November 17, 2008

sermon for proper 28, year a

President Bush, President-Elect Obama, and Treasury Secretary Paulson must be beside themselves with joy today as tens if not hundreds of thousands of churches are all hearing this lesson from Matthew's Gospel today. I can imagine them hoping and praying with all they've got that every preacher will stand up and preach a sermon pointing out the strong faith of the two slaves who took their money to the financial markets, invested, and kept the economy going. Even as I read this lesson for the first time in preparation for this sermon, my first thought was, "Wow, this would make a really good economic stimulus speech." But as with all of Jesus' parables, this one involves much more than what our first reading might lead us to believe.
With all apologies to Mrs. Bush, Obama, and Paulson, I do not think the key to this parable is keeping our money in our 401k's, but instead understanding what it means to "enter into our master's joy." On the 2nd of December 2007 we began a new liturgical year. We had on that day resources of all sorts - time, talent, and treasure. They were all given to us by God to hold onto until he returned to make an accounting of his resources. Today, the 16th of November 2008 we are called by the gospel lesson to settle our accounts as we prepare for another year of service to the Master. We have were given many resources, and I believe that if the Master were to return today to make an accounting, he would be well pleased with what we could give him in return.
In the past year we have followed the model of the first two slaves and gone out into the marketplace to begin to turn our resources into God's glory. Notice that the text doesn't say they took their talents - equal to something like 3 to 7 million dollars - and invested them prudently in low risk mutual funds. No, these two slaves took a great risk by going out into the markets - getting their hands dirty along the way - and began to trade with the resources they had available. So too, St. Paul's Foley has rolled up its sleeves this year and gone out into the world to utilize the resources God has entrusted to our care.
In the Church Year A of 2007-2008 St. Paul's Foley has reached out to the tune of Thirty-Thousand Dollars; Tweny-Thousand of which came by way of inkind gifts of time to outreach ministires like Family Promise, Foley Elementary School, Mission on the Bay, Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross Blood Banks, Relay for Life, Kairos, and Coastal Cleanup. We donated 774 plus pounds of food to the Ecumenical Ministries food pantry and donated gifts for 60 angels from EMI's annual Angel Tree Program. The ECW, EYC, UTO, and Discretionary Funds donated more than Eight-Thousand Dollars in real money to groups and individuals in real need. The Galileans sent hundreds of prayer hug cards to the sick, the mourning, and military personell. The Prayer Shawl Ministry wrapped the love of God around at least 76 shoulders. Groups like Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous used our facilties to share their minsitry of recovery from addiction. Dozens of students have slept in the youth room while helping Habitat for Humanity do its important work of making affordable housing available to everyone. Believe it or not, the list goes on from there.
Each of those ministry opportunites brings with it an element of risk. We risk being vulnerable by reaching out to those who are different than us. We risk being embarrassed by not remembering the abc song with our kindergarteners. We risk our real property by allowing others to use it. We risk our bank accounts by offering monetary support to thos in need. Despite all of the risks, we do it anyway. Why? I believe it is because we know the Master's joy and are willing to do whatever it takes to remain there. We get to see smiles on the faces of children who finally get that b comes after a. We get to hear the story of survival of a family that went from being one paycheck away to being homeless. We get to read the cards of thanks from all over the world and know that the love of Christ has been spread far and wide. In every instance the joy that we receive in return more than makes up for any inherent risk in our offering of time, talent, or treasure. Even so, we don't do it for the joy we do or will receive, but for the glory of God through whom all things were made and from whom all the resources at our disposal come. The invitation to the two slaves who risked their master's money wasn't that they'd find their joy, but to enter into the joy of their master. It is in the Master's joy that we find the true meaning of our lives of service.
I ended my All Saint's Day sermon by saying that I was proud to be associated with a group of disciples who have taken the lego's of sainthood out of the box and are working to follow the blueprint for life in the Kingdom of God. I echo that sentiment this morning, with facts to prove my suspicions. Saint Paul's Foley is a ministering community reaching up in worship, reaching in to serve, and reaching out in love. May the God of abundance continue to pour out the resources with which we are able to go into the marketplace to share God's love with Foley, with Baldwin County, with the Gulf Coast, and with all the World. Well done, good and faithful servents, enter into the joy of your Master. Amen.

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