Saturday, September 17, 2011

Proper 20 September 18, 2011

          For a lot of us these are tough times. Last Wednesday the Census Bureau reported that the income of the family at the statistical mid point fell to an inflation adjusted $49,445. Half the families in the country had income less than $49,445 and half had income greater than $49,445. That is 2.3% less than last year and 7.1% down from the 1999 peak.

            When I was rector in Shelby in the 1980’s a parishioner was an engineer at a local electronic parts manufacturer. Parts were designed in Shelby and some were made there – for the US military. Civilian market parts were made across the border in Mexico. Our government wanted to be sure that we retain in this country the ability to make these parts.

          The laborers who had worked all day perceived the landowner’s action as unfair to them, but if the goal is to get the work done you have to pay what is necessary.

   Jesus’ goal is the salvation of the world through faith in him. There is no other secure and certain means of salvation and reconciliation with the Father. Jesus believed so firmly in the goal of salvation and reconciliation that he was willing to undergo the shameful and excruciatingly painful death of the cross necessary to accomplish that goal. He calls us to be his witnesses, to proclaim in our lives his death and resurrection – to bear his cross. And he calls us early and he calls us late: early in the morning, 9, 12, 3, even in the last hour, he calls us.

He offers us the salvation and new life we experience and proclaim. He offers  us freedom from past sin and guilt; he offers us the truth and the power of his Holy Spirit – regardless of when we come to accept his call.

God’s goal was to set the children of Israel free from slavery in Egypt. When they complained for the fleshpots of Egypt he gave them first quails and then manna – every day except the Sabbath but on the eve of the Sabbath a double portion.

St. Paul trusted in God’s provide-ence for the little church at Philippi that “so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

For many of us these are tough times. Many of us have had tough times before, and we will have them again. God provides. For some he provides through cooperation in government; for others he provides through church, family, friends. Those of us who have enough to be able to share have the positive obligation to share, to look for ways to give to those in need as we are able.

Some years ago a survey asked people, “How much would you need to feel comfortable?” The general answer was “About 10%” more than I have now.” God understands us; he made us, and he calls us to tithe, to give away 10% of what we have. My father was a priest and taught me to give the first 10% to the Lord’s service, to save the next 10%, and to live on the rest. I’ve tried to follow that advice and God has blessed me.

The older I get the more today’s collect resonates in my life, “Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Amen.

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