Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 13
August 4, 2013
Hosea 11:1-11 Psalm 107:1-9, 43
Colossians 3:13-21 St. Luke 12:13-21
To continue our discussion somewhat from the last time I preached, we again see in the Gospel, Jesus preferential option for the poor in his warning to those with wealth. In the parable, the rich man was worried about how to care for all his wealth, and he learned as we all know, that you can't take it with you.
The story today begins with someone calling out to Jesus for financial justice and yet Jesus dismissed him and his claim. In fact, Jesus warned him that his attention was in the wrong place. He was focused on his wants and his needs. His focus was inward directed.
Where is our attention placed? I fear that it can too often be in the wrong place as well. One lesson to be taken from the Gospel today is a lesson concerning where we should be paying attention. Are we focused inward on ourselves, or outward on the world around us?
An inward focus is a selfish and self centered view. An outward focus is a godly and god centered outlook. Outward views are healthy and life giving, inward views are not.
There can be several reasons for not wanting to look outward. It may be too painful. We may think we have too much on our own plate to deal with. And there are seeming rewards for looking inward, but this is actually a lie.
An inward focus is the worst thing possible for our spiritual health.
And while our gospel lesson today is focused on an individual, the application can be much greater. Now don't get me wrong, there are good reasons to look inward, when we are examining ourselves and working on improving ourselves. The the inward looking in the Gospel today was not focused on self improvement, it was focused on self enrichment. Not that we should not be looking at things inwardly as individually. We should! We should be examining our lives to see where our focus should be for self improvement.
But when we focus on selfish things, we are looking the wrong direction.
The same is true for organizations. Churches can either focus inward or they can focus outward. There is tremendous pressure for churches to focus inward. There are many difficulties. Dwindling numbers and finances will inevitably draw the focus of those remaining inward. And this is a terrible mistake. It is the start of the end. It may seem counter-intuitive, but an inward focus draws our attention away from God and the blessings that God is providing and causes us to focus on what is lacking.
Rather than being focused on what God has called us to do, we become focused on what we need to survive. It is one of the reasons that I'm so opposed to churches that post financial information every week. It drives an inward focus and rarely solves the problem of the downward spiral. In fact, it can have the opposite approach in the end by driving away potential new members of the church.
So, as much as I might sound like a polly-anna, the answer for ourselves and our church is to remain focused outward. Asking how can we spread the good news of what is happening in our church. Asking how we can be Jesus to those in need around us. None of this makes sense to the world. In the world, we are supposed to look inward, analyze problems, and develop solutions.
However that is not the way God works. And it is not the way churches work. If you want to be successful, continue to focus on gratitude. Continue to focus on what God is doing in your life and in the life of your church community. Continue to focus on what it is you believe what God is calling you to do.
That is the pathway to success and growth in terms of God's kingdom.
You can find the podcast of this sermon in ITunes by searching in the ITunes store for Epsicopalpadre@gmail.com