Rev. Molly F. James, PhD

Pentecost XII ~ Proper 14C
7 August , 2016
Grace Episcopal Church

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40

May Godís Word be spoken. May Godís Word be heard. May that point us to the living Word who is Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

When I was studying in England, I had the privilege of attending evensong at Exeter Cathedral on a regular basis. It did my soul good to just sit in the pew and absorb the sights and sounds. To pray and to be fed by the beautiful music and the magnificent surroundings. And there was an even deeper gift in being present for worship. It was as though I got to hit the spiritual reset button. Not only did I get to go away feeling refreshed and renewed, I also had my priorities straightened out. When I was in England, I was working on my PhD, and most days I was aware of how much more I had to research and how much more I had to write. The possibility of actually getting to put those three letters after my name, felt very distant indeed. It was easy to get lost in my own little world of academics and stress. It was easy to forget that the world was so much bigger than what I could see. It could have been easy to forget that I was part of something, easy to forget that there was so much more to life than my own particular research questions. I might even have been at risk of forgetting that I was a beloved child of God, created in Godís image. I didnít. Because I had the opportunity to be reminded every time I went to worship. I think that is one of the greatest gifts that worship provides for us. It is the opportunity to have our priorities re-aligned. Worship gives us the opportunity to be reminded of what really matters in life. Somehow worship can make our worries seem smaller and our joys seem all the greater.

Today our Scripture lessons are offering us that reminder in no uncertain terms. In our Gospel, Jesus tells us, ďMake 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.Ē Contrary to what Madison Avenue would have us believe, the completeness of our life is not measured in our ability to acquire more things. We will not somehow be magically happier if we have a bigger house, a nicer car or more clothes in our closet. In fact, Jesus tells us to sell our possessions and to give alms. I think the use of the word possession is notable. Jesus does not just tell us to sell our things or our stuff. He tells us to sell our possessions. He tells us to sell the things that we think of as ďmine.Ē He tells us to sell that which we feel possessive about. We are to do this so that we can give alms. Is Jesus advocating that we truly sell everything and have no material goods? I donít think so. He is advocating that we diminish our own excess to ensure that others in our community have enough. He is advocating for a world where the basic needs of ALL are met. He is advocating for us to take a shared view of wealth. Whatever we have is not ours, in the sense that it should be fiercely possessed. It should be shared. We need to remember that we are all in this together. The measure of our life is not in the accumulation of possessions. It is in the relationships we build. Think about it. If doing so would save the life of our parent, our sibling or our child, any of us would sell our cars, our houses, our electronics, in an instant. We would figure something else out. We would make do, because we know at the core of our being that people matter infinitely more than things.

But, we are human, and it is possible to get wrapped up in our own little worlds. We can get caught up in the cares and occupations of our lives. Our to do lists can be dominant. We can be overly focused on superficial things, and we can forget that fundamental truth that should ground our lives: we are beloved children of God.

Blessedly there are lots of ways to remind ourselves of this fact. Hopefully we all have people and pets in our lives who help us remember what is important and that we are beloved. And I think this is one of the fundamental gifts of worship. It restores our spiritual equilibrium and can help us to be more faithful followers of Jesus.

Becoming more faithful is a tricky thing. Our Epistle today tells us that ďfaith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.Ē Faith is the ability to believe in possibility, a reality that has not yet arrived. How do we increase something that seems so elusive, that is intangible?

For me, one of the great gifts of worship, and particularly worship here at Grace, is that it helps to make the intangible, tangible and the invisible, real. Worship here is a full sensory experience. It involves using our whole bodies and all our faculties. There are things to see, to hear, to smell, to taste and to touch. Somehow the invisible reality of Godís goodness and Godís deep and abiding love for humanity is made more real through the experience of our worship in this place.

Sure, just reading our Gospel lesson today would intellectually remind me of important truths of our faith and that I need to check on my priorities. But reading it together in this beautiful and holy space in the midst of worship that requires my whole body to be fully present, that requires the use of all my senses, is different. Worship puts the truths of our lessons alongside the whole of salvation history and the celebration of the Eucharist. The learning is more profound, and I will leave this space far better for having been here.

So, I invite all of us to pay a bit more attention to our worship this morning. Hopefully we can avoid being lulled into habits without any reflection. May we pay attention to all that is happening here. May we know that all the visible and audible and tactile gifts we receive here are pointing us to the profound and important truth that we are beloved children of God, and may that truth help us keep our priorities straight. May that truth carry us through the coming week, and may our experience here inspire us to be more attentive to all the ways we are reminded of our status as beloved children of God, in all the corners of our lives.

AMEN.

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