How many of you have ever made a mistake that ended up costing you a lot of money? When the stock market tanked in 2008 many people lost money, some their life savings. Others had to come out of retirement because their savings were gone. People lost houses, filed bankruptcy, lost jobs and many had to literally start over, looking for new jobs or careers, and that’s not easy with employers looking for younger talent, not older talent. Many suffer from poor choices, partners or investors that turned on them during the stock market plunge, and various other reasons for financial disaster.
There are refugees in our community that in their home countries had good jobs, owned businesses, farms and homes. And, now they are in a new country trying to learn a new language, and basically looking for any work they can find. What we have learned from history is this: “Bad things can happen to good people, and they do all the time”. Our message from the letter of James is this: “The rich and the poor have this in common. The Lord is the maker of them all”. James levels the playing field. He lets us know that God does not grant privilege to people because of their wealth, and neither should we.
Some things we just can’t rationalize. There are some things in the Bible that may be listed once or twice, and some things Jesus speaks to in the Gospels, and some things Jesus does not mention at all. Ministering to the poor, respecting, accepting, defending, feeding and clothing. I like to think of St. Alban’s as a Matthew 25 church. If you want to see what Jesus thinks about how we should do the “Great Commission”, please get acquainted with Matthew Chapter 25. There are over 300 verses in the Bible that address how we should treat the poor. That’s nothing we can rationalize away. Last week James defined true religion and true faith. “True religion and true faith looks out for the orphans and the widows, or to put into our current setting, the marginalized and those that are poor among us”.
You may say, but I am only one person or we are a small church, how can we do anything to help meet this overwhelming need in our community? I’m glad you asked that. We have been talking the last few weeks about the Greatest Commandment and the two-fold calling. We are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, our vertical calling. And, the second part of the commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is our horizontal calling. The vertical and horizontal overlap creating the sign of the cross, the horizontal laying across the vertical. +
For the past two years we have been planning, discussing, meeting with other clergy and laity from different churches, discussing how we can do a better job of doing the mission that we feel God has called us to, “to grow in our relationship and love for God, and (on the flipside) to minister to the homeless, marginalized, refugees and newcomers in our area”. The Welcome Church has teamed up with other churches, and we are seeking additional churches and ministries that we can work with. Our goal is to tune up our tools and expand a multi-denominational team to reach out and to be more effective in our communities to do what we feel that God has put into our hearts to do.
There are a couple of proverbs that confirm our desire to be better equipped, in order to do a better job with our time, abilities and resources. The first proverb that coincides our wish to be more effective is this: “Sharpen the ax. A sharp ax will be more effective in cutting than a dull one.” In other words, take some time off and sharpen your communication skills, tune up your ministry skills, renew your vision and take some down-time to charge up your battery. The other proverb is similar, in that when you team up with others you can usually be more effective than if you work alone. “Two cords are better than one, and a third cord is not as easily broken”. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) Expanding the team means more volunteers, more talent and more resources.
The capstone to this message of loving God and loving others is the beauty of a humble heart; a heart of humility. The Psalmist says: “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”. (Psalm 51:17) In our gospel reading today, Jesus is looking for humility and honesty. In our Collect for the day, we read: “Resist the proud. Never forsake those who boast in your mercy”.
The rich and the poor have this in common. The Lord is the maker of them all.
Year B 15th Sunday after Pentecost
August 6, 2015
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church
490 Farragut Circle
El Cajon, CA 92020
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen
Scripture References: Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23; Psalm 125; James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17; Mark 7:24-37