Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Our Money Story: Reimagine

 Jesus told them, "When you pray, say:
‘Father, uphold the holiness of your name.
Bring in your kingdom.
Give us the bread we need for today.
Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us.
And don't lead us into temptation.'"  --Luke 11:2-4 (CEB)

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

I know this may be confusing. We are in our third and final week, considering the Lord’s Prayer as it is written in the Gospel of Luke. In addition, we are in our third of four weeks focusing on the topic of our Money Story. That’s where it may get confusing. It would seem reasonable that our discussion around our money stories should conclude with our discussion around Luke’s Lord Prayer. But, have you ever experienced the end of something in your life while at the same time something else continued on? Let’s think of middle school, for example. You can finish fifth grade, but still be in middle school, right? Or think of parenting. Your child can finish college and move away, but your role as parent doesn’t end, right? It continues on.

So it is sometimes with sermons and sermon series. I hope that after next week, all of this will have made sense to you. Not to mention being a carrot for you to join us in worship next week, too!

Before we focus in on verse 4 of today’s reading, I’d like us to look back at this entire prayer in Luke in a slightly different way. We haven’t yet talked about this, but if we look closely at these three verses, we see that they are a chiasm. A chiasm is a tool in ancient literature and argument in which the elements of a passage are divided into parallel members. 

A Father, uphold the holiness of your name.

B Bring in your kingdom,

C Give us the bread we need for today.

B’ Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us.

A’ And don’t lead us into temptation.

The parallelism works from the outside in. So, if you take our reading in Luke, you will see that the lines marked with an A are parallel to each other, here in white. Likewise, the B lines are also parallel to one another. In green. In the center of the chiasm is line C. This is the most important line in the chiasm. Revealing the deepest concern of the passage. A prayer for God to give us provision. What we need.

Why do we need this provision? The question may seem silly to us. Of course we need food and shelter. To live. But, perhaps this question about why we need this provision is better answered by backing up in the chiasm. From Line C to Line B. 

Now, there are different types of chiasms. In this particular one, the parallel line are intended to explain each other. So, if we look at the first B line “bring in your kingdom,” it is to be further explained by the second B line. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us. Our prayer for forgiveness is related to our prayer that God’s kingdom come. 

Now to our focus on verse 4.

The idea of forgiveness here is not intended to be pietistic or moralistic. Instead, about seeking forgiveness because we have failed in working for the coming of God’s kingdom. A kingdom of justice. A kingdom of equity. A kingdom of enough. For everyone. We have failed in working to bring God's kingdom on earth by holding onto our wealth and our possessions. By being unwilling to share abundantly of them, in the same way they have been abundantly shared with us. Maybe we need to be forgiven because Our Money Story has been about scarcity. About hoarding our abundance. And in so doing, by maintaining power. 

To share our possessions is not only a mandate by God by a symbol of our faith. A fruit of it.

But, perhaps we’re on the other side of this. Perhaps we are impoverished. Poor. Lacking even the basic essentials. Wronged by those with means. Perhaps we lack power, wronged by systemic structures that seem to only keep us enslaved. We, too, are called to forgiveness. To forgive those who have wronged us.

To forgive and to be forgiven frees us from all that binds us. It reconciles us with God and with one another. So that we might begin to reimagine a world where social and economic systems no longer disparage or impoverish, but provide for and benefit everyone. A world consistent with the reign of God. And a world in which the holiness of God’s name is upheld and we are not tempted to idolatry.

We’ve now been in this time of pandemic for nearly six months. A few months into it, I remember reading several articles and hearing news reports about how, even in the midst of the evil we were experiencing, it seemed as though we were learning important lessons and considering the possibility of a new way of being after all of this was over. Spending more time with family and in relationship with others. Working to simplify our lives and be less busy and less consumed with acquiring stuff. Spending more time on our spiritual lives and our relationship with God and our faith community. And wanting to create new structures in our world, structures in which the inequities that have become so apparent in these past few months might be repaired. The world was, even in this midst of pandemic, vividly reimagining what might come out of this period of bondage. 

Last week, we talked about the year of jubilee set forth in Deuteronomy. A Sabbath year, where everyone and everything was to rest. To cease work. In a way it feels as though we are in a coronavirus-induced year of jubilee. Yet, as much as we might hope that things will be different at the end of this jubilee - this Sabbath year, we are already beginning to witness this hopefulness diminish as we become more tired and disheartened. And more divided. I have no doubt that, when it does end, credit card companies will charge interest again. Libraries will impose late fees. Prisons will be full once more. Rent will be due and not forgiven. The land will be worked and overworked. Just as our worth, our value, will, once again, be measured by our productivity or lack thereof.

Yet we, you and I as the church, are called to something different. We are called to bear witness to a greater jubilee, a fuller Sabbath, a never-ending kingdom inaugurated by Jesus. To continue to reimagine our money stories and to live out our reimagined lives in ways consistent with God’s kingdom. Lives of solidarity with and compassion for the poor and the dispossessed. Lives driven, not by consumerism and consumption, but by simplicity and gratitude for the abundance God showers on us, knowing that there is more than enough. And lives in which we are released from all that keeps us in bondage so that we might remember God’s name and, as the reconciled people of God, might fully experience the love God shows us through Christ Jesus. Witnesses to this reimagined way of being.

Luke in his version of the Lord’s Prayer calls us to pray for the coming of this kingdom. To be sustained as we wait and witness to it. And, in our praying, to open ourselves up to the divine coming, where God will wrap God’s arms around us and bind up our wounds. As God will do for the world.


Preached September 13, 2020, online at Grace & Glory Lutheran Church, Goshen, KY.
Pentecost 14
Readings: Luke 11:2-4; Psalm 126

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