Pentecost 9 C 2022 Joy of Giving
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
I would like to begin with a question. Please raise your hand if you like to receive gifts. Yes. I think we all like to receive gifts. However, I think most of you would also agree with me when I say that the joy of receiving a gift is often short lived. And that it is better to give a gift than to receive a gift.
Research indicates that our lives are richer when we share, and that inner joy comes when we help others to better their lives. When we give from the heart, our souls are nourished, and we receive a reward that is far more valuable than any gift that we can give.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said: “To find yourself, lose yourself in the service of others.” He said this because he knew that when we focus on giving, we are less likely to become consumes by our own concerns and challenges.
Mother Teresa is a great example of this because she found fulfillment when she gave of herself to others.
When Mother Teresa ministered to the masses in Calcutta, she helped change the expression on the faces of those about to die from distress and fear to calmness and serenity. And she made human pain a little easier to bear.
Over the past several weeks, Jesus has been making the same point as well. As you may recall, last week Jesus told the parable of a man who was rebuked for storing up his excess grain in larger barns, especially since that man would die that night.
“You fool,” Jesus exclaimed. “This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So, it is with those who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich toward God.” Luke 12:20-21
Today Jesus talks more about the “stuff” of life. Jesus said: “Sell your possessions and give alms. Make 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.”
Now, I know that most of us check out when Jesus tells us to “Sell your possessions.” We don’t like to part with our possessions.
After all, the stuff we have accumulated is ours to keep. And so, we ignore what Jesus is trying to get at in the last sentence. And we gloss over the teaching “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
And we don’t hear Jesus inform us that the stuff of life is neither important, nor unimportant. What is important is our attitude towards our stuff.
Years ago, before I was ordained, I worked as a pastoral assistant in a fairly large congregation. During my time there, the congregation began remodeling the campus. As several different schematics were presented, the number one concern I heard was “We need more storage space.”
No matter how many different ways the congregation came up with including more space, the Pastor of the congregation objected to the design.
When I finally asked the Pastor why the congregation could not put more storage space into the plans, the Pastor told me this. He said: “You know, Paul? I do not want to put more storage space in the facility because I know that they will fill it.”
Guess what? The congregation did get their way, and more space for storage was built. And you know what happened next? The congregation filled it with stuff. And the point the Pastor was making came true. The more space we have, the more we tend to fill the space with stuff.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Thew stuff we own is not necessarily evil. The trouble with our stuff is that much like the landowner last week, when we get so focused on storing and maintaining stuff, our heart becomes fixed on the stuff and not the blessings the stuff can bring to our lives.
Just like we heard last week, our lives, our stuff, is to be a blessing to others. And when the stuff we possess stops being a blessing, our hearts are in the wrong place.
Now I know that these texts the last few weeks have made us feel uncomfortable. We do not like talking about money or our stuff. But these texts are important to hear. When we become burdened and stressed out over money, budgets, and stuff; our bodies become tense, and our hands become closed. And when our hands become closed, we can no longer receive God in the ways that God desires to come to us.
And the warning in our text about not being ready is not warning to avid punishment but to be ready so that you can receive a blessing.”
That is why Jesus wants us to be aware our treasure is. Jesus said: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
In other words, you do not need to store up things or worry about earthly things. Our God, our loving Father, is pleased to give you and I all the blessings of the kingdom, and not just in the heavenly kingdom, but here and now.
And so, the question we need to ask ourselves is this. “What stuff is getting in our way of receiving God’s blessing?” And “what stuff is keeping our arms so full that we cannot receive God’s generous gifts?” And “what do you and I need to let go of so our arms will be open to receive God’s blessing so we can be a blessing to others.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, allow us to see in you the fulfillment of all our needs, so that we may turn from every false satisfaction to feed on the true and living bread which you have given to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.