Wednesday, October 2, 2013

September 29 Sermon

“We brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these… We are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, so that we may take hold of the life that really is life.”
The 1st Letter of Timothy exhorts its listeners to live content with the riches they have, food and clothing. Not to be haughty, not to be overcome by riches for the root of much evil in this world lies at the pursuit of such wealth, but instead to be rich in good works & ready to share, so that we may take hold of the life that really is life.

I wonder if a football coach had 1 Timothy in mind this week when he suspended all 80 players on his team.
“Union High School coach Matt Labrum took the bold action after last Friday night's loss, saying the players needed to earn back the privilege of playing football at the school through community service and better behavior off the field. Labrum was alerted by a guidance counselor to the cyberbullying of a student by some football players. He was also unhappy with players cutting classes and disrespecting teachers. Instead of practicing this week for this Friday's game, the players have been performing community service. He gave his players a sheet called "Union Football Character," detailing the next steps for the boys to be reinstated.” (
I think that football coach taught those kids a great deal about what it means to be on a team, the privilege of playing football and how to do good to others. To take hold of what life really is, beyond the football field. Hopefully it also ended the bullying and disrespect.

We each have a part to play in bringing about good in our world, "Do a little bit of good wherever you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." ~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu

But we live in a society that struggles with our individuality and the common good. We have a hard time seeing the need next door, in our town or in the nearby city, even as we are more and more connected in this media driven age.

In the parable, the rich man ignores Lazarus who is at his gate, and only after their fortunes are reversed at their deaths, does the rich man see Lazarus. It is Abraham, the patriarch of the faith that says to the rich man in hades that his brothers should listen to Moses and the prophets, for if they won’t listen to them, they will never listen to someone risen from the dead. (Hint: he’s talking about Jesus!)

Which is a reminder to us that we have Moses & the prophets and Jesus who was raised from the dead, telling us of our calling to care for one another, especially those in need like Lazarus.

The rich man was blinded because of all his wealth, he did not or would not see the poor man Lazarus who was at his gate. There was a CEO recently who wanted to find out what it would be like to be Lazarus.

The CEO of Panera Bread thought he knew what poverty was like…
“I thought I knew a thing or two about hunger. I've met thousands of people who struggle to feed themselves and their families, visited dozens of soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters and food banks, and worked closely with nonprofit organizations like Feeding America [in developing five "Panera Cares" community cafes with no set prices.] I really thought I understood the scope of the problem.

But let me tell you something -- I had no clue. My SNAP Challenge last week taught me that merely observing someone else's plight does not hold a candle to consciously altering your habits to better understand what it might be like to live someone else's life. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was formerly called the food stamp program. In the SNAP challenge, you live on a food and beverage budget of $4.50 a day, the average amount a recipient of food stamps gets in benefits.

I was hungry... I was scared about eating portions that were too big, and wasn't sure what to do if my food ran out. I canceled two scheduled dinners, knowing they were way beyond my budget. I couldn't even eat in Panera, my own restaurant.  
All I had to worry about was my food, and that was challenging enough.  One in six people in this country, or roughly 48 million Americans, face this reality. At the same time, they confront other obstacles and manage to deal with more pressing challenges every day.

One person wrote me, "It's not about a weeklong 'challenge.' It's about months. It's about deciding whether to eat or buy heart medicine or diabetic drugs. ... It's about knowing that this week is followed by another and another and another. It's not about (whether or not food is) boring. It's about living."

Throughout my SNAP Challenge, I kept returning to the same questions: What kind of society do we want to live in? Do we want to live in a country that turns a cold shoulder to the problem of hunger, or one in which we work together to face it head on?

If the past week has taught me anything, it's that hunger is not a problem of "them," it's a problem of "us." Hunger exists in every community, in every county, in every state. Simply put, this is our problem to solve, and it's time to do so.” (
We are blessed in so many ways and we need to find ways to give those blessings to those Lazaruses at our gate. To answer the question – what society do we want to live in?

For the hungry, the homeless, and those in need, it isn’t just food they need, they also need love. They need to know they are not disposable human beings that they too are children of God.

“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.” Mother Teresa

Consider your lives my brothers and sisters; what do you need to do to reach out? What is your blessing to offer this world? What can you offer the hungry, the lonely, the Lazarus?

For it is in giving that we receive our truest blessings. Amen.

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