Sunday, September 29, 2019

Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

"It’s easy to lose our way"

Rev. Kealahou Alika

1 Timothy 6:6-19 & Luke 16:19-31

There is such clarity in the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy that it does seem anything we may say about the passage would be redundant. Paul met Timothy on his second missionary journey and he became Paul’s companion and co-worker and Paul became his mentor.

Paul wrote: “There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for 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” (1 Timothy 6:6-7).

Forbes magazine first published a list of the richest people in the world in March 1987. Whatever ambitions some may have to be on the Forbes list, the Paul offers a word of caution: “ . . . those who want to be rich fall into temptations and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

Paul’s words to Timothy offers a clear warning to the rich in their time centuries ago and in our time today: “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

The late Bernie Madoff and the late Jerry Epstein, both known as American financiers, were among those who fell into such temptations. There are many others less well known who also fell into ruin.

But there are others who have been able to do good, to be generous and ready to share. This year Jeff Bezos of Amazon led the list of billionaires at a net worth of $160 billion, by the far the highest ever.

Some have criticized Bezos for giving what appears to be a tiny fraction of his $160 billion fortune to philanthropic causes. Still, in 2018 Bezos set up a $2 billion Day One Fund to support existing not-for-profits addressing homelessness and poverty, in addition to funding preschool education in low-income communities.

Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft transitioned out of his day-to-day role in the company a decade earlier in 2008 to spend more time on his global health and education work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He held the number 1 spot as a billionaire for 24 consecutive years. Today, he is ranked number 2 with a net worth of $97 billion.

The story of the rich man and Lazarus that comes to us from The Gospel According to Luke is a “fairly simple one” (Reflections on the Lectionary, Julian DeShazier, Christian Century, September 11, 2019, page 19). Lazarus dies and goes to Heaven, the rich man dies and goes to Hades – to Hell.

The rich man finds himself having to give an account for how he treated Lazarus while they were both living. Lazarus is named and in his naming, we are compelled to see him as a human being.

“We are accountable for seeing Lazarus – as accountable, perhaps, as the rich man himself. This is a challenge to those among us – regardless of politics – who tend to think of issues but not individuals, who consider people but not persons” (Op. cit.).

Julian DeShazier, senior minister at University Church in Chicago, invites us to consider the following: “Think of the jarring photograph in June of the father and daughter drowned in the Rio Grande River while trying to cross the border into the United States. Regardless of your stance on immigration, the image puts a stark relief that this is indeed an issue that affects real lives.”

“And now give them names: Óscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and 23-month-old Valeria. These are not hypothetical deaths, and whatever our response as believers, it should not be purely philosophical” (Op. cit.).

An average of 100 Americans in the U.S. are shot and killed every day. Like Óscar and Valeria, all have a name and all have a story. They are more than numerical statistics. How many of us have noticed the man who is sometimes seen walking along Piʻilani Highway dressed in black plastic garbage bags? How many of us have seen men and sometimes women holding up signs along the traffic medians in Kahului with the words “Need Food” or “Will work for food!”?

How many of us wonder about their names and their stories? How many of us see them?

Jesus reminded the disciples and he reminds us, “If you see them, you see me” (Matthew 25:31-46). “What the rich man missed was not merely a chance to share his wealth but a chance to encounter the living God” in a poor hungry man covered with sores named Lazarus (Op. cit.).

Ke Akua has blessed the work of many in our church family. Members and friends serve as volunteers in a number of organizations in the wider community. Through the work of our Outreach Committee, grants equal to 15% of our operating budget or close to $50,000 will have been provided by the end of this year.

So far this year, we have received a total of $4,740 for special offerings for our children and youth; a scholarship fund for those entering the Christian ministry and funds to assist in refugee, relief and development work in over 80 countries around the world. In addition, we have received approximately $70,000 for gifts for our Building Fund, Canoe Hui, Keawalaʻi Endowment Fund, Music Ministry Fund, Local Mission Fund and Youth Fund.

It would be easy for us to lose our way and conclude that we are blessed by how much we have received in monetary donations. It would be easy for us to become preoccupied with worry about where the monies will come from in the future.

Should we find ourselves overwhelmed by the uncertainties that lay ahead, we need only to remind ourselves of Paul’s admonition: “We are to do good, to be rich in good works.” While having the financial resources to do good works is important, we notice that Paul does not say that we are to be rich in money; only that we are to be rich in good works. We are to be generous and ready to share our time and energy and by doing so we will thus store up for ourselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future so that we may take hold of the life that is really is life” (1 Timothy 6:6-19). Thanks be to God. Amen.

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