Sunday, October 26, 2014

KISS The Commandments

Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 26 Oct. 2014, Proper 25

Year A RCL: Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90: 1-6, 13-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46


What does a circle teach us about life & love?
A circle is simple. It reminds us the essence of what Jesus says today about the commandments. He says KISS the Commandments: Keep it simple, saints.
We have lots of circles here to help us think about the circle of God's love that encircles us. [We have tennis balls, a yarn spinner, musical instruments, bracelets, a bell, & these Russian figures.] What can they teach us? What secrets do you think they hold?
Since we are all children of God, I ask those younger than college age to come & explore these circular things for all of us children of God here.
Where do the circles start & where do they end? [It is hard to tell.] We never know how connected something is – like relationships that connect us, like God's love that encircles us even when we don't feel it. Jesus says love is the simple truth of the commandments. That simple truth can keep us balanced.
What about this carved wooden figure? He holds 2 circles: He balances the law & the prophets in God's love. He stays balanced with love of God & love of self & neighbor. Let's see how balanced is he. [See  video.]
We never know what amazing things can happen when our lives are balanced in God's circle of love!
video
What about these other circles? What is inside them? [Animal skin, a brass bell, my arm through these bracelets. Whatever stuffs a tennis ball.] What do you find inside the circles of the 2 figures? [Ah! People. More people. Oh, look: even more people!] They show us the deep circle of love within the human family. Maybe these small figures can remind us of Moses & the leaders that follow him. Maybe they remind us of Jesus & his followers – which include us.
Our scriptures seem to go in circles lately, with stories & situations repeating with a few variations: Moses & the people facing challenges & changes, Jesus facing challenges from the leaders, who don't want to change. Our scriptures are like a circle dance that entwines: the lesson from Deuteronomy & the lessons from Thessalonians & Matthew are like interlocking circles.
Deuteronomy says: change of leaders means it's time to give thanks for what was & move on. The Israelites mourn the death of Moses 30 days, the usual time to mourn a parent.1 Moses has been like their parent. They love him.
Like an interlocking circle with Deuteronomy, Paul tells the Thessalonians that he cares very deeply for them & they are dear to him. The Gospel interlocks with the lessons as Jesus tells us to love God with all we've got & to love each other as we love ourselves.....We HAVE to love ourselves. (I wonder if the leaders who challenge Jesus love themselves.)
If we focus on too many how-tos to live in God's love, those details can confuse us like we see in people throughout the Bible. This can squeeze love out of our lives & leave us unbalanced. This wooden man reminds us that what looks like an impossible balance is indeed possible when we keep it simple. We can be balanced with love of God & love of self & neighbor.
This last circle reminds us of what is central to life. Look what encircles this circle. Can you see the words? [Kids, what do they say?] Love. Love. Love. This circle is a Trinity of Love.
The Holy Trinity, whom we proclaim & worship, calls us to live a life of love. The Holy Trinity encircles us with love. We never know how connected something is – like relationships that connect us, like God's love that encircles us even when we don't feel it. Remember: what looks off-balance may hold wonderful surprises of fuller life in God's love.
God creates each of us to life in love & for love. What does God say for us to do? Love. What does Jesus say for us to do? Love. What does the Holy Spirit say for us to do? Love. So let's do it!

Bibliography
Dios Habla Hoy: La Biblia. 2da Ed. Nueva York: Sociedad Bíblica Americana. 1983.
The Four Translation New Testament. Minneapolis: World Wide Publications. New York: The Iversen Assocs. 1966.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1985.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 7 Oct. 2014.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
1 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. P. 449.

Friday, October 24, 2014

What Do You Have in Your Wallet & on Your Refrigerator?

Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 19 Oct. 2014, Proper 24

Year A RCL: Exodus 33:12-23; Psalm 99; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22

Give to God the things that are God's.
What are the things of God?
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, who works with our Bishop Scott Benhase, says1 “...God wants...nothing less than to come & abide in your heart...God loves you. God keeps your picture in the divine wallet & on the heavenly refrigerator.” That's such a delightful image of what belongs to God: YOU!
We have images in our reading from Matthew that are less than lovely. The emperor’s image on the money people use to pay taxes is a less-than-lovely image to the Pharisees, who are religious leaders; they take seriously God's command that says not to make images of other gods. The emperor & many of his people think the emperor is a god.
The other lovely-LESS image is the Pharisees, who are trying to trick Jesus,2 to trap him. They ask their questions to get Jesus into trouble either with the emperor/the government or with the people. The Pharisees bring along the Herodians. Pharisees think it is wrong to pay the tax. Herodians don't like paying but see the benefit of keeping on the good side of the government.3
So, if Jesus says "Yes" then people will be angry. If he says "No" what will happen? He'll get into trouble with the government.
I wonder why Matthew tells us about the Pharisees asking Jesus about taxes. In 5 other chapters, Matthew (Chapters 12, 15, 16, 19 & 21) tells of other times they test Jesus. So why is this tax story important to Matthew?
Who remembers what kind of work Matthew did
before Jesus called him as a disciple?
Was he a fisherman? A shepherd? 
He was a tax collector! We know this from Matthew 9:9.]
Matthew has keen insight about paying taxes AND about the people collecting taxes. He knows both sides of the coin:
He knows some tax collectors cheat & can over-charge as part of their pay.4 
Matthew knows God's grace & love that we receive through Jesus.
He knows what Jesus teaches in this lesson:
paying taxes isn't the issue.
The issue is how much we live in God's love.
Since we all pay taxes, we can understand this can be a hot topic. Raise your hand if you pay taxes so we can see how much we have in common.5 
Kids/you who didn't raise your hands, why didn't you raise your hands? Don't you pay your taxes? I'm pretty sure you do. Have you ever bought anything in a store? Then you have paid a tax – sales tax.6
Paying taxes helps us have roads, schools, firefighters, police & other resources to help us. Long ago people's taxes paid for protection, security, & peace7 AND, as we read in 2 Kings 12:4-5, to repair the temple in Jerusalem. People gave voluntarily to support the temple. That voluntary offering is a gift from the heart.8
When we know tax money is wasted, it bothers our hearts. [As a college senior debating how tax money is spent, I found in my research a case of a grant from taxes being given to a community to fill in a cranberry bog to use the land in other ways. Later, another grant of tax money went to them to create a bog in that same place so they could grow cranberries!
I am sure the emperor did not spend tax money on cranberries. I do know that some folk who received taxes did not always use the money as promised.9 In whatever way the emperor used the taxes, the Pharisees dislike paying & they dislike what Jesus tells people about how to live in God's love. They dislike how Jesus includes all kinds of people.
So the Pharisees ask is it OK in God’s law to pay the taxes. I would like to think the Pharisees somehow think they are serving God with all their heart, all their soul, mind & strength as they plot to trap Jesus. However, I'm not that naive.
We tend to think naive people are not quite with it & it's easy to trick them. “Naive” tends to be a pejorative term. Exploring this word lately, a friend & I have discovered interesting aspects to it: naive people are innocent & they make good leaders!
Maybe they are good leaders because their innocence keeps them open to other people's ideas. Naive people have the innocent trust implied by the French word that gives us our word naive. The French word means "having a natural simplicity & honesty."10 It is from a word that means "being part of the nature of a person from birth, native, inborn..."11 
What a gift to have a leader of honest simplicity.
Jesus has honest simplicity. He is a good leader. We know Jesus has keen intelligence, which is another quality naive people may have.
Pharisees lack honest simplicity. They complicate issues. Their trap to get Jesus into trouble fails. With his keen intelligence, Jesus knows their reason for asking, so he asks simply & wisely for a coin & says: Whose picture is on this coin? Answer: the emperor. So give the emperor his stuff & give God what belongs to God.
What belongs to God, what has God’s
“picture” on it is YOU!
 The Bible tells us: God creates us in God's image. God the Holy Trinity is a Holy Unity. God is love. We are made in the image of that Holy Unity of Love. That picture of you on God's refrigerator shines forth God's love that is in you, the love we know through Jesus. How do we live this love?
In a fun music video on its website, Church of the Spirit in Kingstowne, VA, illustrates how to “Love the Lord Your God”: The video emphasizes “the big 4”12 - the 4 BIG words: Love, Welcome, Forgive, Serve. Beside the words, the video adds: One another. Lyrics in the background say: “I will love You Lord with all my heart, with all my soul, mind & strength.”13
To help us love God, Jesus invites us to share the love & strength that come from Holy Communion. As you walk out those red doors to serve God as Jesus' hands & heart (as one of our Lay Eucharistic Visitors has said), I see your love & inner strength. I see smiles that radiate God's love. That love that shines from your picture that God keeps on the heavenly refrigerator & in the divine wallet.
What do you have in your wallet & on your refrigerator to help you stay close to God? Here are some tangible images being distributed by our young Acolytes that may help you. You could put them in your wallet, on your fridge or in a book!
As a symbol of giving to God what belongs to God, I encourage you to draw a heart on the colorful paper & put it in the offering plate. You might even write a love note to God.


