Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Greed, the Divine Life, and American Christianity

My friend and co-pastor the Anglobaptist has some interesting posts on possessions/ownership/things and being in the world but not of the world, and a link to a sermon on greed.

On Sunday I preached on the same texts as the sermon to which Tripp linked. The Gospel was the parable of the Rich Fool. The other readings were from the beginning of Ecclesiastes "Vanity of vanities..." and then Colossians 3:1-11. I have not written a manuscript for my sermons in several months now, so there is not text of the sermon, what follows is some thoughts that come out of preaching to a joint service between Reconciler, Immanuel Lutheran Church and St Elias Christian Church, at which there were 50 visitors from the Lutheran worship conference that was preceding the ELCA General Synod, and Tripp's posts.

Like Rev. Ref, I outlined a sermon on greed. In one way or another all the lectionary texts either explicitly mentioned greed or allude to it. However, as I looked over my outline Sunday morning before the service it occurred to me that buried in my sermon on greed was a sermon on the reason we should avoid greed (and other things the Colossians passage mentions). the reason Jesus speaks against greed is because it stands in the way of our entering the divine life of the Trinity, that we are called into and have entered into through faith and baptism.

What I found then was that the three texts presented us with what the divine life of the Trinity is not, a sort of negative theology of the divine life. Ultimately greed, a life that seeks to merely live for itself and accumulate wealth, wisdom, etc. for oneself is pure vanity and is opposed to how God approaches abundance. the life of the Holy Trinity is a shared and not guarded life, it is a life of gift and giving, it seeks to keep nothing to itself but to draw all into its abundant life of love. That is more or less what I preached on Sunday.

I was somewhat surprised by the responses and conversations I had about my sermon. The people there were hungry to hear about the divine life of the Trinity. Which made me wonder are few preachers preaching this, and if so why not.

I wonder if we leaders and preachers in the churches have found ourselves distracted by things, by abstract things, by worldly wisdom, that we have forgotten that the food that will sustain our people to work for justice and to live lives of charity and self-sacrifice only comes from heaven. I wonder if we have forgotten that we are to live in the world (seek to do acts of charity and seek after justice, etc.) but not be of the world (to do so according to the ways and philosophies, politics and wisdom of our various earthly systems and teachers and leaders). Now we have perhaps forgotten this because those who were before us were too cozy in the comforts of a supposedly Christian culture, and thus were blinded to the way the churches had at times lost sight of the Gospel. I wonder if we have attempted to correct this through worldly means and made the Gospel an entirely worldly affair that we can accomplish through mere human effort. What vanity if this is so. It would explain allot it would explain the faithful hungry people I preached to, observed and talked with this past Sunday. It would explain some of the puzzlement expressed in those conversations.

I think though I am not the only one awakening to this reality. There is only one way though to bring life justice and charity back to our churches and to the world, and that is to seek to continually enter the divine life of the Trinity, for that very life is opposed to all injustice evil and destruction that the world brings and continues to create.