There’s No Guarantee?
A sermon preached at the First Church of Christ, Congregational UCC, Bethany CT on Nov 2, 2014
1 John 3:1-3
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are
Matthew 5:1-12 — You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘carefull,’ you find yourselves cared for. You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Really this day is all about what’s really important. That’s it, nothing else.
What’s more important? that we be wealthy, or that there be peace on earth?
What’s more important? that we have nice new clothes every year, or that our children go to college?
What’s more important? that we be comfortable, or that no one gets chased down the street with a baseball bat because of their race, or who they love?
What’s more important? that we have, or that we give?
What’s more important?
I don’t know how many funerals I’ve done over the years, but a lot. I’ve done funerals for folks so poor we all just contributed – even the funeral director took no fee. And I’ve done funerals for folks with enough money to visit the Antarctic every year. In all those years, I have never heard anyone eulogized for the amount of money they earned, or the size of their home, or the number or model of their cars. No one praised them for being Yale grads, or sending their kids to the Hopkins School or maybe up to the Taft School. At a funeral, we don’t talk about that kind of thing; we talk about the love that was shared. We talk about the joy given; we talk about generosity, kindness, creativity; we talk about love.
In our Gospel reading, we heard Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount. He said not a word about being blessed when we put aside for ourselves, or indulged our own desires. He said we are blessed when we are content with who we are. We are blessed when we care. We are blessed when we’ve worked up a good appetite for God.
What’s more important? What we have? Or what we give?
This is an enormous comfort: few of us have the resources to make that sort of big, spectacular difference in the world that we imagine would be mentioned at a funeral, or that we read about in an obituary. But all of us have the resources to use our life up in love, in faith, in kindness, in generosity.
Today is Ingathering Sunday; this is one of the opportunities God gives us, both to give of our substance, to pledge our financial resources to the support of this outpost of God’s church.
This church is an essential part of our community.
When people are in need, we are here.
When people mourn, we are here.
When people are in despair, we are here.
When we need strength, guidance, love, time with God, we are here.
This church is important.
It’s not about history; sure, this is a historical building, but it’s not our history that makes us important.
It’s not about beauty; sure, this building is beautiful, but it’s not our beauty that speaks to those in need.
It’s not about our beloved memories; sure the building is filled with them. You all look over where Bernie Mozealous used to sit and it’s as if she’s right there, but it’s not our memories that makes us important.
More than a pool of memories or a picture of olden times, this church is a living, breathing fellowship, made up of people who have pledged their lives and their resources to sharing God’s love with Bethany and the world.
We are not about yesterday; we are about tomorrow. And your money makes tomorrow happen.
Giving our money to this church doesn’t convey any guarantee. It won’t give you a perfect life. It won’t insure there’ll be no terrible snow storms this winter.
We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But what we can say is that, with God, your gifts, offered generously, offered hopefully, offered lovingly, will allow us to continue in a path towards whatever will be. Your gifts are tangible signs of love.
And love is what is most important.
What matters most?
And above all, love.
Because we are, when you get right down to it, the adopted children of of a loving God. We love, because God first loved us. Beloved, let us love our world.