Ordinary 18C – August 4, 2019

Luke 12:13-21

Phil’s barn burned down, and Susan, his wife, called the insurance company ...

Susan: We had that barn insured for fifty thousand and I want my money.

Agent: Whoa there just a minute, Susan; it doesn't work quite like that. We will ascertain the value of the old barn and provide you with a new one of comparable worth.

Susan, after a pause: I'd like to cancel the policy on my Phil.

The urge to dive deeply into politics sorely tempts the soul this morning. I shall not do that here. But more particularly, the urge to talk about how money politics has divided the Christian community is a reasonable take on our Lukan reading for this week. The text is, as many are, about relationship. Jesus is asked to resolve a family squabble…about money. Money is just such a wedge that divides and divides and divides. When we think about money, our thoughts are more, more, more, and the divisor gets bigger and bigger and bigger.

We think that stories like the Feeding of the 5000 are about multiplying blessing, but another way to think about them is that the divisor is quite small. Oh yeah, you think that the money is the numerator…is that the problem?

There is lots of great humor out there about Christians and their money. There needs to be a lot, because the topic is always so close to the readings, and particularly Luke. There is the man who insisted on being buried with his wealth, so his widow wrote him a check and put it in his hands as they closed the casket. Then there is the man who packed several suitcases full of gold bars so that he would have riches in heaven, only to find that the streets are paved with his treasure. And here is one to close:

Two friends met in the street. One looked sad and almost on the verge of tears. The other man said, "Hey my friend, how come you look like the whole world has caved in?"

      The sad fellow said, "Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, an uncle died and left me 50-thousand dollars."

      "That's not bad at all...!" 

      "Hold on, I'm just getting started. Two weeks ago, a cousin I never knew kicked-the-bucket and left me 95-thousand, tax-free to boot."

      "Well, that's great! I'd like that."

      "Last week, my grandfather passed away. I inherited almost a million."

      "So why are so glum?"

      "This week - nothing!"

Have a great week – Laurin

Ordinary 17C – July 28, 2019

Luke 11:1-13 – The Lord’s Prayer

One day, Joe, Bob and Dave were hiking in a wilderness area when they came upon a large, raging, violent river. They needed to get to the other side, but had no idea of how to do so.

Joe prayed to God, saying, “Please God, give me the strength to cross this river.”

Poof! God gave him big arms and strong legs, and he was able to swim across the river in about two hours, although he almost drowned a couple of times.

Seeing this, Dave prayed to God, saying, “Please God, give me the strength and the tools to cross this river.”

Poof! God gave him a rowboat and he was able to row across the river in about an hour, after almost capsizing the boat a couple of times.

Bob had seen how this worked out for the other two, so he also prayed to God saying, “Please God, give me the strength and the tools, and the intelligence, to cross this river.”

Poof! God turned him into a woman. She looked at the map, hiked upstream a couple of hundred yards, then walked across the bridge.

I grew up in the Presbyterian(US) church and eventually became a minister in the Presbyterian church (PCUSA). We are the people who confuse everybody else by making our forgiveness petition about debt, while everybody else is talking about trespasses. To put it lightly, we are talking about financial transactions while everybody else is talking about sneaking into somebody’s yard. The modern ecumenical approach is to make the petiton about sin, while I would often find myslef saying debtpass. I think Luke would appreciate the word construction.

But what is truly interesting is that we want it balanced: debt for debt, trespass for trespass, sin for sin, and debtpass for debtpass. The petition in Luke is not balanced. (forgive us our sins as we forgive our debtors.) Redemption is not balanced, at least not by us!

Have a great week! – Laurin

 

Ordinary 16C – July 21, 2019

Luke 10:38-42, Amos 12

A single guy decided life would be more fun if he had a pet. So he went to the pet store and told the owner that he wanted to buy an unusual pet. After some discussion, he finally bought a talking centipede, (100-legged bug), which came in a little white box to use for his house. He took the box back home, found a good spot for the box, and decided he would start off by taking his new pet to church with him.So he asked the centipede in the box, “Would you like to go to church with me today? We will have a good time.”But there was no answer from his new pet. This bothered him a bit, but he waited a few minutes and then asked again, “How about going to church with me and receive blessings?”But again, there was no answer from his new friend and pet. So he waited afew minutes more, thinking about the situation. The guy decided to invite the centipede one last time.This time he put his face up against the centipede’s house and shouted,“Hey, in there! Would you like to go to church with me and learn about God?”This time, a little voice came out of the box, “I heard you the first time! I’m putting my shoes on!”

