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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Where Has All the Money Gone?

Sermon for Sunday, March 15, 2009, in Church of St. John the Evangelist, San Francisco. Third Sunday in Lent. Year B

The King was in the counting House counting out his money. The queen was in the parlor eating bead and honey.” Sexist, except of course if the queen was a guy.

Our nursery rhymes made counting our money a virtue and eating gourmet food a right. Piggy banks were an early toy. As we got older little cash registers were popular. Then there was the mighty allowance and how could we get more and then of course the Christmas present glut.

When my children were young they got so many presents we gave the three of them a present for each of the twelve days of Christmas right up to Epiphany.

Jesus talked more about money than any other topic in parables and stories.

I hear of friends who have face-lifts, tummy tucks and Botox treatments to stay forever young. I usually feel smug and self-righteous and think what a waste of money. Then I guess it is all right if they give 10 % to church and charity then they can do whatever they wan with their money. I’ll bet they don’t.

At a party a well-paid lawyer told me he had retirement in his reach. The stock market crash means he’ll have to work a couple of more years than he planned.

Then there is the story of the truck driver who lost his job, he couldn’t make the mortgage payments and had to move his wife and three kids into a trailer. They gave up their three-bedroom house with a swimming pool.

He and his wife put a good face on it, gave a garage sale and had also to sell some of the kid’s stuff. One buyer bought a boy’s skateboard for two dollars, gave the unemployed truck driver $20.00 bill and said, “Keep the change.”

"Where Has All the Money Gone?"
No one knows where all the money has gone.

Our Judaeo- Christian tradition has a lot to say about money and our attitudes toward money.

Then he gave them His Top Ten Commandments. These include don't lie,
cheat, smoke, dance, or covet your neighbor's stuff. Oh, yeah, I just
thought of one more: Humor thy father and thy mother.

Two of the Ten Commandments have to do directly with money. “Thou shalt not steal.” “Thou shalt not covet.” Stealing is obvious, we think.

But we need to remind bankers, stock brokers, mortgage lenders about the rather common human observation that life works best when you do not steal from others and others don’t steal from you. One reason the ancient Jews jotted down the commandments was they knew we silly and stupid people need constant reminders of the obvious. Don’t steal, beat up your parents, murder people, adulterate your relationships.

If you want to believe that Cecil B. DeMille’s version of how God whacked some stones with a rocket ten times and out came the Ten Commandments, you are welcome to do so. However, the commandments were worked out by human beings in many cultures and got codified for us in the book of Exodus.

The 10th Commandment is subtle and interior. THOU SHALT NOT COVET – This commandment is about inward desire, not actions. The Hebrew word translated covet means to lust after. That inward urge to shop until you drop, get a new boy or girl friend, throw out all the towels and buy new ones, get that extra pair of shoes.

At the offertory we will sing one of my favorite hymns 574.
A line for all of us –“From love of pleasure, lust for gold, from sins which make the heart grow cold…wean us and train us with thy rod.”

This line for bankers, mortgage and stockbrokers “for crafty trade and subtle snare to catch the simple unaware…forgive, forgive, O Lord we cry.”

Our advertising industry teaches us to covet, to lust after, to desire more and more toys. We weak willed ninnies fall for it every time.

I know of a teen-age boy who has 28 pairs of expensive sneakers. I saw them in is bedroom.
Do you know how many shirts I have? Twenty. I counted them in preparation for this sermon. How many do I need?

Many of us have been trapped into covetousness.

Here are the two most radically Christian ideas about money. Jesus says to the rich young man, “Go and give all that you have to the poor.” Radical Christians like St. Francis and St. Claire live in poverty.

I’d like to suggest those are the goals for Christians to live all of life, not just how to live in this turned down economy.

Poverty means living thankfully for all that we have. We live in poverty since we do not own anything. Everything we think we own or possess are gifts to us fro God. Poverty means not being a slave to our money and property. Poverty means we control our lust for more and more and more. Poverty for some means living in community like our Franciscan sisters and brothers who are members of our parish. Poverty today means living thankfully with less money.

Some of our leaders are telling us go to stores to shop - for stuff we don’t need.

I hope private capital and government spending will go to repairing, roads, highways, railroads, transit systems, bridges and our health care system – the infrastructure. That will provide jobs for the many currently unemployed. I don’t need any more shirts.

We need to change the capitalistic system so that people will not be hungry, homeless and be without adequate medical care.

Go and give all that you have to the poor. We are not going to follow that teaching to the letter. It is not a law. Some Christian heroes can do that. But we can do a great deal more to help the poor.

My 83-year friend who is losing his sight says he occasionally gives money to people who beg. He says I do much for the poor or others but I try to be polite to people. Polite may be a way to love.

This congregation supports and staffs a food give away program at on Saturday mornings

We read about the fact that Mormons stock food in strategic locations and it is available to members in emergencies and in New Orleans was among the first groups to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Armand Kreft, a former member of this parish tells his parishioners. “No one who is a member of this church shall go homeless.” A daring statement. Can we do that?

“In Starbuck's this morning,
an old lady wearing a tattered watch cap
started speaking to no one in particular.
“I can’t sleep at night.
I have pains in my chest all the time.
My leg hurts and my children do not love me.”
People waiting in line
hid in their cellphones, looked away
or stared straight ahead.
“I don’t know what to do.
I don’t know where to turn.
My husband died two years ago on the 27th.”
Everyone pretended she wasn’t there.
The girls behind the counter took the next customers.
The line inched forward.
At a side table, a beautiful young lady with matching purple scarf and hat
looked at the old woman and said, simply,
“Honey, please sit down with me,
and tell me your story.”

7 Comments:

Anonymous Fred Fenton said...

"TELL ME YOUR STORY"

Thank you for sharing that incident at Starbucks. The young woman gave the distressed widow something more valuable than money: the gift of her time and interest.

"Tell me your story" can be an effective means of evangelism. The co-worker, friend, or family member you would like to bring to God, after sharing her story with you, will almost surely say "Now, you must tell me your story." The shyest Episcopalian can manage to include in her "story" the important place worship plays in her life.

Not only that, but your attitude toward money and doing something for those in need can easily be woven into your "story." Sharing in this way can be a powerful witness.

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