1 Logue, Frank. The Rev. Canon to Our Bishop Scott Benhase. “Render unto God what is God's”. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2014/09/26/19-pentecost-proper-24-a-2014/ Accessed: 14 Oct. 2014.
2 Note: Imagery influenced by “Kids Pay Taxes Too!” http://www.sermons4kids.com// Accessed: 14 Oct. 2014.
3 The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1046.
4 Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed: Paul J. Achtemeier. P. 841.
5 Note: Idea & questions from “Kids Pay Taxes Too!” http://www.sermons4kids.com// Accessed: 14 Oct. 2014.
6 Ibid. “Kids Pay Taxes Too!” http://www.sermons4kids.com// Accessed: 14 Oct. 2014.
7 “Jewish Antiquities”. Book 14. Chapter 2:2,3. & Ch. 8:3. The New Complete Works of Josephus. Revised and Expanded Edition. Translator: William Whiston. Commentator: Paul L. Maier. Note: Flavius Josephuswas a Jewish priest & historian, who wrote in the 1st Century of Christianity.
8 Ibid. Harper’s Bible Dictionary. P. 648.
9 Ibid. “Jewish Antiquities”. Book 14. Chapter 2:2. The New Complete Works of Josephus.
12 “Love the Lord Your God.” YouTube video. http://www.thechurchofthespirit.org/?p=2531. Accessed: 16 Oct. 2014.
13 Ibid.
Bibliography
Dios Habla Hoy: La Biblia. 2da Ed. Nueva York: Sociedad Bíblica Americana. 1983.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1985.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Kids Pay Taxes Too!” http://www.sermons4kids.com// Accessed: 14 Oct. 2014.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 7 Oct. 2014.
Logue, Frank. The Rev. Canon to Our Bishop Scott Benhase. “Render unto God what is God's”. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2014/09/26/19-pentecost-proper-24-a-2014/ Accessed: 14 Oct. 2014.
Love the Lord Your God.” YouTube video. http://www.thechurchofthespirit.org/?p=2531. Accessed: 16 Oct. 2014.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
The New Complete Works of Josephus. Revised and Expanded Edition. Translator: William Whiston. Commentator: Paul L. Maier. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications.n1999.
1 Logue, Frank. The Rev. Canon to Our Bishop Scott Benhase. “Render unto God what is God's”. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2014/09/26/19-pentecost-proper-24-a-2014/ Accessed: 14 Oct. 2014.
2 Note: Imagery influenced by “Kids Pay Taxes Too!” http://www.sermons4kids.com// Accessed: 14 Oct. 2014.
3 The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1046.
4 Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed: Paul J. Achtemeier. P. 841.
5 Note: Idea & questions from “Kids Pay Taxes Too!” http://www.sermons4kids.com// Accessed: 14 Oct. 2014.
6 Ibid. “Kids Pay Taxes Too!” http://www.sermons4kids.com// Accessed: 14 Oct. 2014.
7 “Jewish Antiquities”. Book 14. Chapter 2:2,3. & Ch. 8:3. The New Complete Works of Josephus. Revised and Expanded Edition. Translator: William Whiston. Commentator: Paul L. Maier. Note: Flavius Josephuswas a Jewish priest & historian, who wrote in the 1st Century of Christianity.
8 Ibid. Harper’s Bible Dictionary. P. 648.
9 Ibid. “Jewish Antiquities”. Book 14. Chapter 2:2. The New Complete Works of Josephus.
12 “Love the Lord Your God.” YouTube video. http://www.thechurchofthespirit.org/?p=2531. Accessed: 16 Oct. 2014.
13 Ibid.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rejoice! God Has an Open Door Policy

Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 12 Oct. 2014, Proper 23

Year A RCL: Exodus 32:1-14; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14


Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”
Before we explore today's violent parable to see what there is in its dress code to rejoice about, I'd like to get today's headcount:1

Charlie, since you are the usher, will you write today's headcount on paper for me & bring it up here? I can't because I don't like this pencil. Barbara, will you lend Charlie your pen? I can't let him write with it because the pen is red. Matthew, will you do the headcount? I can't. I'm studying for a math test. Eric, will you write the headcount on your bulletin & bring it to me? I can't. My back hurts & the paper is too heavy.
Excuses! Excuses! We hear excuses in Exodus when the people fear what the future holds since Moses is gone a long time & they can't see their fear-less leader. They don't feel God's presence, so they worry & fear takes over. They make a mess of their festival to the Lord. “The ink is not yet dry” on the 10 Commandments2 [the 10 statements we talked about last week] & the people break the 1st one: “You shall have no other gods besides me”3. [For a really unbelievable excuse, read what Aaron tells Moses in Exodus 32:21-24.]
The excuses we hear in Jesus' parable may sound believable: I can't come to the wedding, I have to work on my farm/I have business to handle. Understand this: in Jesus' time people didn't post printed invitations4 on their refrigerators. They were invited to a wedding without knowing the date.
Knowing this makes it easier to understand how work may seem more important to invitees in Jesus' parable. Work is important, yet Jesus says more important in life is our relationship with God, our King. The invitees make light of it: they do not take seriously God's invitation to a joyful relationship.
Maybe they don't like the pencil that was used to write the invitation! Maybe they dismiss it because the invitation is red or too heavy. Whatever the excuse, they miss living the fuller life that we know in Jesus, the Son, whose bride is the Church – us!
Jesus tells his disciples – us – to invite others to share the fuller life he offers. I wonder what the people with Jesus think when they hear him tell the last part of this parable about the man who wears his everyday clothes to the banquet instead of his wedding robe.
God sends an open invitation to everyone – including you & me. God's open door5 policy lets EVERYONE come in to celebrate with God & God's Son. As Bible commentator William Barclay says, God invites us to join in the celebration of joy6 & abundant life. This IS the reason for rejoicing.
Like some of the invitees, we can get distracted & forget to rejoice. We can get distracted by the stuff of our lives, honest work that is different from what turns into that out-of-control party in Exodus while Moses is on the mountain with God.
The people with Moses are afraid to go it alone. They fail to realize God IS with them even though they cannot see God or Moses.
In their fear from not knowing what to expect, I see our fear over the Ebola outbreak. We worry & care about it now because it's in our country. Like when AIDS was still far across the globe in Africa, we didn't fear it until it came here.
Why have we waited until now to pray about a cure for Ebola? Like the people with Moses, we fail to notice what is far away. We forget to remember, we have work to do for God's kingdom here AND far away.
Remember this: through prayer, we can be a healing presence in harsh situations anywhere. Our prayers – your silent prayers when you are alone – send love & hope across the globe. We have to take time to do the work of prayer.
In the wedding parable Jesus wants us to notice: We can be so busy with our here & now to-dos & worries that we forget the things that have lasting value. “(We) can be so busy making a living that (we fail) to make a life; (we) can be so busy (organizing) life that (we forget to live) life...”7
What's important in this parable is not how we will be punished. What's important is “what we will miss.”8 “This parable has nothing to do with the clothes... (&) everything to do with the spirit in which we (live & worship God).”9 The man not wearing a wedding robe has refused to participate completely.10 That's why he gets thrown out of the party.
God loves us just like God loves the people with Moses & wants to guide them & us deeper into God's love so that we live fully in love. How quickly we can yield to fear when God's love seems to have gone away. God's love never goes away. It is always with us.
We get a taste of God's love at this Holy Table. By Jesus' dying for us, we receive a wedding robe so that we can come to this banquet: We are robed in the Light of Christ.
The Light of Christ helps us see God’s love & know God IS with us even when we don't feel God's presence.
May we have the grace to accept God's open invitation to come & feast on the amazing gift of abundant, undeserved, & unending of love.11 
 May we rejoice in the Lord always...
The Lord is near.


