Each week the preacher faces that horrible moment in which he or she must summon the idea upon which will become the foundation for the Sunday sermon. Even when the readings are dictated by the lectionary, even when the themes are clearly marked out, even when the preacher knows what must be said….there is a mountain range that must be scaled before that shinning moment in which you open your mouth and speak with insight and wisdom. It occurs to me that there are manageable ways of communicating theological ideas about sexuality, forgiveness and even fortitude in the midst of adversity. However, the most difficult concept of all is money. This Sunday’s gospel is ultimately about the battle that takes place between God and money.
How does one speak of this sensitive issue without alienating the congregation or worse, bore them with so many biblical facts and details they simply mentally check out of the church building altogether? Is it possible to have a homiletic conversation that causes the listener to consider a spiritual perspective on finances? The rock bottom truth is we need money. We need funding for medicine, nourishment, shelter, diversion and the mother load: security. What a seductive idea that is. As if we could ever be safe and secure from danger, sickness or loneliness. Where is that place? Does it exist on this planet? Where is the exact location where all our fears are eliminated and we live in a state of perfect serenity? I believe Jesus is continually communicating that our only security is in God. It is not possible to love both the bankbook and the Creator. They are both jealous and require our undivided attention.
So if we need money and the maintenance of one’s finances require attention – how do we find perspective? Perhaps the answer is to be found in asking the question: “what does money mean to me?” I remember a quote by May Sarton in one of her journals (I cannot find the quote and if you can, please send it to me) in which she states that money translates for her into books, flowers as well as the ability to create beauty and provide for an environment where loving others becomes possible. Something about her quote opened a door for me and I agree that money is a means to an end and if the end involves loving God, helping my neighbor or a stranger and somehow making the world a more beautiful, safer more abundant place for everyone then ….so be it. I can sleep peacefully because what is really holding us together is not our net worth but the summation of our experiences and our wiliness to overcome our wounds and self-pity so that we can convert our energy into loving God, one another and ourselves.“That same night, I wrote my first short story. It took me thirty minutes. It was a dark little tale about a man who found a magic cup and learned that if he wept into the cup, his tears turned into pearls. But even though he had always been poor, he was a happy man and rarely shed a tear. So he found ways to make himself sad so that his tears could make him rich. As the pearls piled up, so did his greed grow. The story ended with the man sitting on a mountain of pearls, Knife in hand, weeping helplessly into the cup with his beloved wife’s slain body in his arms.” ~Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner