Sunday, July 31, 2016

Consider Well the Mercies of the Lord

Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC; 11th Sunday after Pentecost, 31 July. 2016
Proper 13 Year C RCL: Hosea 11:1-11; Psalm 107:1-9, 43; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21
Once upon a time there were 2 grown children of God who had a cardboard box labeled “Can't part with junk.”. . . .
I thank God that my husband & I don’t still have that box of junk! It made several moves with us. It sat in one of our many storage spaces in our house. We had 4 walk-in closets stuffed full, 2 attics of stuff, & other storage areas stuffed with stuff. Feeling crowded some years ago, we spoke of renting a storage unit. We stunned ourselves into silence.
We started sorting, donating, throwing out, recycling. [This made your volunteer labors a LOT LESS as you helped us unload when we moved here this year!]
We did not consider tearing down the house to build it bigger like the man in our Gospel. I feel embarrassed at how closely we may have fit the mindset of the rich man in Jesus' parable.
I feel sad about the rich man. His greed is so self-focused. He ignores the possibility of sharing some of his crops with family, with neighbors.
Would you be gutsy enough to suggest that he give some to strangers or to God?
He wants to “relax, eat, drink, be merry”. With whom?
How much more satisfying it is to eat, drink & be merry with a house full of family & friends like we experience at our parish suppers.
How enriching for the soul, how merry for the spirit when we are generous to family, neighbors, God, & strangers. [I saw your generosity to strangers yesterday at the Soup Kitchen.]
This poor “rich man” is to be pitied. He is poor. He is sick in his soul. He is not rich toward God or anyone. Greed makes him poor in happiness, poor in relationships.
Like the man who tells Jesus to tell his brother to share with him, the rich man breaks relationships with family, friends & God. This is the kind of brokenness Hosea talks about & Paul enumerates in his list of sins, calling greed idolatry.
Greed & other sins separate us from God rather than our humanness separating us. As humans we are made in God's image. Sin distorts God’s image in us & makes our souls sick.
The rich man in Jesus' parable is sick: He's anemic in spirit. He has limited vision, tunnel vision. His perspective is far from God's. He's like another rich man I read about in Plato & a Platpus Walk into a Bar... by Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein.
This rich man knows he is dying & has a visit from an angel,1 & I paraphrase in parts:
He has worked very hard for his money & is really upset about having to leave it. He has started praying, asking to take some of his wealth with him. The angel appears & says he can't. He begs the angel to talk to God & ask if God will bend the rules. The angel goes, reappears, and – surprisingly – God has agreed to allow him to bring one suitcase. [The man doesn't argue & say, “Please, Sir, give me more!”] The man gets his biggest suitcase, fills it with pure gold bars & sets it beside his bed. [I imagine his hand tightly gripping the handle.]
He dies & arrives at the pearly gates with his suitcase. St. Peters says: “Whoa! You can't bring that in here!”
He says he has permission & asks St. Peter to verify this with God. Pete leaves, returns & says: “You're right. You are allowed one carry-on, but I'm supposed to check its contents here at the gate…”
St. Peter opens the suitcase to inspect the worldly things the rich man finds too precious to leave behind. He looks inside. He looks closer at all those bars of gold & exclaims:

You brought pavement!?”
When your streets are paved in gold, things look different. Things look different to this rich man. Like the rich man in Jesus' parable this rich man is sick, anemic in spirit. He has tunnel vision: his perspective is far from God's. He's rich but not rich toward God.
What does it look like to be rich toward God? I witnessed richness toward God as you worked yesterday at the Soup Kitchen, respecting the dignity of every person.
Richness toward God, is staying the course, “through the good & bad times...It's more than what you put in the offering plate...,”2 as The Hip Hop Prayer Book tells us.
Our scriptures today tell us how generous & loyal God is to us & how humans fail to be generous & loyal to each other & to God. Hosea tells us God won't give up on us as God did with Admah or Zeboiim, cities totally destroyed with their neighbors Sodom & Gomorrah.3  Hosea says: the “difference between God & humans...involves (God's) capacity for radical forgiving love.”4
As Children of God, you & I can grow our capacity for radical, forgiving love through the grace we have from Jesus. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us, to help us grow this capacity.
Think of these 5 aspects to nurture our capacity for radical, forgiving love: 1. Recognize the blessings we have from God & give thanks for our blessings.
2. Share these blessings.
3. Nurture your relationship with God & the Body of Christ.
4. Nourish your relationship through the sacraments.
5. Stay grounded in the scriptures & in the sacraments. 
God gives us the sacraments & the scriptures for our health – our spiritual & our physical health.
As our Psalm says:
Whoever is wise will ponder these things, &
consider well the mercies of the Lord.”

Cathcart, Thomas. Daniel Klein. Plato and a Platpus Walk into a Bar...:Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes. New York: Books. The Penguin Group. 2007.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achetemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1985.
The Hip Hop Prayer Book. Ed.-in-Chief: The Rev. Timothy Holder. New York: 2006.
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.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
Poitier-Young, Anathea. Old Testaments Prophets class notes. The School of Theology, The University of the South Advanced Degrees Program. Summer 2010.

1 Cathcart, Thomas. Daniel Klein. Plato and a Platpus Walk into a Bar... Pp. 177-178.
2 The Hip Hop Prayer Book. Ed.-in-Chief: The Rev. Timothy Holder. P.123.
3 Jewish Study Bible. P. 1161.

4 Harper’s Bible Dictionary. P. 714

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