4 August 2013

Where do you place your faith? Does the idea of trusting God for protection, provision and justice sound naive and unrealistic to you? Yet, this is exactly what the Scriptures call us to do – to live differently from the self-protective, wealth accumulating, customs of our world, and place our trust in God. In the face of the huge challenges we face in the world this may sound completely out of touch, but, when the role of money in so many of those challenges is recognised, the call to give up our faith in finance and reclaim a true, child-like faith in God becomes disturbingly relevant and subversive.

May your worship this week move you into a place of deeper trust in God, and more courageous challenge of the culture of accumulation in our world.

READINGS:
Hosea 11:1-11: Judgement is prophesied for Israel because of the people’s idolatry and unfaithfulness, but God’s compassion and love for God’s people makes judgement difficult for God, and so restoration is also promised.
OR Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23: The teacher laments that everything is meaningless, and reflects on the futility of working hard to accumulate wealth that will ultimately be inherited by others, who may or may not use it wisely.

Psalm 107:1-9, 43: Praise for God’s unfailing love, and God’s salvation of God’s people when in distress. The history of God’s people reveals God’s faithful love.
OR Psalm 49:1-12: Not even the wealthy can save themselves from death or buy their way into eternal life. Therefore, there is no reason to fear those who trust in their wealth.

Colossians 3:1-11: Because of Christ’s life in us, we are called to prioritise the values of heaven over the values of earth, and to avoid the greed and lust that of “earth-bound” existence. Rather, recognising that we are all the same in Christ, we are to find our life in Christ, and seek to become like our God.

Luke 12:13-21: In warning against greed, Jesus tells a parable of a wealthy man who feels secure because of his great riches, but whose wealth becomes meaningless when he dies. Then Christ challenges us to seek a rich relationship with God instead of material riches.

For a deeper reflection on the Gospel passage, see this post at the Sacredise blog.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The theme of this week’s readings is not hard to discern – all of the readings contrast a life of dependence on wealth with the life of dependence on God. The teacher in Ecclesiastes, the Psalmist in Psalm 49, the Apostle in Colossians and Jesus all warn against greed and speak about the danger of making wealth our goal and our security. In Hosea and in Psalm 107, God’s salvation and care is promised, even when God’s people have needed to be disciplined and corrected. When it comes to making our way in the world, the quest for money too easily becomes an end in itself, and will ultimately lead us into destruction, and to bringing suffering on ourselves and others. However, when life is found in our relationship with God, and in basing our lives on the values of God’s reign, we bring life and joy to ourselves and others, and our lives have eternal value. Ultimately, we all need to choose the priorities by which we will live.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: So much of the suffering and injustice in our world can be traced to the quest for money and to the greed of certain individuals or groups. The ongoing pain from the global economic crisis, the ecological challenges posed by our dependence on fossil fuels, the war and violence which arises between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ (so often justified as a “protection of interests”), the debates around health care, immigration and climate change – all have strong, albeit often hidden, financial agendas intertwined within the other issues. The challenge is to recognise the powerful, and often destructive, role that money plays in global affairs, and to challenge our world leaders, our business leaders and ourselves to embrace a financial ethic of sharing and giving, over accumulating and ‘protecting’. Ultimately, in a world where economic performance is measured quarterly, it will be difficult to begin to embrace an eternal view of wealth, but if the voices of Christ-followers remain silent on this difficult, prophetic, Gospel call, all hope of a more just and equitable world is lost. In what ways can you make your voice heard a little more clearly?

LOCAL APPLICATION: The way we view, earn and use money in our churches, families and individual lives, is a window into how we understand and live the Gospel. Too often there is little difference between the economic values of the “world” and those of the “Church”. Too often we spend (or hoard) money selfishly, and measure success by the accumulation of wealth – somehow falling into the trap of seeing wealth as a sign of God’s blessing – while ministry to the poor, the marginalised and the vulnerable is left undone or poorly resourced. Apart from sexuality, perhaps, money is the issue that we deal with least helpfully and honestly in the church, and yet it is a primary issue in the Scriptures. Dependence on God sounds like a quaint, outdated and unrealistic way of living in today’s wealth-focussed world. Simplicity is all too often equated with stupidity and a “sour-grapes” attitude. The imbalance between the rich and the poor, and the unequal way that the world’s resources are shared and used, are all justified – often with biblical support. But, if we will allow the Gospel to challenge us and change us, we will find our hands opening, our trust moving from wealth to God, and our lives shifting from accumulation and protection, to sharing and giving. In what ways are these shifts happening in your community?

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
A Simple Choice
Plenty
Enough

Hymn Suggestions:
I Need Thee Every Hour
Bigger Barns
Take My Life And Let It Be
When I Survey The Wondrous Cross (Especially verse 4)
I Surrender All
Lord, I Give You My Heart (Link to YouTube video)
I Will Offer Up My Heart (Link to YouTube video)
Lord, You Are More Precious Than Silver (Link to YouTube video)
My Life Is In You, Lord (Link to YouTube video)
We Are An Offering (Link to YouTube video)

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Eucharist

Video Suggestions:
Abolishing Wealth & Poverty
Relational Tithe: We Are Not Alone

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