|First Sunday in Advent, Year B||December 3, 2017||First Sunday of Advent, Year B||Mark 13:24-37|
|Christ the King, Year A||November 26, 2017||Christ the King Year A||Matthew 25:31-46|
|Thanksgiving, Year A||November 22, 2017||Thanksgiving, Year A||Psalm 65|
|Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A||November 19, 2017||Proper 24, Year A||Matthew 25:36-37|
|Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year A||November 12, 2017||Proper 27, Year A||Matthew 25:1-13|
|All Saints, Year A||November 5, 2017||All Saints’ Day, Year A||Matthew 5:1-12|
|Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost, Year A||October 29, 2017||Proper 25, Year A||Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Matthew 22:34-46|
|Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A||October 22, 2017||Proper 24, Year A||Isaiah 45:1-7, Psalm 96, I Thessalonians 1:1-10, Matthew 22:15-22|
|Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A||October 15, 2017||Proper 23, Year A||Isaiah 25:1-9, Psalm 23, Philippians 4:1-9, Matthew 22:1-14|
|Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A||October 8, 2017||Proper 22, Year A||Isaiah 5:1-7, Matthew 21:33-46|
|The Season of Creation, Week 5, Year A||October 1, 2017||The Season of Creation, Week 5, Year A||Matthew 6:25-33|
|The Season of Creation, Week 4, Year A||September 24, 2017||The Season of Creation, Week 4, Year A||Leviticus 25:1-7, Hebrews 4:1-11, John 6:1-15|
|➤The Season of Creation, Week 3, Year A||September 17, 2017||The Season of Creation, Year A, Week 3||Deuteronomy 28:1-14, Psalm 65, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, Matthew 6:19-24|
|The Season of Creation, Week 2, Year A||September 10, 2017||The Season of Creation, Year A, Week 2||Job 38:1-18, Psalm 139, Romans 1:18-25, Matthew 5:13-16|
|The Season of Creation, Week 1, Year A||September 3, 2017||Season of Creation 1, Year A||Job 37:14-24,Psalm 130,Revelation 4,Matthew 8:23-27|
The Season of Creation, Week 3, Year A
Sermon Date:September 17, 2017
Scripture: Deuteronomy 28:1-14, Psalm 65, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, Matthew 6:19-24
Liturgy Calendar: The Season of Creation, Year A, Week 3
Today’s readings are full of joyful abundance.
Psalm 65 says that God crowns the year with God’s bounty, wagon tracks overflow, hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together with joy.”
God has blessed all of creation abundantly.
God has blessed the people with abundant life.
And Jesus himself said, “I came that you might have life, and might have it more abundantly.”
So what exactly is abundant life?
As Ed Stetzer points out in an article in Christianity Today,
Ultimately, abundant life is about what we receive as a gift from the Lord.
To live an abundant life is to live as stewards of the blessings of God.
And our stewardship is measured by what we have given.
Stetzer says, “At the end of the day, perhaps that is how we know we have an abundant life—when we have shared our life with others.
When we have enough of the blessings of God, and these blessings include not only material things but also things like mercy, peace, love, grace, and wisdom, to share with others, and then actually do it; that’s when we truly have abundant life.” http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/march/what-does-it-mean-to-have-abundant-life.html
Creation itself is an act of sharing.
God created a universe that is all about relationship and sharing.
Here’s a fascinating example from our own planet earth from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Suzanne Simard is an ecologist, and about twenty years ago when she was doing research for her doctoral thesis, she discovered that trees share with one another!
Trees use a network of latticed fungi underground to “talk” to each other, to communicate needs, and to actually feed each other with nutrients.
Simard’s recent research shows how tree use the fungal filigrees to send warnings to each other about environmental change. Trees even search for their relatives, and send their own nutrients to neighboring plants before they die.
The apostle Paul had no clue about trees sharing with one another, but he is very clear about the fact that human beings are in relationship with one another and that sharing through various networks keeps relationships alive and growing.
Paul would probably be fascinated with a book I’m currently reading. The title is Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions, by Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University.
In Chapter 4, “The Cost of Social Norms: Why we are happy to do things but not when we are paid to do them,”
Ariely explains that “we live simultaneously in two different worlds—one where social norms prevail and the other where market norms make the rules.”
“Social norms are wrapped up in our social nature and in our need for community.”
