We Do Not Own What We Have

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Judges 4:1-7
Psalm 123
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

… Nothing
Is given that is not
Taken, and nothing taken
That was not first a gift.
Wendell Berry

I’m not as young as I used to be. I understand fully that any one of us could at any time say precisely the same thing, but what would otherwise be mere inanity has taken on surprising concreteness for me as I have begun to realize that someday I may no longer be able to do the work I love, or much work at all, for that matter. Treating retirement as a concrete, rather than an abstract, reality, has led me to think about money, and about whether there will be enough. According to the retirement calculator I consulted, the answer, unsurprisingly, is “no,” and even though I know that this answer is determined by an ideal standard of living to which I have never really aspired, it turns my thought to worry. I hate this, if for no other reason than because I hate the person it makes me or tempts me to become. I became acutely aware of these matters, which have been floating around my subconscious for a while now, when I began to study the gospel lesson for this week. Read more

Nightmares of the Rich

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 10: 17-31

Stacey Elizabeth Simpson remembers the night she first read Mark’s account of Jesus and the rich man. She was seven, tucked comfortably into bed, quietly reading her Bible when she heard Jesus thunder: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” She slammed the bible shut and ran down the hallway to her sleeping mother’s bedside. “Mom!” she called, “Jesus says that rich people don’t go to heaven!”

“We’re not rich,” said her mother, “Go back to bed.”

“But I knew better,” said the grown-up Stacey. “I knew I had all I needed plus plenty more…the little girl inside me knew that these words of Jesus were clear, and hard, and scary.” Read more

Thanks, but No Thanks


Job 23: 1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22: 1-15; Hebrews 4: 12-16; Mark 10: 17-31

Around our church some of us have undertaken the simple task of teaching our children basic manners, especially things like speaking clearly, looking a person in the eye, standing straight, and shaking hands with a good firm grip. One 9-year-old boy, who came to church when he was four from an abusive home, used to hide under the chairs when you talked to him and the only way he showed any affection was to come up and hit. We’ve worked with him, been very patient and loving, and we’ve taken the time to give him these basic lessons about social interaction. It has been good to watch him practice these lessons and grow and change.

Good posture, firm handshakes, head held high and eye contact – this is the way we carry ourselves; it is our exterior and physical demeanor. It is an indication of what is going on in our souls.

It shows up in this week’s Gospel reading. Read more