Monday, August 1, 2016

We Love our Stuff

Lord we love our stuff.  We collect records, or um CD’s or um MP3’s...I have my paperweights…my glass, my photos, my knitting, my weaving, my tent that sits in a garage used twice maybe 3 times.  I have books that I have read once that I can’t part with…I have stamps collected for who???  Because it brings me pleasure…Our stuff our Knick Knacks, bring us Joy.
The online dictionary says …noun
Plural noun: knick-knacks
A small worthless object, especially a household ornament.
Synonyms:          trinket, novelty, gewgaw, bibelot, ornament, trifle, bauble, gimcrack, curio, tchotchke; memento, souvenir, kickshaw
Se we need extra words for all our stuff because we have just so much of it….

There is no0thing wrong with collecting things…there is nothing wrong with storing up for a rainy day  there is something wrong with keeping so much you could never possibly use it and not even consider sharing it.
Nancy Rockwell shared a story; “Once, and with sadness, a lawyer on the brink of retirement told me he had spent his career in the midst of fights over inheritance that occur between siblings.  And really, he said, they are fighting over their parents love.
So the pain that Luke remembered in the shouted plea, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me, is deep and ongoing among us.  Luke remembers Jesus using the moment to define greed (the storing up of treasures) as the opposite of living richly toward God.
And death, which triggers the distribution of accumulations, becomes the moment in which living richly towards God becomes evident.  Or not.”[1]
There is nothing wrong with abundance, there is nothing wrong with wealth as long as we remember to share it.  You see the rich man already had barns that were sufficient for his needs but when he saw this abundant crop instead of using it for the good it could bring he decided to make larger barns to store it all in.
Nancy shares a few others people concepts and theories about abundance…”Montaigne, the French Renaissance philosopher, wrote It’s not want, but rather abundance, that creates greed.  In dire need, we want what we truly need, but in the midst of plenty, we want it all.”[2]
You see when we need to budget to survive we are ever so grateful for what we have. Yet as we are able to acquire more …more is what we want.  Now this isn’t true for all but it is something to consider as we pay attention to our own wants and needs and we consider the needs of the world around us.
Theologian Walter Brueggeman, says greed is born out of the idea of scarcity, and scarcity is born out of anxiety – and all three are acted upon in an abundant world.  Abundance is denied, not trusted, forgotten in our culture.”[3] In other words the concept of having so much as to have enough to give away has been denied by most and forgotten by others.  This concept that one can have too much seems to be slipping out of our consciousness.  Our society has become the fool in that no matter how much we have …what we have is just for us.
Yet “Rabbi Lawrence Kushner wrote: Wealth is the highly subjective sensation of having more than enough, so much that there is money to give away.  For this reason, wealth is a function of generosity:  the more you give, the richer you feel.”[4] That is what it means to be rich towards God.
Think of the widow and her mite. She gave out of her want but yet through her want she has continued to teach us what it truly means to be blessed and abundant.  What it means to turn our back on greed and self-centeredness and turn our focus on God and outward toward our community
Today’s centering prayer “going Down to the River” is a blessing in abundance that arose out of scarcity.  It is written and performed by a man who was homeless on and off for most of 25 years of his life.
This man had tried his luck at music at a very young age.  He even toured a bit with buddy miller back in the 70’s but dint like touring much so he went back home to upstate NY.  He married his girlfriend and raised his two kids.  He mad e a living doing cabinetry work...” After his time in Texas as a troubadour, he married his girlfriend and had two children. His woodworking kept him busy. "I built the wall unit for the White House when President Reagan was in office," he says. "I worked for the company in Long Island that had [the] contract. I remember I used Japanese Ash."[5]
But the music called him back.  He asked his son if it was ok if he pursued his music dreams and the 16 year old said it would be cool.  So back to Nashville he went.  He ended up living in the streets plagued by alcoholism and some drug abuse.  He went virtually unnoticed.
“Seeger’s made friends while living on the streets: especially the folks that operate the Nashville Rescue Mission, where he'd crash when he wasn't sleeping in a tent in the woods or under a bridge, and Stacy Downey, who runs the Little Pantry That Could food bank.
It wasn't a bad life. "The truth of that whole homeless thing is it's exciting to me, it's an adventure," says Seeger’s, his lanky build, tousled grey hair and weathered, angular face making him look like a character out of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. "In the summertime, you're outside living in a tent by a stream, maybe you're fishing. In the wintertime, maybe you've got a 55-gallon drum in the woods and you're throwing big logs into it and everyone's hanging around by the fire. It wasn't stressful to me."[6]
His life went on like this day to day often seen sitting in front of the Salvation Army with his guitar in hand and the box open for tips of any kind.  He was living hard going from shelters to under a bridge.   The song you heard today he wrote about 2011.
