Saturday, August 6, 2016

Do Something New In My Life, Oh Lord!

Do Something New In My Life

The past few weeks have really been rough. I find when I think about it all too much, too long, I begin to lose heart. Amidst political rhetoric that encourages hate, fear, racism and isolationism which only brings out the worst in people I begin to feel low. With weekly and almost daily police killings of unarmed young black men, and then the isolated ambushing of police by yet by a couple of other black young men, my heart gets to feeling low. The sheer number of guns in America and the seemingly endless gun violence on our core city streets, in schools, in homes gets my heart to feeling low. I find I need to find a release. Like the psalmist in Psalm 33 laments there is no king, no strong man who can save; there is no horse, no army that can save. As Jesus lays out there is no abundance of goods, no number of barns filled with goods, that can save. When I get to feeling low, when God’s people get to feeling low we need to sing! Singing gets us out of ourselves and our low feelings and begins to reconnect us with the One, the Lord, the Holy One in whom we put out trust. We sing: Help me Lord, help me I pray/Help me Lord I’m feeling low!
A Tale of two bishops. First, I recall one afternoon in the Diocese of Connecticut. The clergy were gathered for a day with the bishops: Arthur Walmsley was about to retire as Diocesan Bishop; Jeffrey Rowthorn and Clarence Coleridge were Suffragan bishops. As expected Bishop Walmsley delivered a heart-felt farewell address. Much to our surprise, however, Bishop Rowthorn announced that he was being transferred to the American Cathedral in Paris! As exciting as that sounded, we all realized at once that Bishop Coleridge, the first African-American bishop just elected in Connecticut, home diocese of our church’s first bishop, Samuel Seabury, was now the only remaining bishop in a diocese that for some time had needed three bishops. As there was a lot of murmuring and wondering and even worrying, Bishop Coleridge quietly but steadily took his place at the podium. Then he said, “Fear not, little flock…[pause]…for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!” (Luke 12::32) Pandemonium broke out with cheers, applause, laughter and relief as he recalled for us all Jesus’ address in Luke chapter 12 reminding all who would be disciples of his that true Christian leadership comes from within for those who give away their possessions, give alms and be rich in the treasures of God’s incoming reign of justice and peace for all people. That where our treasure is, there will be our hearts also!
The second bishop is the late Bishop of Atlanta and one-time rector of Baltimore’s Church of the Redeemer, Bennett Sims. I was at a stewardship conference in Atlanta. He was about to retire. We were at lunch. He was to be our speaker. He received a lavish introduction for he had written a book on Servant Leadership and started a School for Servant Leadership inspired out of his experiences of being a GI in Japan shortly after we dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yesterday, our Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6) was also the day we dropped the first of those two bombs, Little Boy and Fat Boy. Seeing the devastation in those two cities and meeting the people had fundamentally changed Bennett Sims’ life. He took the podium and gave perhaps the shortest and most important presentation I had ever heard.
First, he thanked the man who had given his introduction, but allowed that at this stage in his life he was looking for something more of a conclusion! Then he said three things:
“Of all the money I have spent on myself, I would love to get most of it back.
Of all the money I have given away, I don’t care to see any of it again.”
“We are created to give. So when we ask people to give,
we are doing them a favor by asking them to be the persons
God created them to be.”
“The only thing that can rebuke the rising tide of Consumerism, Greed and Violence in our culture will be an increase in Christian Giving.”
Which brings us back where we began: Overwhelmed and feeling low about what is going on in our culture; what has gone so wrong; where has our focus been; where does it need to be? There is a direct line between that which causes us to fear and that that frees us from fear. It is called stewardship, which is about much more than money and possessions. Yet, Jesus issues several warnings throughout Luke chapter 12 about the dangers of focusing on acquisition and consumption and what the tenth commandment calls “covetousness,” and offers us a way out.
The Bible is relentless in reminding us that if we put our faith and expectations on so-called “leaders” we will be disappointed every time. If we commit and recommit ourselves to becoming Christian stewards of all that we are and all that we have, we can rebuke the rising tide of consumerism, greed and violence. It is a call to do something new with our lives, something wonderful, marvelous, beautiful and heavenly with our lives. Fear not little flock! Our Father in heaven is determined to give us the kingdom. He is a loving and giving God. He has created us in his image to be loving and giving people, male and female he has made us in his image. Now is the time to do something new in our lives. For where our treasure is our hearts will be also, striving for justice and peace for all people – not some people, not a lot of people, but all people. My sisters and brothers, it is time for us all to do something new with our lives!

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