All that I have and all that I am is a gift from God. Amen.
An Episcopal Priest and A New York City Cab Driver die and go to heaven. Saint Peter joins the two at the pearly gates: “Welcome to heaven. Both of you have been faithful servants of the Lord. I will be showing you to your eternal dwellings.” So off they go on the golden roads past dwellings that would make Mark Zuckerberg envious. Here is your eternal dwelling, good and faithful servant! Saint Peter says to cab driver smiling. The cabby can hardly believe his good fortune because Winsor Castle is a shack in comparison to his heavenly place. Saint Peter now smiles at the priest and off the two set to find her mansion. She can hardly wait—I mean if this is what a cabby gets in heaven, imagine her eternal dwelling place! So off they go through heaven past several dwellings and soon, our priest friend notices that the castles are now mere mansions. That’s okay she thinks, I’m sure mine is coming up soon. And on and on they walk past mansions and then large houses until finally they stop at a tiny little... shack of a place! Yes a shack and Saint Peter stops and once again says, “Here is your eternal dwelling, good and faithful servant!”
Now you wait one minute! The priest protests, I visited the sick, led countless bible studies, brought people to the Lord, got up early almost every single Sunday preached the Gospel and this is all I get?! How is this fair?
Well dear Reverend, Said Saint Peter, I see your point but here’s the thing-- during your sermons people slept but when that taxi driver drove, everyone prayed."
(Note to self: maybe I need to take up Uber driving at the airport to bring more souls to prayer... as some of my friends will tell you, my airport driving skills are somewhat... dodgy. )
Ah yes... perhaps if our priest friend had been paying attention to the Gospel today she would have seen the great reversal coming... How is this fair?
God’s economy is a strange and wonderful thing, beloved ones of Christ. God’s economy is a reversal of our human understanding of fairness. Our preference for self-interest and greed, , stands alongside God’s preference for all. God’s economy invites us to see life from a perspective of abundance rather than scarcity, mercy and compassion rather than revenge or just deserved or earned rewards.
Jesus invites us to imagine great reversals of power in our world.
On the most cosmic night of the year, we hear some of the most beautiful words ever preached:
“If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let them with gratitude join in the Feast!
And they that arrived after the sixth hour,
let them not doubt; for they too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let them not hesitate; but let them come too.
And they who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let them not be afraid by reason of their delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
God gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first...
..Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.”
These are the words of John Chrysostom’s Easter homily—he was an early church writer. We read this sermon every year at the Easter Vigil. If you don’t remember or know that text, I invite you to learn it and know it. Chrysostom gives us a picture of the great reversal of power that takes place in the resurrection of Christ. His Easter homily is one of the most brilliant pieces of preaching ever—believe me—the old golden tongued church father wasn’t putting people to sleep.
We are invited by Jesus to imagine great reversals of power in our world. But we can’t stop there. For Imagination doesn’t feed hungry bellies. Imagination doesn’t mend loneliness. Imagination can’t curb greed consumerism or fear.
From our spiritual imagination, we are then called by God to do the work we are given to do. We are called to enact that great reversal with our lives with the power we have been given to us by God.
Anyone who has been hanging around the church for a hot minute knows that this time of the year is pledge season. And oy—how easy it is to want to simply tune out or mute the message. Like the annual PBS fundraising campaign—I’ll watch Masterpiece some other time—let’s change the channel. But this is more than a mere campaign or fundraising. Pledging is a part of stewardship AND stewardship is bigger than pledging. Stewardship is about everything we do after we say Yes to God.
This pledge season if you will is about making promises of how we want to give ourselves to being part of God’s economy to the great reversal of power in our world.
How do give our lives to this radical call from Christ to reverse power?
Each and every one of us is a gift from God and has something to offer and give toward the great reversal of power. That’s what stewarding our lives is all about. This isn’t simply about fundraising. This is about the wellness of our souls and the ways we offer our lives back to God. We say YES to God and yes to being a part of God’s economy a part of the great reversal of POWER.
And in case we didn’t know--Power has other names: Time Talent Money. One of the most powerful exercises that I ever tried was switching the word money for power in my mind each time I heard it used. Try it sometime.
The more we can offer up our power, our time our wisdom our money in judicious and healthy ways, the more we give away fear, the more we reverse power in our world the less afraid and anxious we become.
All of us have a gift to give --from the crazy cabbie who gives us a desperate need for prayer, to the preacher who helps us fall asleep... all of us are a gift and have a gift to offer.
What’s your imagination calling you to do be or say this year, beloved ones of Christ? How will we with our lives with our power of time, our power of talent given to us, and our power of money to reverse the power of the world to bring about God’s economy?