Seeger wrote the Song “while he was still homeless and wrestling with his demons. “It was almost like a prayer I wrote to myself," he says, sitting in a corner office of his booking agency in Beverly Hills, hours before his first Los Angeles show.
A few months later, he was struck sober. "I prayed for [God's] help and I feel like he pulled me out of it," Seeger’s says, who has remained abstinent. "Also, I had none of the joneses or the cravings or the pain. I had nothing. He removed them all. It was instant."[7]  It was that song that a Swedish documentarian who was doing a piece on homeless musicians heard.  She had him record it and it became number one on the Swedish charts.  His second album is due out this summer sometime.
He uses his luck and his gift as a message…“It is such responses to his music that have made him feel he is on a mission that can't be measured by airplay or sales. "I don't really care about the money and the fame," he says. "I want to be an inspiration; for people to benefit from what I've been through. I think that's what God wants me to be. I think maybe that's why God put me into this seat."[8]
I share this story not just because it is a lovely Cinderella music story but more so because he is the opposite of the rich man.  He suddenly has an abundance and all he wants to do is share.  Share his gift, which he has always done, and now share his experience in the hope of making people’s lives better.
But there is another side to this as well.  If someone had not noticed this man on the sidewalk, if someone had not taken the time to share some time, food, and give shelter to him, he might not even be here today.
I want you the meet another person who I also see as the opposite of the foolish man.
“Vikus Khanna, a Michelin-starred chef, has built an impressive career for himself in the culinary world, but in 2000 he was homeless and living in a shelter. To give back, he helped put together a special evening to feed those at the New York Rescue Mission. In the video above, watch Khanna explain the tasting menu and experience the “Hollywood” meal with those who enjoyed it.”[9]
This story is about giving back.  Yet again there is nothing wrong with his success.  What is important is he is giving it back or paying it forward.  It is the opposite of the foolish man.  He is not hording his abundance and keeping it all for himself he is giving it away.
I think one thing we often forget or over look is our own abundance.  I have been homeless with no income and I relied on the desert aids association and friends to get by.  Not everyone has friends that can help them.  I was very blessed. 
 I think no matter how bad off we are.  How little we believe we have.  There is always someone who has less.  No matter how powerless we feel there is always something we can do.  Be it monetary or of time.  No matter who we are we all have time…it might not feel like it but we do.  Time is one thing we try to horde the most.
It seems I do not know why but suddenly the day is over…I don’t know what day it is anymore. The years fly by…yet how much time did you spend just watching TV, listening to music, taking a nap?  How many times have we said; “my time could have been better spent.”?
I know in this day and age many people enjoy TV, Movies and computer time.  We often lose track of the real world as it is filtered and fed to us through electronic devises.  We often get bombarded with hateful speech, prejudices, or atrocities of people hurting people.
So I was wondering instead of spending so much time being abused by our choices of electronic stimuli, what if we took the time to find a way to contribute to others.  We have the feeding program here…there is no reason why any of us cannot take a few hours to participate. 
I know not everyone is called to get up early and make sandwiches or to go out and meet the homeless face to face.  That is a very special calling indeed and we have wonderful people who are called to it.  Maybe you can donate a bag of socks.  Perhaps some hygiene kits?
Maybe something not so creative.  Maybe just going through your closets and donating clothes to one of the thrift stores.  Did you know we have thrift stores that monies raised goes to the blind, to people living and with cancer, to children at children’s hospital?  We are an animal loving community did you know there is a thrift store helping hands for animals.
If you look around you one can find so many ways to give back.  Maybe volunteer time with a local hospice.  Many hospices use volunteers to read to clients, sing for them, and spend time to companion with them and their families.
We are still collecting money for the solar empowerment project they have about 11,000 dollars’ worth of solar panels at las Memorias.  Yet they need more, they are adding on to the building.  They have enough power for lights and things but they still could use solar panels for hot water.
You know you can bring a friend to church.  Be brave in your faith and share you experience of community and an all loving God.  Who knows sharing Gods abundant Grace is truly what we are about and maybe just what someone you know needs.
There are opportunities to share your time and talent in many places.  I will say if you are capable of walking and or talking you have gifts to share.
Let’s get back to our parable The Reverend Dr. David Lose says: “Jesus doesn’t warn against money, wealth, or material abundance. He warns against greed, about the insatiable feeling of never having enough. And the parable he tells illustrates this. The farmer’s problem isn’t that he’s had a great harvest, or that he’s rich, or that he wants to plan for the future. The farmer’s problem is that his good fortune has curved his vision so that everything he sees starts and ends with himself.

