Challenging Materialism

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Pentecost 22/Proper 24
SCRIPTURE: Job 38: 1-7 and Matthew 6: 19-21
For where your treasure is, there your heart is also.
Matthew 6: 21 (NIV)

October 21, 2018

Proper 24 / Pentecost 22

Pastor Kim Gilliland

SCRIPTURE:       Job 38:1-7

                             Matthew 6:19-21

For where your treasure is, there your heart is also.

Matthew 6:21 (NIV)

CHALLENGING MATERIALISM

THE RED LETTERS

We’re going to do something different today, something I’ve never done before. But before we do that, I want to give you a bit of background.

As many of you know, we have Bible study here at the Church on Monday evenings. I lead on the first and third Mondays and Larry and Paul Chalmers lead on the second and fourth Mondays. If there are five Mondays in a month, sometimes we have Bible study and sometimes we don’t. Nonetheless, I led last Monday. We’re doing the Tony Campolo video series called The Red Letters. In this study, Tony takes a good hard look at the red letters in the Bible. If you don’t know what those are, they are the words that Jesus spoke. In some Bibles they are highlighted in red – hence red letters.

Tony believes that these red words that Jesus spoke are important because they make us uncomfortable. In fact, he tells us that they are just about the most discomforting words ever spoken. That’s because they challenge every aspect of our lives and encourage us to turn our lives over to God in a radical way. In The Red Letters Tony highlights some pretty powerful passages.

On Monday we watched the second video. It’s on materialism. When it was over, all of us just looked at each other because Tony had just delivered a huge wakeup call, maybe a gut check. Then one of the people in the group said, “Pastor Kim, that’s an important message. Would you preach that message on Sunday morning?” I responded by saying, “I don’t know if I could preach but I could show the video and let Tony tell it.” And that’s what brought us to this point today.

So, we’re going to watch this video. It’s fourteen minutes long. When it’s over, I’m going to take some time to reflect on what we are going to hear. And just a spoiler alert. I know that one or two other small groups in the church are going to use this series as well for their study times. But don’t let that discourage you from watching it now. I’ve watched it three times and each time, it still challenges me.

Before we begin the video, I’d like to ground us in Scripture. So let’s read from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV) which says:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Remember that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Watch the video…

PLACING OUR TRUST

The point is pretty clear, isn’t it? We are challenged about where we place our trust. Do we really place our trust in Jesus or do we spend too much time worrying about stuff of this world? I think there’s a lot of truth in what Tony says. I think we spend way too much time storing up for ourselves treasures on earth and far too little time concerned about the treasures in heaven.

There are, however, a few things I want to say about this video. The first is this. I think Tony’s right. The red letters of the Bible, the words of Jesus, don’t really require any interpretation. Other parts of the Bible clearly do. The stories of Genesis require some interpretation. Revelation requires a lot of interpretation. Much of what lies between them requires interpretation. But when Jesus said in Matthew 6:34 (NIV), “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself,” I think he meant it. We don’t need to interpret that. When Jesus said in Matthew 6:24 (NIV) that, “You cannot serve both God and Money,” I think he meant it. And that’s a challenge for us.

I also think Tony is right in saying that the church has often watered down the words of Jesus so that people won’t be upset. The church is often too worried about saying things that will drive people away. Churches don’t want to do that and we can understand why. If we upset too many people whose going to pay for the pipe organs and the stained glass windows and the minister salary? And so we make the Gospel comfortable. And we spiritualize it by focusing on the peaceful afterlife. And while it’s true that Jesus did speak about the afterlife, he spoke a whole lot more about this life and how we are to live it faithfully. That’s what most of those red letters are all about.

BUT I ALREADY TITHE

Do you know what question kept going through my mind as I listened to Tony? What about those of us who already tithe? We’re already giving the required 10%. Can’t we do what we want with the other 90%? What would Jesus say to that?

I think he’d take us by the hand and lead us into the parts of the city where we don’t normally go. And he’d show us the poor and the homeless and the hungry. He’d show us the parents who have to choose between paying the rent and feeding their children. And he’d walk us through the Downtown Mission and the Windsor Youth Centre which provide the only measure of security for hundreds of people every day.

And Jesus would ask us if we are still comfortable. And then he would ask us how much more we would have to give up to be uncomfortable. And most of would say that we could give up a whole lot more. And then Jesus would point us, one more time, to the homeless people and the hungry children and then, maybe, he’s remind us of some of the other red letters in Matthew 25:40 (NIV) which says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

STATUS VS HUMLITY

Here’s my second last point. I don’t know why Tony picks on BMW’s but he’s done it for years. Ever since I first heard Tony – and that’s over thirty years now – he’s been after those poor BMW drivers. The reality is that you can spend just as much money on a Ford or Chevy, especially if it’s a pick-up truck. The big question is not about the actual make of the vehicle, it’s about the status that society places on it.

