Monday, November 16, 2009

Sermon 11-15-09

Luke 16:1-10

Save all you can
Save energy, Save money, save time, save coupons, save yourself, being saved, save today, save for retirement, save food, save the women and children first, save at, Students against violence everywhere, save the day, save a game, Eric Gagne, Dodger save leader, Troy Percival: Angels Saves leader, Dog risks life to save a friend, Jesus Christ Saves, research saves lives, save natural resources, clean hands saves lives, Eco font saves ink, discount shopping by mommy saves, print coupons and save. Save the trees, robot zombie cat saves Halloween, disco tune saves man’s life, find the best travel deals and save, these are just a few of the
43, 300,000 ways to use the word save.
Today we are concerned about how John Wesley the founder of Methodism used the term in his sermon on the use of money. Last week we heard about how we are to gain all we can, without harming our neighbor, our own health. Wesley said, “The fault does not lie in the money, but in them that use it.” Rather, says Wesley, money “is an excellent gift of God, answering the noblest ends. In the hands of his children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked…. It is therefore of the highest concern that all who fear God know how to employ this valuable talent.”
So today we exam what Wesley meant about the second principle, Save all you can. He has quite the list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to saving all we can.

First: “Having gained all you can, by honest wisdom and unwearied diligence, the second rule of Christian prudence is," Save all you can." Do not throw the precious talent into the sea”
Wesley believed each of us as having a potential gift to offer to the world. We may accumulate money, or train to be skilled in one area, or focus our talents in ways that will not be a waste. As he states:
“Do not waste any part of so precious a talent merely in gratifying the desires of the flesh; in procuring the pleasures of sense of whatever kind; particularly, in enlarging the pleasure of tasting….Despise delicacy and variety, and be content with what plain nature requires. In other words he would not be a “ foodie, or a fan of the Food channel, he was practical in his instructions, that we not ought to spend time wasting our energy on things that only satisfy the body, without regard to how that energy could be used to help others.
Wesley goes on “Do not waste any part of so precious a talent merely in gratifying the desire of the eye by superfluous or expensive apparel, or by needless ornaments... "Follow thou me." Are you willing? Then you are able so to do” Accessorizing would be lost on Wesley, Mr. T would have to trade in a few of his gold chains in order to follow Wesley’s teachings. In fact, we might adopt the practice of the Pilgrims who stuck to simple styles, practical, and even left their items in a will to relatives. A passenger named Brewster left in his will, "one blew clothe suit, green drawers, a vilolete clothe coat, black silk stockings, skyblew garters, red grograin suit, red waistcoat, tawny colored suit with silver buttons." Yes we can wear color, contrary to the legend of the pilgrims they wore colors and a variety of outfits, but all were modest and practical, not overly showy.

Four: Lay out nothing to gratify the pride of life, to gain the admiration or praise of men. content with the honour that cometh from God. Spending money or time or energy in order to be admired by others was a waste according to Wesley, you should only be concerned with honoring God in all that you do.

Five: Teach your children the value of money from an early age.
In conclusion, Wesley asks: “Brethren, can we be either wise or faithful stewards unless we thus manage our Lord's goods? “ We are given so much, and we are asked to use what we have been given to bring justice to the world. The prophet Amos reminds us that there are guidelines to how we are to use our skills and gifts , to use them for good and not evil, so that you might live. Further we are to love good and hate evil, establish justice… Wesley calls us not to waste our gifts, talents or money on things that do not bring good, do not bring justice to the world. We will explore more about what it means to give next week as we conclude our series, for now it is good to remind us to save our best for God’s work.

Wesley’s sermon on the use of money uses the Luke passage as the scriptural context of his thinking.
“A certain rich man had a steward” - .
Jesus starts with a story that seems fairly ordinary: There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought that this man was squandering his property. It is not hard for his listeners or us to imagine an employee being dishonest. Schemes of Bernie Madoff, welfare fraud, embezzlement are all familiar scandals to us. So what does the manager do? He figures out that he can perhaps fix the problem by saving all the debtors a bit on their bills by giving them a steep discount, take 10, 20 % off if you pay now.
Ok so far, now Jesus is about to lower the boom, let’s see how the Rich Man punishes his dishonest manager.
However, Jesus tells a different ending to the one we might otherwise expect. Instead of condemning the manager, he commends the manager for his shrewdness. Instead of calling him out, he is praised. One commentator said it this way: While the steward's motives may have been only to make the debtors more congenial towards him, the master benefits equally from this new-found spirit of good will. The debtors no longer owe an unfairly tallied debt to the master; no longer do they see the steward as an out-of-control agent for the master. Thus, the master is once again respected and honored for re-establishing a right relationship between himself and his community.
The point of the parable in Wesley’s view, is all about relationship, and how we use what we have been given. Consider the Rich man, who like God gives the manager much to manage, abundance in fact. But instead of using that abundance well, the manager squanders what has been given to him in trust, sort of like when we squander what God has given us. Yet even then all is not lost, we can find a way to make it right again. The manager finds a way of reducing the debt of those who owe the already rich man in a way that restores their faith in him to be fair and principled. The manager rights the wrong. He saves his master from embarrassment, he saves those who have debt by reducing their loans, and he saves himself from being fired.
We are called not to waste what we have been given, and we have been given so much, we have such power to transform the world, if we follow God’s way.
C.S. Lewis said it this way:” Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased!"
-C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses
(New York: Macmillan, 1949), 2.
In his programs on teaching people to be fearless thinkers, Michael Price talks about the power of our minds. He states that we have such powerful minds, and yet that power is so often untapped. For example, he talks about those who become hypnotized. He talks about how when people are in a trance, they can be pursued with suggestions to the mind, that cause people to act or do things they would not have done. The power of suggestion even extends to physical, if someone is in a deep trance and it is suggested they just burned their skin, a red spot will appear.
So much of our fear is perception of what we think might happen, and so to be fearless is to look at a different way of perceiving, of retraining our brain to look at our lives differently.
The bottom line is that we underuse our abilities, and this is means we save too much back from the world. We become reluctant, afraid, anxious about sharing too much with the world, and so we hold back. Wesley did want his congregations to save all they can, not to waste energy on unimportant things, but this did not mean we are to habitually hold back. We are called to love the Lord with all our hearts and minds and strength, which means we are called to love the world in this same way.
I mentioned the pilgrims a bit ago, and I have always admired their courage to see religious freedom in a place the world had barely heard of. Of the original group
Half of their 102 members perished: "of the 17 male heads of families, ten died during the first infection"; of the 17 wives, only three were left after three months.

Their dedication to practice their faith free from the restrictions that they believed were contrary to God’s will. They did not want to waste time, they wanted to establish a place where not only themselves but generations that would follow would have a place to worship God, and not be persecuted in doing so.
We are called to save all we can, not to waste all that has been given to us. “Waste not want not,” using our resources carefully, prayerfully to transform our lives, to transform the world with God’s help. Amen

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