Homily for Ordinary Sunday 18C

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2010 at 11:33 am

Useless, useless, … all useless.
What an uplifting beginning!
Or in another translation:  “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”
and that’s got nothing to do with bathroom design.

It’s easy to feel cynical and a little depressed when reading Ecclesiastes.
The author, who calls himself Philosopher or Preacher or Teacher
and implies that he is King Solomon,
struggles with the apparent futility of life and the certainty of death.
There are some moments of light –
“for everything there is a season” being one of them –
but on balance he takes comfort only in the pursuit of Wisdom,
and the simple pleasures of eating, drinking and finding fulfilment in one’s work.

Is that a familiar feeling?  Fulfilment seems in short supply these days.
We live in a consumer age, the instant gratification generation.
At times our lives seem little more than a collection
of credit cards, pay-slips and product placement,
as we work and spend and eat and drink and be merry
… and feel miserable about it.

Like the rich man in the gospel, our barns have got bigger,
our retail stores more cavernous,
while our lives collectively and individually seem more impoverished.

There’s a lot of talk these days about “work-life balance”.
How are you doing on that front?
How many of us work too long and too late
accumulating what we may never get the chance to enjoy?
How many of us store up treasures for ourselves,
while in fact we’re patently not rich in the slightest, beyond that façade?
How many of us can acknowledge that we have more than enough,
and examine the quality, not just the quantity of the life we enjoy. Or not.
Could we say, could we sense, what it might mean to be rich.
To be, in Jesus’ words, “rich toward God”?

The gospel parable is far more than simply saying “You can’t take it with you”.
Jesus has us hear that expression “rich towards God”.
What could that mean?
To paraphrase the age-old gift-giver’s conundrum:
“what do you give to the One that has everything?”

What can we possibly give in order to be rich towards God?
What does God want that God doesn’t already possess completely?

Quite simply, and you know it, God wants you.
Your worship.
Your justice.
Your intention and presence.
A wondrous child of God, to know the One who called you into being.

Being rich towards God might be the cue for a sermon on stewardship,
and you will hear that sermon at some stage,
but it is about far more than your dollars in the offertory plate.
Being rich towards God means giving God what is really valuable.
Giving God your time, your attention, ultimately yourself.
Not cluttering up the space where God is to be encountered
with things, with the desirable and unnecessary.

Not being so busy chasing the cheque,
building our barns and filling up each hour of the day,
that we ourselves become like the empty husk
rather than the rich kernel of the grain.

Not being so enamoured with the extras
that we miss what is important and eternal.
Paul tells us that in the mystery of the Resurrection,
our lives have been hidden with Christ in God.
We are, if we have been risen with Christ,
no longer grounded in the tangibles,
the gadgets and values of a self-distracting world.

We are, if risen with Christ,
rooted in a different, enduring set of assumptions about the world,
about living and about dying.

Religion has traditionally been seen
as some sort of insurance policy for the Afterlife.

Often specifically, one has to say, fire insurance.
I would like you to think about the financial services metaphor somewhat differently.
Many have had cause to think carefully about investments
in the last couple of years.

Being rich towards God is about investment.
Investment carries risk,
Investment speaks of hope.
Investment looks for growth.

We all know the value, some of us after hard lessons,
of sound investment.

And so the question is for us,
how do and how will we invest ourselves in our faith?
What do we need, what must we have, what will we let God have of ourselves?

Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.

Let us in the silence listen for the voice of God.


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