Monday, September 23, 2013

Wisdom & Wealth

          At the back of the sanctuary as you came in this morning you encountered a street map of Walnut. You were asked to think about where the financial wealth in our community is located and then to consider where the social wealth of the community is located.
          After identifying the two locations, are they different locations? Do they overlap? And what do we mean when we speak of financial wealth and social wealth?
          Determining where the financial wealth is might be somewhat easy. Where’s the most money located, the Rolling Hills Bank, the Walnut Community School, and certainly the stores and shops located downtown, maybe the elevator?
          But, how do we determine social wealth? I’m not going to pretend that I totally understand or even know very much about social wealth but here’s my take on it.
          Social wealth is located in those areas where the community comes together and interacts and cares for each other. So, in that context I believe the greatest areas of social wealth reside in those places where the community congregates every day, places like McDonald’s, Kum & Go, Robert’s Bakery, Walnut Community School, Peace Haven, and every one of the day care providers in the community. Maybe I should add Glenn’s and Aunt B’s and the Post Office and City Hall because I have had some long conversations with folks in those places too. 
          Think about it. Where do folks gather and find out about what’s happened overnight in the community? How do we find out that someone’s fallen and broke a hip or there’s been a death in a family or someone’s traveled to the hospital? It all happens in these places over coffee and doughnuts and breakfast and dinner and supper. Therein lays the social wealth of the community. And how do we put a value on it? It does have value, but how much?
          You know how I’ve said that we are so blessed to live where we live; well, that has value and most times we take it for granted. We’re so used to us we don’t even think about it.
                So, how does all this tie in with today’s gospel lesson? The dishonest manager was corrupt, embezzling his boss’ money. And then to secure for himself some degree of comfort for when he’s no longer employed he calls in everyone who owes his boss something and has them reduce it thus endearing himself to them, hopefully to gain their favor when he needs shelter or food or help.
          And his boss compliments him for doing that and so does Jesus.  Only he puts it in a different way when he says, “I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is rightusing every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.”
          Doesn’t that make you begin to think and ask questions. What does Jesus mean and how can we do that? 
          Remember back to earlier this year the lesson about the rich farmer? He told his listeners that only a fool stores up earthly wealth and doesn’t have a rich relationship with God. Jesus told them, and us, that we should sell our possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for (us) in heaven…Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be (Luke 12:21 and following).
          So, today’s lesson about being smart by using adversity to stimulate creative survival and concentrating on the bare essentials so we’ll really live don’t you think that’s about building up wealth in heaven. Isn’t that social wealth? 
          So, do we want to change some things on our map? Are there more places of social wealth than we thought? And did you notice that I didn’t list one of the churches as a place of social wealth? Maybe I should have since caring and loving and praying for each other does take place here every Sunday.
          I guess the reason I didn’t put it on my list is because the community doesn’t gather here every day and we do in those other places. Doesn’t that make you say, “Hmmm?” 
          So many times we put the emphasis on saving for the future, building up savings account, stock portfolios and such when we should be thinking beyond that to what happens after we die, and we’re all going to die so we do need to consider that.
          What I’d suggest we do this next week is to pay attention to where God leads you to be in community with the others. And listen, really listen, to what’s going on in their lives. And then listen for God’s leading. How can we accumulate more wealth, the heavenly kind, through the week?
          And please remember it’s not about earning a place in heaven because we can’t do anything about that but we can honor God and give him praise by helping those we encounter every day, those He sends to us for help.
          And when we encounter difficulties then maybe, just maybe, there’ll be someone there to lend us a helping hand, someone God sends to us.
          Friends, go into this week being as smart as those who are accumulating financial but use those smarts to accumulate wealth in heaven.
          Thanks be to God for his blessed forgiving grace. Amen.

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