Homily from Service on Sunday, July 31, 2022 – Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
by The Rev. Tammy Hobbs Miracky
Sermon preached by The Rev. Tammy Hobbs Miracky
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily or a transcription. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Please be seated.
It’s really pretty straightforward, isn’t it? In my study Bible, the footnotes describe today’s Gospel in this way. The peril of wealth is demonstrated with a parable. It’s even cross reference with an earlier verse from Luke, you’ll recognize this one. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves. By the time we arrive at today’s selection, Jesus has been speaking to a growing crowd for some time now. We’re told a few chapters earlier that he has turned his face toward Jerusalem. He knows that time is short. And he’s trying to convey as much as he can to his followers. And as the pressure builds, he’s starting to get a bit snippy.
We heard that in his response to Mary and Martha a few weeks ago. So here’s what’s happened just immediately prior to today’s Gospel selection. Jesus casts out unclean spirits. He talks about not hiding your light under a bushel, but holding it up so that everyone can see the divine light. He chastises religious leaders for hewing to the letter of the law, but neglecting the love and justice of God that the law calls them to hear he challenges a growing crowd of followers to acknowledge Him before others, telling them not to be afraid, that in the moment when they most need it, the Spirit will teach them what they need to say.
Pretty amazing signs and wonders and pretty meaningful teachings. And with this in the background, someone speaks up from the crowd, presumably this person has been hearing Jesus teaching. And yet the thing foremost in his mind, is to ask Jesus to solve a money dispute. So we can see why Jesus would conclude that this man might benefit from a parable in which the parable of wealth is demonstrated. Jesus responds to the man by teaching this story, the parable of the rich fool, warning his followers to be on your guard against all kinds of greed.
The rich man in his parable wasn’t satisfied with enough. He wanted more. Rather than recognizing the abundance as a gift from God rather than sharing. He tears down his barns to build bigger ones, so that he can have ample goods laid up for many years. So that he can relax, eat, drink, and be merry. Well, we know how that ends, don’t we? Know the rich fool is a fool for being obsessed with having more and more and for hoarding it all to himself. But I think there’s another thing here too. I think the rich man is trying to buy something that can’t be bought.
Let’s face it, in the end these most important things in our lives, our health, our material, well being the well being of our loved ones. The truth is, as the man in our parable discovered, we are frighteningly not in control. But we try, don’t wait. We try to control it. We busy ourselves building a backstop like the rich fool did so that we can distract ourselves from the reality that we are frighteningly not in control. When I read this parable and sense this impulse to control, a time honored prayer comes to my mind. You may know of it, it’s called by its Latin name, the sushi pay. And it was written by St. Ignatius of Loyola leg goes like this. Take Lord and receive all my liberty, my understanding my memory and my entire will. All that I have and call my own. You have given to me To You, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours. Do with it as you will give me only your love and your grace. That is enough for me. The sushi pays sometimes called the radical prayer. In praying this prayer, we are placing ourselves all that we have in color, own everything in the hands of God. There was a time in my life when this prayer was central to my spiritual practice. It was a time of transition and movement in my spiritual life. In my life as a spouse and a parent, and my vocational call. Daily, I prayed this prayer reminded me that all I have in call my own as a gift from God. And I offered it up to God, desiring first and foremost, to discern God’s path for me. Or so I thought.
After a while, I realized that I was holding back one thing from that all that I have and call my own part. Well, technically, I was holding back three things. My son’s I was without even really being aware, I was praying. All that I have and call my own, you have given to me to you, Lord, I return it. Well, except of course, for the boys, I will hold on to them tightly, I am not offering them up. So for a while, that’s what I prayed. All that I haven’t called my own, you have given to me to you, Lord, I return it except for the boys. I’m gonna hold on to them. Do with it as you will like, except for the boys. Give me only your love, and your grace, and the well being of my sons that that’s enough for me. Each of us, we each have our own things that we cling too tightly. Yours maybe children or grandchildren, a beloved partner or friend, an honorable profession or vocation, your home that you’ve worked to make warm, and nurturing your material security, a self image that you cling to, the list could go on. Like the rich fool with his ever increasing store houses, we each have things we grasp tightly. Things we feel we need to be in control of. So let’s go back to the sushi pay.
One morning, it just hit me. Why am I holding my boys back from God? Does God care for their well being at least as much as I do, with infinitely more ability to actually affect the outcome? I find in today’s Old Testament scripture selection, a beautiful language of this notion. I’m particularly taken with this passage from Hosea, a book which was compiled following the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple and the exile of the bulk of the population of Judah of Judea to Babylon. In the aftermath of this devastation, the authors and editors of the prophetic material, were trying to make sense of this watershed event in the life of the people.
How God could possibly have willed this to happen to them, this catastrophe from which they still hadn’t recovered. As part of their sense making though they still retrieved, they kept sight of and they passed along this image of God as loving, compassionate parent. sprinkled in among the God of vengeance, which is perhaps a reflection of their wrestling with how this devastation could have happened. But sprinkled in among that we find a moving depiction of God as one who always and only desired to be in relationship with God’s people.
When Israel was a child, I loved him. And out of Egypt, I called my son it was As I who taught Efrem to walk, I took them up in my arms. I lead them with cords of human kindness with bands of love. I was to them, like those who lift infants to their cheek, I bent down and fed them. How can I give you up FM? How can I hand you over? Oh Israel, my heart recoils within me. We could fruitfully spend a lot of time pondering the theology of why the world is the way it is, to borrow a phrase why bad things happen to good people?
Today’s lesson reminds us though, that there’s a less intellectual, a more experiential side of this question as well. And perhaps this is a more fruitful exploration. We are being invited into God’s freedom. We are being invited to let go. We are being invited to ask God to receive all of us and all that we care for, and turn it toward God.
We are being reminded that God will care for everything we offer, with a love and gentleness. They’re not even the most dedicated and loving earthly parent could muster. Take Lord and receive all that we have and call our own you have given to you Lord, we return it. Do with it what you will. All we need is your love and your grace and to walk in your ways. That is the path of freedom. That is enough.