It was a warm Sunday afternoon and the Pembroke School orchestra was playing at Union Hall with the world famous jazz trumpeter James Morrison. Just as they began a new bracket of music the school conductor said something a bit sharpish to one of the students. Some of them laughed, and we in the audience wondered what was going on.
James Morrison stepped up to the microphone with his trumpet and said, "He told the drummer to put his shoes back on." Then, very obviously, he kicked off his shoes, and played the next the bracket in his socks.
The audience was delighted. Australians are very happy to see unreasonable authority get taken down a peg or two. We are very determined for everyone to get a fair go. And a fair go doesn't include throwing your weight around unnecessarily, or having stupid rules.
When we do this well we stand firmly in the tradition of Israel. "Remember the orphan, the widow, and the stranger who is among you, for you were once slaves in Egypt." It's all through the Hebrew Scriptures. Israel had a vision for a new world which it the called the Promised Land. It was a land where everyone had a fair go, and where justice was true even for the poorest and weakest, and where people lived in freedom from fear.
Jesus stood in that tradition. He called in the Kingdom of God.
And that's why we're here; we've caught the vision. We're here because we know life can be better. People can be healed. The world can be healed. There is a better way to live life, a way that is fair for all people.
When we say we want to worship God, what we are really saying is that we are wanting to live for the vision of the Kingdom of God. We want to work with God to make the world a good place for all peoples, so that they have food and clothes and shoes, and so that if it's hot they can kick their shoes off. The Kingdom stretches to the very limits of human experience and desire.
We make Kingdom with God when we provide tea on Friday nights. We make Kingdom with God when we make a safe place for WABI people. We make Kingdom with God as we run the market. We make Kingdom with God when we have free coffee and food that lets the strangers know this is a good place, and that they are welcome here. We make Kingdom for God when we have Bible Study.
It all works better, and we are all better signs of God's love for the world, when two things happen.
One is when we are not just talking about the kingdom but are really a part of it.
The other is when we have enough money to keep the place open and to keep do what we are doing— or even do new things!
Money is really helpful, and people who are living the kingdom, and not just talking about it, are even more helpful.
Now because I'm the minister, I've got a conflict of interest, because some of your money helps me! So hear me! Don't give money to the church to help pay the minister. That won't help you; indeed, it may even tempt you to think you are owed something back from the minister, and that's stepping away from living the kingdom.
We give our money, and our time, to help the church… to let the church make Kingdom choices…
and we give our money, and our time, to help us really live out the kingdom.
Giving our money helps convert us to the kingdom.
‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…24 ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6)
Giving our money away sets us free from Egypt. It frees us from all that consumerism out there that wants us to buy stuff we don't need. Jesus said
22 ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; 23but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
When I start coveting what's in the latest Office Works catalogue, or begin to hoard money to get some fancy thing for my bike, it takes my eye off the Kingdom and away from the vision of a fair and free world for all people. It puts my eye on what will be good for me alone… or so I think. But it's not good for me. It fills me— body and soul— with darkness. And it damages the church because I am looking at what suits me, not what the Kingdom of God needs to flourish in this place.
When I give my money away it takes my eye off me … and puts it back on the Kingdom. It clarifies my perspectives on life and what is really important. It sets me free.
The council is asking us, if we can, to pledge a certain amount ahead of time. That helps the treasurer budget. The treasurer knows in advance that we will have a certain amount of money… and that really helps.
But pledging also helps us. It commits us to the future of the Kingdom; it keeps our eye on the ball, so to speak. It keeps us honest. Otherwise it's easy to miss a week or two, here and there, far more often that we think.
I began this sermon with a little story about James Morrison kicking his shoes off. It's not just a story; it's a serious issue. So many of us need the freedom to relax, to kick our shoes off, and enjoy the music of life. But we're weighed down with burdens and seriousness, and we are trapped by our addiction to money and things. Our eye is fixed on ourselves as we struggle to see how to get through life.
But there is a great gift of God to those of us who "do church" so that other people can be free, and find a home. It is that the church becomes a home for us. It converts us. It sets us free. Giving our money and our time lets us kick our shoes off and relax and enjoy life where it really counts. It lets us see what is really important in life. It frees us from that Australian disease of money and things which darkens our souls.
Please give your money and your time and your self to the Kingdom. It brings music to the soul. It points us toward freedom. Thanks be to God. Amen
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please note that references to Wikipedia and other websites are intended to provide extra information for folk who don't have easy access to commentaries or a library. Wikipedia is never more than an introductory tool, and certainly not the last word in matters biblical!
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