Wednesday, March 2, 2011

February 28 Sermon (Epiphany 8)

In God we Trust. It is the official motto of the US. (Since 1956) And has been on our paper currency since 1957 (some coinage had it as far back as 1864).

In God we trust. Reminiscent of a line from the Star Spangled Banner, “and this be our motto, in God is our trust.”

President Teddy Roosevelt never liked the motto on the coins of his day – thinking we should not put God’s name on our currency,
“is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege…It seems to me eminently unwise to cheapen such a motto by use on coins.”
He also might have had today’s reading from the Gospel in mind, “No one can serve two masters. You cannot serve God and mammon (wealth).” But it is interesting to me, that something that we probably put our hands on everyday, should say to us: In God we trust.

Even if we don’t think about it, it is always there to remind us to place our trust in God, and not money or mammon or wealth or anything else. That trust in God is what we heard in today’s readings. In our first reading, we heard from Isaiah about the Lord’s work among the people: “In a time of favor I have answered you, on a day of salvation I have helped you;” But the people complain, “The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.” “I will not forget you,” says the Lord. It reminds me of a quote from Meister Eckhart:
“God is at home, it's we who have gone out for a walk.”
Its not that God has forgotten or forsaken us, it is we who have forgotten. We use our money but forget the inscription. We get caught up in everything, and lose our way. Why trust? Because the Lord says I will not forget you. It was a promise then to the Israelites, it is a promise to us now. Through it all, God does not forget. And building on that foundation is Jesus.
"So do not worry about tomorrow,” Jesus said. “for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today."
With his disciple worried about what to expect, Jesus tries to ease such anxiety, by saying, don’t worry about it – put your trust in God. Just like the disciples of Jesus day, or the Church of Matthew’s day, our lives are much more then the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the houses we inhabit, the jobs we do. Wendell Berry, the poet & farmer, understands us well in his poem:
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
We get too consumed with our stuff and lose our relatedness to one another & to life. But Berry is not satisfied with such living, and encourages the reader:
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Our faith and trust is in the goodness & creation of God. Jesus wants us to consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Look what God has done for them and consider what God is doing for us today. For God knows we need food and clothing and shelter. But God doesn’t want us to focus on them, we are to
“strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Strive for God, work toward God’s will, put your trust there. While today's Gospel speaks of the birds of the sky and the flowers of the field, I read an author who has us consider for a moment the lowly hamster.
The hamster spends its days in its little cage day in and day out. Sometimes it turns a little plastic wheel; other times it gnaws on whatever is available. Whatever the hamster needs "falls from the sky" into its happy little cage. It's a good life: Be cute, keep moving, and all things will be given you, little rodent. Our vision of the good life, though, isn't much different: Keep moving, make a lot of money; be cute, look good, stay young and healthy; stay within your cage.

But there is a problem: In the pursuit of the good life, we become hamsters in a never-ending wheel of motion, moving at a pace that gets more and more difficult to sustain. We have to have what our neighbors have; and we keep pushing ourselves franticly in lives full of busy. But our life on the treadmill is anything but the real thing: the blessed life, rich in joy, rich in peace, rich in the things of God.

Its time to get off the hamster's treadmill and embrace the hope of the birds of the sky and the flowers of the field. [Suggested by "Off the treadmill" by Kenneth H. Carter Jr., The Christian Century, July 24, 2007.]
For Jesus warns us that too often we become the servants of our anxieties, of our stuff rather than the masters of our lives: Jesus tells his disciples & us that we have nothing to fear in our lives, God loves us unconditionally.

In God we trust
must be more than a motto. It must be part of our lives for today's trouble is enough and we must put our trust in God who will help us see it through. Get off the plastic wheel of your life. Plant yourself in God’s creation. Whatever you do today, may it proclaim that in God you trust. Amen.

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