So why do we buy the cars that we buy? Is it because they’re functional? Is it because they do what we need them to do? Or is it something else? Is there an element of status there for us? “Oh look, he’s driving a BWM. Or she’s driving a Lexus. Or they’re driving a Ford F-150.” I picked those three vehicles because you can spend $60,000 on any of them. In fact, you can spend that on a Volkswagen if you want to. And any of them come with a measure of status.

So let’s not be too hard on the BMW drivers. Lots of cars bring status in our society. The point is this: are we called to be status seeking Christians or are we called to be servant Christians? Tony sure challenges us on that one. Jesus held no status. In fact, he gave his away: Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV):

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

          did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

          but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant,

          being made in human likeness

And being found in appearance as a man,

          he humbled himself and became obedient to death

          – even death on a cross!

Jesus calls us not to be status seekers but to be humble like him.

ARE WE CALLED TO BE POOR?

Here’s my final point and it’s another question. Does all of that mean that Jesus wants us to be poor? I don’t think so because when we look at Jesus, by the standards of his day, he wasn’t poor. There are those who want us to believe he was but the Bible doesn’t say that. According to the Bible he had a trade. He was a carpenter and having a trade was a good thing in those days – as it is now. He also had enough money that he had have someone look after it. That person, of course, was Judas, the man who would eventually betray him.

Jesus encountered various affluent people in his ministry. Nicodemus, Jairus and the Roman Centurian would be some of them. He never condemned them for being wealthy and I don’t think he’d condemn us either.

Jesus wasn’t poor and I don’t think he wants us to be poor either. What he’s asking us to do is not trust in our money and not trust in our possessions. He wants us to trust in him with the confidence that if everything that we have disappeared tomorrow – our houses burn down and the economy collapses and our bank accounts and investments get wiped out – even then, we can trust in God to look after our needs. That’s because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Great God of Love, we want to sing praise to you every morning, every afternoon and every evening. We want to praise you in our homes, at work, when we play, without hesitation or reservation! When difficult times arise, you are our refuge and strength. Thank you that in faith we are never alone. You are worthy of praise and glory.

We are so grateful that we can come together as your people to share the gifts, talents and resources that you have given to us as we seek to make a real difference in the world. On our own, there is not much that we can do individually but together as a team we are able to do amazing things for your glory.

We pray for the farmers who are still getting their crops off the land. Grant them decent weather and plentiful harvests. And help all of us to remember that all things come from you.

Help us to trust you and not the things of this world. Help us to know that we can depend on you to supply all of our needs in Jesus’ name and then help us to open our own wallets and our time to provide assistance to those who don’t have enough.

We remember the Levy family as they seek healing in the aftermath of Ross’ death. Grant them your peace, O God, the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that only you can give.  

We lift up in prayer the sick of our congregation and community, especially John, Sharon, Diane, Lyle, Louise and others who have been in the hospital this past week. Grant them healing and patience.

Heavenly Father, we are glad that we can chose to love you, that it is a choice of our will and not dependent upon circumstances, situations, or others. Enable us to choose to love you for you have promised never to leave us or forsake us. There is nothing in the entire universe that can separate us or void your word and promises. Thank you for coming to be with us and for loving us without condition. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

October 21, 2018 / Proper 24 / Pentecost 22

SCRIPTURE

Job 38:1-7, 34-41; Psalm 104:1-9; Mark 10:35-45; Hebrews 5:1-10

CALL TO WORSHIP

Praise the Lord in the highest heaven.

Praise the Lord in the deepest valley.

God’s glory is seen in the wonders of Creation.

God’s glory is experienced in the joy of worship;

Praise the Lord, O my soul.

PRAYER OF APPROACH

God of Hope and Peace, your Spirit leads us in directions that we sometimes find difficult to understand. But you are wiser that our wisdom and you have more knowledge than our combined intellect. We come to you seeking your presence, without hesitation or reservation. Your plans for us are always good. Prosper us, O God, and give us the hope of your constant love. We come to you trusting in your unfailing grace and eternal presence. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

God of Mercy and Joy, we are so grateful that you offer us peace of heart and mind. In Jesus Christ, you take away our guilt. As we confess our sins, you are faithful to forgive, always without condition or hesitation. We know that you will not condemn us, regardless of what we have done in the past. Your mercy and forgiveness are freely given to all who ask with an honest and open spirit. Thank you for your great unfailing and unconditional mercy. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

The peace of God is ours to hold in the faith of Jesus Christ. In him we find true forgiveness and healing. There is no need to grasp on to guilt and allow it to be a burden in our lives. We need to let it go and receive the peace the only Jesus can offer. His mercy and forgiveness are for all of us.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

Your gifts, O God, have been showered upon us. We are truly blessed in more ways than we can count. We give back to you, with joyful hearts, from our wealth asking only for the wisdom to use our resources for your holy glory. Amen.

COMMISSIONING

God calls us to be with one another through the joys and sorrows, the tears and laughter. As Jesus walks with us, we are called to walk with one another. Our mission, this week, is to touch the lives of those who need to hear the Good News. By the Spirit’s guidance, we will do it.

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