Bibliography
Barclay, William. The Gospel of Matthew: Vol. 2 . Revised Ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 1975.
Bates, The Rev. Dr. J. Barrington. “Dress codes or radical welcome?” Accessed: 8 Oct. 2014. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2014/09/18/18-pentecost-proper-23-a-2014/.
Excuses! Excuses!” http://www.sermons4kids.com/excuses_excuses.htm. Accessed 9 Oct. 2014.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 7 Oct. 2014.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
Williams, Carol. Charles Kirkpatrick. Interactive Group Activities for Sermon "You Are Invited". Accessed: 9 Oct. 2014. Sermons4Kids.com. http://www.sermons4kids.com/.

1 Idea from: Williams, Carol. Charles Kirkpatrick. Interactive Group Activities for Sermon "You Are Invited". Accessed: 9 Oct. 2014. Sermons4Kids.com. http://www.sermons4kids.com/
2 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. P. 183.
3 Ibid. Jewish Study Bible. P. 148.
4 Note: Idea from Bates, The Rev. Dr. J. Barrington. “Dress codes or radical welcome?” Accessed: 8 Oct. 2014. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2014/09/18/18-pentecost-proper-23-a-2014/.
5 Barclay, William. The Gospel of Matthew: Vol. 2 . P. 270.
6 Ibid. Barclay, Pp. 267-268.
7 Ibid. Barclay. P. 268.
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid. P. 270.
10 Ibid. Bates.
11 Ibid. Bates.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

