Grace and Peace to you,
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ
All that we could ever treasure
Seek to obtain
At the Table
Standing out from the Cross
Because of the One,
Who gave up what was most precious to Him
Jesus Christ, Our Risen Savior and Lord
(Start out by asking the question again about what is the congregation’s most treasured possession, something that they display on their person or in their homes. Share that what I always have treasured is when I receive a gift from and especially from an Elder and give examples like the sweaters that I got for birthdays and Christmas from my Grandmother, to even the Barbie House I got for my 8th birthday, and my Uncle came over to put it together. More recently, the women who have become my Mother’s rock, lovingly referred to as the Steel Magnolias, have not only encouraged me but gifted me as my seminary, and now my pastoral journey has commenced. Hold up the shawl, scarf that Jerry Brown obtained for me and tell the story about how she acquired it, and it was unique and interested. However, one Thursday afternoon as my husband was in my office, he held it up and noticed these two verses (read one), which sort of threw me into a quandary because clearly this could point to the argument for prosperity gospel. But what kind of wealth is being spoken of here?)
And then I read the previous verse,
“Do not say to yourself,
My power and the might of my own hand
Have gotten me this wealth.”
I think we as people of faith,
In this pursuit of holiness and righteousness
Meshed in with this complex existence in this life,
This individualized society,
Built on this concept of prosperity
This theology of glory,
Which just like the weeds,
Invasive species in many of our gardens,
And have taken over,
Wound tightly over our bushes,
Like a vine,
Has invaded our collective journey here,
And attempts to choke the life out of the Good News,
The Gospel of Jesus Christ
It’s no secret,
That I loathe prosperity gospel
I will not ascribe to it
I do not agree to it
I will not preach it.
Theologian Dr. Justo Gonzalez,
Identifies this prosperity gospel,
As preached by many ministers and preachers,
As a way to manipulate God.
“The purpose of Biblical religion
Is not to have God do what we desire,
But for us rather,
To be accountable to God.”
Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas
Defines this as Plationized Christianity,
A Christianity twisting God,
Into the image of humankind
And therefore calling that which is evil,
And what is good,
Luther defines this as a theology of glory,
Where selfishness is rewarded
Excusing the sins of greed
As a necessary evil,
To exist in this life
Ignoring Jesus’s command,
“One’s life does not consist
In the abundance of possessions”
Or even still,
Ignoring Jesus altogether
On the Cross
I was horrified to see,
A quote from a megachurch pastor,
Who when the question posed to him
“don’t you want a candidate
who embodies the teaching of Jesus
and would govern this country
according to the principles
found in the Sermon on the Mount?’”
“I would run from that candidate as far as possible,
because the Sermon on the Mount
was not given as a governing principle for this nation.”
This idea that Jesus Christ,
Somehow ceased to exist
Upon Christ’s resurrection
And because of that,
We have this “saint” status
And therefore God is relying on us
To rely on ourselves,
Our own strength
Because the only way we will get that expensive house
In the right neighborhood
Or that luxury car with all the bells and whistles
Is if we pray a certain way,
IF we pray hard enough,
Our bank accounts, our coffiers will increase
Or go to a certain church
And ascribe to certain rules,
And when God sees us doing right,
God will grant us our every wish!
So then we should not be so surprised
That many of these megachurches
Who preach this theology of glory,
This prosperity gospel
From the pulpit
That God wants them to be prosperous
Are brimming to the top with members.
Maybe this farmer,
Found that this same formula worked for him
In our Gospel this morning.
But we could argue,
What should be his next directive?
Clearly he has an abundance of crops
Clearly in these ancient times,
Having success with crops or livestock
Should be celebrated!
And any good farmer
Would have done what we all would have,
Building storehouses so that these crops,
His harvest would not spoil
Or go to waste.
Where the focus is.
I won’t have to starve!
I’ll be okay!
Famine and hunger will come,
And I will be set!
Wow, I’ve done good for myself!
I cannot wait to celebrate.
I’ll sit in my house and look at what I have built and say,
Self, look at this good thing you have done!”
Or what about even,
Who has a secure job,
With solid income
Who leans on their own self,
And pats themselves on the back,
Because they have invested wisely
And can sit back and nod at the computer screen
Which shows all of their bank accounts
And can brag to themselves,
Look at all that wealth you have obtained!
You are doing good!
You will be alright while everyone else is suffering
You will be on top!
They are angered
When perhaps their children
Coming to them out of love,
Pursuing their own dreams,
Asking for a miniscule share of resources
Maybe perhaps to get a car,
So they can get to that dream job they were offered
Or caring for their mother,
Who needs palliative care
Whose house is crumbling
And they shut the door in their faces
“Why should I help anyone?
What return on my investment will I get?”
Jesus had been that selfish?
For all the power and might the Creator God gave to Him
Shared with Him
What if He decided,
That we were not worthy enough
That our sins were too great
That we could never repay the cost He would have to pay?
But the Good News is that
Gave up His Life,
Upon the Cross,
And because of this Sacrifice
The Cross stands,
As the reaffirmation
That God LOVES US
And we are made NEW
RESURRECTED WITH CHRIST!
And More Good News!
Neither the Creator nor Jesus demands any repayment!
Because there is nothing we can do,
God does this out of a Love we may never understand,
This is the richness
The reward that keeps on giving!
And because there is nothing we can do,
Nor any way we can repay
The Creator God calls us,
Jesus Christ commands of us
To do for others,
As God does for us,
So that is why we,
As People of Faith,
Share the Resources with others
Whether we know them
Thanks Be to God.