kind of advice we always want to get. But the kind of advice you can stake your life on, thatís all. Amen.