When I read Luke continuously, I suspect that Martha and Mary follow the Good Samaritan for a reason. Love God with all your heart soul and mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Easy enough to preach the Good Samaritan and neighbor identification.  In effect, be a Martha. Yet many of the folks in the pews might identify themselves with the good church people who bypass the man in the ditch, and they also identify with Mary. Be a Mary. You can preach love of neighbor and love of God with integrity, but it is hard to do it in the same sermon or even back to back. Good luck with this. If it has you worried, imagining how my listeners will hear it worried me. Maybe worry is a point. Not to worry, do.

Fresh out of business school, the young man answered a want ad for an accountant. Now he was being interviewed by a very nervous man who ran a small business that he had started himself. “I need someone with an accounting degree,” the man said. “But mainly, I’m looking for someone to do my worrying for me.” “Excuse me?” the young accountant said, “I worry about a lot of things,” the man said. “But I don’t want to have to worry about money. Your job will be to take all the money worries off my back.” “I see,” the young accountant said. “And how much does the job pay?” “I will start you at $95,000.” “Ninety-five thousand dollars!” the young accountant exclaimed. “How can such a small business afford a sum like that?” “That,” the owner said, “is your first worry.”

I once preached the Amos text and ended by taking a bite out of a juicy peach, a summer fruit perfectly in season. A story that holds up only with superficial fact-checking:

The great Southern rock band of my college days was the Allman Brothers Band. They were at their zenith when their amazing guitar player Duane Allman went for a ride on his motor cycle. Duane was struck and killed by a peach truck. A year later, the bass player Berry Oakley was struck and killed by a peach truck while riding his motor cycle. The next album the band produced was entitled, Eat a Peach.

Have a great week. – Laurin

 

Ordinary 15C – July 14, 2019

Luke 10:25-37, Amos 7

At a pharmacy, a woman tried to use the infant scale to weigh the baby she held in her arms. The pharmacy technician explained that the device was out for repairs, but said that she would figure the infant’s weight by weighing the mother and baby together on an adult scale, then weighing the mother alone and subtracting the second amount from the first. “That won’t work,” countered the woman. “I’m NOT the mother, I’m the aunt.”

Bef0re the dinner party the thief instructs his wife, ” Do not use the silver spoons.” The wife responds,”Why, are you afraid that the guests might steal them.” “No,” he answers. “I am afraid that the guests might recognize them.”

Sometimes when Jesus tells a story, he scatters pieces of information that allow us to identify ourselves, our lives in the story. Sometimes we do not like who we are when we are the shallow ground on the path where the seeds cannot take root, or we find ourselves in the older son. We would readily identify with all of the good religious people in this parable in any other context. Here, we want to say, but this is not about me. Or we want to ask, how do we know when we need to step out of our normal routine. One answer might simply be, because someone is hurting.

Hope that you can find the humor helpful! Have a blessed week. – Laurin

Ordinary 14C – July 7, 2019

2 Kings 5

In the United States, this Sunday falls immediately after our national day of celebration. The story of Namaan might be used to challenge preconceived ideas, particularly when we conflate nationalism with faith.

Some humor to begin:

Ending his sermon, a preacher announced that he would preach on Noah and the Ark on the following Sunday, and gave the scriptural reference for the congregation to read ahead of time.

A couple of boys noticed something interesting about the placement of the story in the Bible. They slipped into the church and glued two pages of the pulpit Bible together.

The next Sunday, the preacher got up to read his text. “Noah took unto himself a wife,” he began, “and she was” – he turned the page to continue – “three hundred cubits long, fifty wide and thirty high.”

He paused, scratched his head, turned the page back, read it silently, and turned the page again.

Then he looked up at his congregation and said, “I’ve been reading this old Bible for near fifty years, but there are some things in it that are hard to believe.”

source unknown

The story of Namaan suggests a few ideas that we may indeed find hard to believe:

  • God gives victory to our enemies.
  • God speaks through foreign children.
  • Right worship does not require the mega-church or particular church.

Once, when I preached on this, we were self-evicted from our premises while an environmental hazard was being cured, our leprosy. We were given refuge in the Methodist church down the street. We took no dirt, as that was the reason for our seeking refuge.

The child in our story has been captured and enslaved, but I wonder how we might use the story to speak through the children at our border.

Have a blessed week – Laurin