God Gives Us the Gift of Love, Joy, Peace, Justice, Mercy, Wholeness

Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 5 Oct. 2014, Proper 22

Year A RCL: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46

The kingdom of God will be...given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.”
What are those fruits of God's kingdom? Love. Joy. Peace. Justice. Mercy. Unity. Wholeness. How do you see those fruits in the 10 commandments God gives in our reading from Exodus?
One God: unity; sabbath rest: peace; honor parents: love; no murder/adultery/stealing/lying: justice/mercy; no coveting: wholeness & joy.
When we focus on our relationship with God & have that relationship at the center of our lives, then our relationships with each other & God's creatures can be relationships of love, joy, peace, justice, mercy, unity & wholeness. Our unity, our wholeness, reflect the Unity of God the Holy Trinity, the perfect Wholeness.
The 10 Commandments are more accurately called the 10 statements or words, as the term Decalogue indicates1 & as the Jewish Study Bible notes. Look at the reading. What do you notice about punishment? There is NO mention of punishment!
Following the 10 statements produces right relationships. In his parable today, Jesus tells us about people who fail to follow the 10 statements in their relationship to the landowner. They make the agreement & they break it. They turn their agreement into a lie. They covet the landowner's share. They murder to steal his share.
Jesus tells this parable to teach us the essence of God's kingdom that we know in part through the 10 statements. That essence is deeper than just following rules. It is living the statements in all aspects of our lives. We have to keep our day-to-day living centered on God. Jesus tells this parable to teach people who think they have it made & are comfortable ignoring the needs of people around them that our relationship with God is part of all aspects of our lives.
Our relationship is to be honest, open, God-centered in all aspects of our lives & that includes our $. God calls us to be a people who produce the fruit of the kingdom. When I look at the list of ministries in which you are involved, I know we are a people centered on God, working to produce Love, Joy, Peace, Justice, Mercy, Unity, Wholeness.
We have spoken several times of why you do what you do. You have mined your experiences to discover the intrinsic, unchanging value that is the fruit of your labors. Remember the cooks among us share their gifts to enhance fellowship & joy. The knitters create caps for newborns, a visible expression of love & mercy that brings peace to a child & parents, who are usually unknown to the knitters.
There is another dimension to our life in God's kingdom here that is essential to producing its fruits. It is a dimension that we can learn about from The Society of Saint John the Evangelist, a monastic community in the Episcopal Church & the Anglican Church of Canada. As their website says, The Brothers give their whole selves to living the Gospel of Jesus2...They...are “critically engaged with contemporary culture. (They) seek to know & share an authentic experience of God's love & mercy.” They help people develop a deeper relationship with God.
We do that here week by week. You do that in your many ministries in the community. The Monday night Centering Prayer Group & the Daughters of the King work on this.
Although the Society of St. John the Evangelist exists for God's kingdom, it severely neglected a central responsibility for its life & work, as Jamie Coates shares in the September Vestry Papers Sharing Our Gifts.3 Here's the story: “For 85 years the Brothers...lived in their monastery on the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (One of those Brothers had been an Episcopal priest who served at our wedding.) The monastery is so beautiful that it has become a place of pilgrimage for many, where even before you meet a monk, you are reminded by the place that God sees beauty in you.”
During those 85 years the Brothers did nothing about money for maintenance. The physical monastery literally fell apart. Then came the financial crisis. Brother Curtis Almquist, the monastery's superior (its leader) had to ask the Society's friends for money. Meeting with them, he said: "As Superior I have a responsibility to ask for money. I also have no idea how much money any of you have. I ask one thing: please pray to God, & between you & God figure out what is right for you. Thank you."
Brother Curtis shows the difference between our living in the dollar-for-work-kingdom & our life in relationship in God's kingdom. Jesus uses that dollar-for-work imagery in today's parable.
Like the tenants in the parable & the Brothers in the monastery, we live in both kingdoms. In God's kingdom are Love, Joy, Peace, Justice, Mercy, Unity, Wholeness – these are gifts God gives us. We do not earn them like we do when we sell our time & skills in the workplace.
How do we – how do you – live in these 2 kingdoms? [The dollar-for-work kingdom & God's kingdom.]
Consider this question:4 What do you do?
How did you answer? Did you describe only work?
What you do is more than just how you earn money. Notice the list of ministries in the Epistle. Notice all that you do! There is much you do beyond making money. There are relationships that you value & nourish at home & in the larger community.
Earning a living is important. AND there is more to life than trading your time & skills for money. Notice several important perspectives5:
The fruits of God's kingdom help us know what is important. Jesus says: “You are important. You are worth dying for on that cross.” Jesus loves you – each one of us. The joy of knowing Jesus brings peace. Peace frees us from fear so that we can be generous in showing Mercy & working for Justice. Jesus shows us how to rely on each other so that we deepen our Unity. So that we live in Wholeness.
Living in Love, Joy Peace, Justice, Mercy, Unity & Wholeness yields a harvest of deep relationships among ourselves & between us & God – you & God.
Living in wholeness means I have to be like Brother Curtis & frankly ask you for money for this Body of Christ. I ask you for money at this traditional time for the annual giving campaign so that we can have a sound financial plan to live by in 2015.
This plan meets practical expenses for lights & water, & to support our Diocese. The work in the Diocese helps us serve Jesus beyond our red doors & the county line. Remember this fact: the Diocese supported us financially 105 years.
Here's another a fact: Our older buildings need repairs. The monks in Massachusettes started a building fund the year before they started asking friends for capital donations, & they continue to fund that building fund annually. (Their monastery was renovated in 2010.)6
We at St. John's have been more responsible than deferring maintenance for 85 years.
So I ask you to “name the price of your church.”7 What is this church – this Body of Christ – worth to you? What value do you put on your relationship here? Like Brother Curtis asked, I ask you: “Please pray to God, & between you & God figure out what is right for you. Thank you."

Bibliography
Coats, James. “God’s Economy.” http://www.ecfvp.org/vestrypapers/sharing-our-gifts/gods-economy/. Accessed: 2 Oct. 2014.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Howard, Ken. “An Experiment: Year Round Stewardship”. Accessed: 2 Oct. 2014.
http://www.ssje.org/. Accessed: 4 Oct. 2014.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation.New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 27 Sept. 2014.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.

1 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. P. 148.
2 http://www.ssje.org/. Accessed: 4 Oct. 2014.
3 Coats, James. “God’s Economy.” http://www.ecfvp.org/vestrypapers/sharing-our-gifts/gods-economy/. Accessed: 2 Oct. 2014.
4 Ibid. Coates.
5 Note: Influenced by Coates' article.
6 Ibid. Coates.
7 Ibid.