It’s kind of funny how things work out. Some people talk about karma and how things coming back around to you. Some people talk about coincidence, random luck and stuff happens. Others talk about the Holy Spirit lining things up for us so that we can learn a lesson of some sort. I’m inclined to think that all three happen at one time or another in our lives.
Case in point. In the past week several people have asked if I could preach on topic X or topic Y sometime. My response to that is always, “I preach on where the Holy Spirit leads with the text we have for this week.” We use a lectionary, that is a list of readings for every Sunday, which keeps me from preaching on whatever is on my mind. There are times when there is some big event that can change that but generally speaking the list of readings for the year keeps preachers honest and off their pet topics.
And so… is it karma, coincidence or the Holy Spirit that brings us together with the topic of the value of money at the same time we’re thinking about estate planning. Karma? Coincidence? Holy Spirit? I can’t make an exact prediction of that but I do know you can’t really script this stuff if you follow a lectionary schedule or readings. Unless you plan way far ahead and that isn’t one of our gifts, so to speak.
In any case, we dedicate a lot of time and energy in the pursuit of money. We like to buy things and have nice stuff so we do what we can to have more things and nicer stuff. The Bible doesn’t really speak against things and stuff or even having more things and nicer stuff. Have at it.
The Bible does speak about the priority our money has for us. That is the big tripping point for most of us. We’ve lived in a culture that for decades, perhaps centuries, has used money as a scorecard. Consider for a moment something widely reported in January. The sixty two richest people in the world have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion. Your value and worth as a human being is directly related to value and worth of your portfolio, your house and your car. Bigger is better. More is better.
The ugly flip side of all this scorekeeping is that smaller is worse, less is worse. If you don’t have a lot there is an unspoken, sometimes even spoken, implication that you’ve done something wrong and aren’t trying hard enough. Clearly you’re not a winner. You have no value. You have no worth.
The contest nature of all of this underscores the importance that is placed on money and skips over the idea that being generous is better than stacking your coins so you can count them. That is one of the points that Peter is highlighting today. He has no silver or gold but he’s got something better. Something better than money.
Better than money? That’s kind of crazy talk, isn’t it?
Maybe so but one thing I know for sure is that it is counter-cultural to be generous. I don’t mean the showy kind of look at me kind of generous that you see on TV and YouTube but the kind of generous that happens when people of modest means get together to do important things. I don’t think any of the 62 richest people in the world are part of our community of faith. If you are let’s have coffee this week. Even without any of the 62 we manage to get some important things done like, oh, feeding the hungry and getting lots of shoes on little feet. Just to name a couple. And that happens not because we do it on our own but because we do it as a community of faith. Together.
You are counter-cultural. If it were the 1960’s I’d call you all hippies. You’re doing something that most people won’t do and that is you are part of a functioning and flourishing community of faith. In a time when churches are struggling to survive you’ve managed to make Spirit of Hope be a growing church.
That doesn’t happen without your generosity. Your generosity of time. Your generosity with offerings. Your generosity supporting our ministries. It used to be one of those old ways of doing stewardship that we’d encourage people to give until it hurts. Just a little bit. I don’t agree. I think that being generous just feels good. Not that our feelings about being generous are the reason to be generous people but it is kind of a nice side benefit. In any case, generosity comes from doing something with money that is more important than more things and nicer stuff.
More important than more things and nicer stuff? That’s kind of crazy talk, isn’t it?
That’s one of the point that Peter is making in today’s text. He’s got something better than more things and nicer stuff. He is part of a community of faithful people that have gone into the world to help heal the world. An important part of Jesus’ ministry was to heal people. The apostles continue Jesus’ healing ministry and likewise we continue Jesus’ healing ministry. Maybe not with healing miracles like Jesus and the apostles but making a difference in our community and our world, healing one broken heart at a time.
It’s one thing to speak in the abstract about healing but consider this, would you rather have more money or more healing? I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone who would choose more money over healing their physical or emotional lives. It’s no different with our faith lives and when it comes down to it, we’ve all needed a little healing in our faith lives. Just this morning I saw on my newsfeed this quote, “You can’t pay enough money to cure that feeling of being broken.” Exactly right, isn’t it?
Yes, Peter, you have it pretty well captured. You have something better than silver or gold. You have generosity. You have community. You have faith. We continue in the tradition of the apostles. We have generosity. We have community. We have faith.