Listen again to the conversation he has with, not a spouse or friend or parent or neighbor, but only with himself: “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’”
Do you see what I mean? It is an absolutely egocentric conversation, even including a conversation with himself inside the conversation he is already having with himself! This is why he is a fool. He has fallen prey to the notion that life, and particularly the good life, consists of possessions, precisely the thing Jesus warns against.”[10]
Jesus wants us to live a connected life.  One in which we build loving relations ships with each other in community.  Dr. David asks the question and answers it: “What, then, does the good life consist of? Read the rest of what Jesus says across the gospels and it becomes pretty clear: relationships -- relationships with each other and with God. And, as you inevitably discover while reading, these two can’t really be separated. Hence Jesus tells stories like the parable of the Good Samaritan that invite us to think more broadly about who we imagine being our neighbor, and he preaches sermons that extol caring for the poor, loving our enemies, and doing good for those in need. Not once does Jesus lift up setting up a retirement account or securing a higher-paying job as part of seeking the kingdom of God.”[11]
Now there is nothing wrong with wanting a better paying job, moving up the corporate ladder, preparing for a good retirement.  All these things allow us to have comfortable lives.  They give us the opportunity to support our church and community with financial support.  That is nice but the key is still building relationships with each other in community to help better this world and bring it closer to the kindom of God.
When we build a living and loving community the other stuff stops.  The electronic bombardment of bad news stops.  The constant fear of the other stops.  When we work with our brothers and sisters in our community we meet someone may be from each one of those emblems on the wall.  Because each one of those faiths are also working to better themselves and to make this world a better place and it is only through community and relationships can that happen.
Not through building bigger places for our stuff.  But by sharing our gifts, time and energy.  I love our stuff the stuff we have so much of that we can give it away.  The Love, the talents, and the gifts that come from god and the grace of God…go out and give a little love away…I’ll guarantee you will get some in return!

[1] Nancy Rockwell, Rich toward God, July 29, 2013, accessed July 26, 2016,
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Melinda Williams, Homeless to famous, October 7, 2014, accessed July 26, 2016,
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Kira Brekke, Celebrity Chef Who Was Once Homeless Gives Back To the Community That Fed Him, Medium, accessed July 26, 2016,
[10] David Lose, What money can and can't do, July 29, 2013, accessed July 30, 2016,
[11] Ibid.

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