In the world of social norms, people make friendly requests of one another and willingly do things for one another. In the world of social norms, people experience pleasure from doing things for one another and will return favors at some point down the road.
For instance, a friend of mine and her mother cooked supper for us to help me out while I’m in this cast, and they enjoyed doing it. They did not do this because I hired them to do it or even asked them to do it. They did it because they wanted to do it. Meanwhile, I enjoyed getting them some flowers as a way of saying thank you for the food they brought to us. This is an example of living in the world of social norms.
The world of market norms is run on “sharp edged exchanges: wages, prices, rents, interests, costs and benefits. In this world, “you get what you pay for—that’s just the way it is.”
Ariely found in his experiments regarding these two norms that the mere mention of money, even when no money exchanged hands, brought market norms into play.
In fact, “just thinking about money makes us behave as most economists believe we behave—and less like the social people we are in our daily lives.”
Ariely’s experiments revealed that people in his experiments who were motivated by payment depended more on themselves and less on others. They were less willing to ask for help. In fact, the people in that group were more selfish; they wanted to spend more time alone; they were more likely to select tasks that required individual input rather than teamwork; and when they were deciding where they wanted to sit, they chose seats farther away from whomever they were told to work with.”
When I read this chapter, I had an “aha” moment!
These market norms and social norms are exactly what Jesus is talking about in today’s gospel!
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break through and steal.”
When Jesus refers to treasures on earth, Jesus is talking about the treasures of the market—the things, money or something else on which we place inordinately high value; the things that separate us rather than bring us together.
These market “treasures” make us depend only on ourselves instead of on each other, make us believe that no matter how much we have, we need more and more—the more we have, the more we want.
Market “treasures” are the treasures that make us want to hold on tight to all we have, because we are afraid that if we share, we won’t have enough left for ourselves.
These market “treasures” are the ones that can destroy the social fabric of our lives and our community, when money or some other commodity becomes an end in itself instead of something we use to care for and to support one another.
Jesus goes to say that we should store up our treasures in heaven.
So in this comparison, storing up treasures in heaven would be living in a world in which people are guided by their interconnectedness and their attention to social norms, where sharing and doing things for others brings pleasure and mutual benefit, without a focus on reward. Sharing and giving are rewards in themselves. Sharing and giving out of love result in joy.
When we provide food for hungry people all over the area through our food distribution, and when we give generously to help people who have suffered from the two recent hurricanes, we are storing up treasures in heaven.
And today in the prayers of the people, we’ll remember Bill Carter, an expert at storing up treasures in heaven. Bill was friend of ours and of Brad’s from way back. He had the best, joyful laugh! He was the guidance counselor for our three daughters when they went through high school. Bill was a major supporter of our St Peter’s concert series even though he was an active member of St George’s. He was happy to share his money to give people in Caroline County the gift of music.
Bill had a massive stroke last Saturday. He ended up in the ICU on life support, with no brain activity, and his daughters flew in to be with him.
They decided that it would have been important to Bill for people to be able to visit him and to tell him goodbye and so the ICU was open for any who wanted to come. I was one of a long stream of people who came to tell Bill all that he had meant to them, to thank him for so many different things—all the things he had so generously shared with so many were the treasures that he was constantly storing up in heaven in his time here on earth.
Bill’s wish was to be an organ donor. So his daughters kept him on life support until his liver, kidneys, and other tissues could be harvested—his last, wonderful gift of himself –treasures that would bring new life to others who would otherwise die.
Bill’s heart was so big, so open, so generous—he shared God’s abundance to him abundantly with so many—he shared his money, his friendship, his laughter, his wisdom, even in the end, his own body through organ donation.
Through his sharing and generosity, Bill gave glory to God through living an abundant life on this earth as he stored up treasures in heaven.
Bill was one of the richest people I’ve ever known.
The apostle Paul said of the joy of giving—
“You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.”
So in thanksgiving for God’s abundant gifts, gifts poured out on us so that we can live richly and fully with one another and with all of creation, go out and be cheerful givers–give and give and give again.
Store up your treasures in heaven by living the abundant life that Jesus has made possible for each one of us here and now, and with the psalmist, who described the the gateways of the morning and the evening, the hills and the meadows and the valleys and the trees, shouting and singing together with joy, may we leave here today rejoicing, and may we give God the glory.
Ariely, Dan. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions. New York: HarperPerenniel, 2009.