Our collect invites God  to increase in  us “True Religion”  what is true religion?   True Religion.  Oh my goodness  True Religion.  Those are both loaded words so let’s unpack them a bit. 

True.  What is true?   To be true is to be accurate and exact.   So often people entangle true or truth with opinions or points of view.  Truth is bigger than us.   Native Americans often speak of the reality that there are two truths.  Two types of true.   First accuracy:  I am standing in the parish hall it is approximately 10:30 on Sunday morning.   That’s one kind of true.  The other truth is what native spirituality called BIG truth.  The Holy Spirit is flooding this little room of ours with so love and light that we are on fire.  That is true too.    Two truths.  

Okay so that’s true.  What’s religion?  Oh my.  Here we go!  Religion from the Latin word, Religare means that which binds us together.   What binds us together beloved?    Or to ask it another way, what do you wish to give your life to? What is the God of your life like?    That’s what Jeremiah is woofing about this morning—what God are you going to follow?  What do you want your life to be bound to?    

The Christ follower might say it this way: what will I be a servant of?   

True Religion is what Hebrews invites us into today.  A fearless unafraid life.  If God is in fact love and love is eternal, then what do we need to fear?   We are bound together in LOVE.   Our religare is love. 

Increase in us true religion. 

If we are bound together in love, then there are a few truths we need to live and practice: 

1)    Show hospitality to strangers.  This is such a radical action!  We live in a world that is so deeply afraid of the stranger.  We talk about stranger danger with our children.  We prepare ourselves for violence from strangers as we could at any time be shot and killed in public or at home.  That is our reality and  yes, we need to prepare ourselves for such horrendous acts of senseless violence.   
Yet,  we are invited to show hospitality to strangers.    That is pretty radical fearless stuff. 
How do we show hospitality to Strangers both collectively and as individuals? 
That beloved is at the heart of the Gospel today.   Jesus is upping the ante on showing hospitality to strangers.    Invite the poor, those that could never repay you.  

Beloved the best Thanksgiving I ever spent was at St Mark’s my former parish in California.  There was a homeless shelter for medically fragile women.  Imagine being sick and homeless and a woman.  What a vulnerable circumstance.   The shelter had no congregation to go to one November.  It was October and the leaders of the shelter and the women were starting to worry.  How could we say no?  St Mark’s sanctuary was like a basilica—it could seat 500 people.  Our community center was large enough to hold about 250 people sitting down and dining.  We had two acres in Silicon Valley.  How could we say no?   
Increase in us True Religion. 

The women came and slept in our sanctuary.  They came to the best party St. Mark’s held every year—our annual Thanksgiving dinner on the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving!   Then we held our own Thanksgiving supper just for them on the Thursday of the holiday.   Increase in us True Religion. 

You  wanna know where the church goes wrong?  And why people don’t come???  

When we care more about which stupid candle to light first than we care for strangers.  That’s chasing after worthless things and becoming worthless.  

The only excuse for all of this renovation, all of this beauty all of this place is that we give it away in the name of showing hospitality to the stranger.   

 We need this beauty to spur us on to look at the ugliness of our world square in the face.  God’s dream is that we wake up from the nightmare of our being trapped by worthless pursuits.    The only way we can wake up to God’s dream is together in beauty.  The only way we take on the enemy is through love.   The only way out of despair into hope is in community together not isolated.   

Increase in us true religion.  

The second truth we need to live is that we are to find contentment which is… real joy.  

Listen again to Hebrews: 

Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, "I will never leave you or forsake you." So we can say with confidence,
"The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?"

There it is again—fear comes when we love money.  We give away our fear when we practice generosity.   Contentment and gratitude are  again radical counter cultural practices that are deeply tied to our humanity and deeply tied to care of our creation.   

Our consumerist culture is a trap that takes us away from contentment and gratitude and invites us to live in a place of being the biggest fish in the pond—eating all the little ones around us.   That is the opposite of the Gospel. 

Beloved the definition of heaven is eat and be eaten.  The definition of hell is EAT OR BE eaten!     Eat or be eaten is a worthless  mindset that takes us into fear and away from gratitude which is the heart of Eucharist.   Eucharist literally means thanksgiving.  It is a feast because gratitude is a feast. 

Giving away our money is one of the most fearless actions we can take in the face of a culture that pursues the worthlessness of a conspicuous consumption practice.  Nothing will make us more worthless than the consuming  selfishness of chasing after money alone.    Giving money to church is a spiritual practice. Giving money to collectives that focus on the common good is a part of being a Christ follower.  If we aren’t giving away our money, we aren’t following Christ. 

He has the most toys in the end wins is a lie our culture tells us daily.  

We are invited beloved to a different vision a collective vision.  The church is a collective movement meant to imitate Christ by the fearless practice of gratitude and contentment.  The fearless practice of loving the other—the stranger.   The fearless action of seeing that we are in fact bound together and need each other. 

Increase in us true religion.  


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