Nearly five years ago, I lead this “Enough” study with my very first congregation in Marengo. I remember vividly how I had planned out the whole series and had all of my notes ready to go for Sunday morning. I had sat down to start writing about the American dream and how our quest to have it all has taken so much away from our lives…. when an earthquake hit the island of Haiti.
And suddenly, it didn’t seem so hard to put things in perspective.
Every simple convenience and item in my home seemed like an overwhelming blessing when I began to think of the lives of missionaries and doctors and orphans and moms and dads who had just lost everything.
I had a friend whose parents were working at a hospital in Haiti at the time. Her parents were okay and her mom wrote to her in an email:
Hospital Ste. Croix is standing. John and I are fine. The administration building collapsed, and our apartment collapsed under the story above. We have nothing we brought with us to Haiti… Someone who was here gave me some shoes, and I found another pair of reading glasses that will work, so I have what I need.
Those lines just struck me.
“we have nothing we brought with us to Haiti… but someone gave me some shoes and I found a pair of reading glasses, so I have what I need.”
We may not experience earthquakes, but that doesn’t mean our lives are completely stable and worry free.
when the ground beneath your feet begins to shake…
When you lose your footing…
When everything seems to fall apart…
When that happens we start to ask questions about what is it that we really need and what are we going to rely upon.
Now, that may have been a more humorous look at this idea of instability but I think that each of us could probably find ourselves somewhere in that sketch.
We put all of our hope and faith and trust into the things of this world… our homes, our jobs, the stock market, and we don’t often pause to think about whether or not we are making the best decisions.
We over extend ourselves and work more hours to make more money so we can have more stuff.
Some statistics from Adam Hamilton’s “Enough” stuck out to me.
Did you know that the average American home went from 1660 square feet in 1973 to 2400 square feet in 2004?
Did you know that there is estimated to be around 2 billion – yes, billion with a b- 2 billion square feet of self-storage space in America? We have so much stuff that we don’t even know what to do with it or where we will put it.
And to get all of that space and all of the stuff to fill it, we have exploited our credit systems… and our credit systems have exploited us.
In the past twenty years, the average credit card debt in our country rose from $3,000 a person to $9,000 a person.
It’s like we have a gaping hole in our lives that we aren’t quite sure how to fill. So we try to fill it with money and possessions.
We try to build our lives upon these things and forget that the economic systems of this world are just shifting sands.
And so when the sands shift, when the rug gets pulled out from under us, we don’t have a firm footing. We have put all of our faith and trust into our things… instead of our God.
Adam Hamilton reminds us that the core of our most recent financial crisis is the extension and abuse of credit.
The very word credit comes from the Latin word credo, which means “I believe” or “I trust.”
By extending credit to us, our home mortgage companies and stores and the credit card companies believe and trust that we will pay them back for the money extended to us.
But too often, we have treated this credit as something that we believe and trust in… we believe it will always be there, that there is always more to borrow, that it is the answer to all of our problems.
We believe in our credit, more than we do our God. And as we do so, we find ourselves building on an insecure foundation that is moments away from collapse.
Jesus had some advice about things. In the Sermon on the Mount, he said that his words are not just helpful pieces of advice to get add inspiration to our day – they are what we are supposed to be building our lives upon.
Hear this scripture again, this time from the Message:
If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.
But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards. – Matthew 7: 25-29
Now, of course, Jesus isn’t talking about our actual homes. Floods and fires and earthquakes destroy homes all the time, no matter how strong we have built them.
He is talking about our ability to withstand the troubles of this world.
When disaster strikes…
When the stock market falls…
When a diagnosis shakes the foundations of your family…
When those things happen, and sometime they will to all of us… Is your life built on a belief in credit cards and mortgages and flat screen televisions?
Or is the core belief of your life… the one that everything else is built on… is that belief in the God who created you, who died for you, who gives you life?
When the earthquake comes and shakes our very foundations, will we have as much abundance in our life as the woman serving in Haiti whose only possessions are a borrowed pair of shoes and some reading glasses?
In our first reading this morning, this letter of advice to Timothy, Paul writes that wealth is here today and gone tomorrow, so we should:
go after God, who piles on the all the riches we could ever manage – to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. (1 Tim 6:17-19 MSG)
And he reminds Timothy, this from the Message translation:
A devout life does bring wealth, but it is the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.
If we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet… that’s enough.
Over the next month, we will be looking at that word, Enough.
We’ll ask what “enough” means in our life, what it means in our church, and how we can live our lives making sure that others have “enough” as well.
But today, I want us to remember that while we worry about having enough, the truth is that we are blessed beyond our wildest dreams.
It is just that we sometimes need a shift in perspective to see that. We need to weed out the seeds of life and fruitfulness from the gunk.
We might fret about keeping up with our neighbors, but we were created to love one another.
We get anxious about our stock portfolios, but we were meant to share with those in need.
We are constantly thinking about upgrading to the newest device or fashion accessory, but we were meant to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
My prayer is that this season of “Enough”, this time that we spend together exploring our spiritual and financial lives, will help re-orient us. My prayer is that it will transform our relationship with money so that we might see it not as a source of anxiety and stress in our lives, but as a resource that God has given us to do good in this world and to care for one another.
And the start of that transformation is to start with what we believe and who we entrust our lives to.
I want to invite you to turn with me to page 883 in your hymnals and recite with me one of the many creeds, or statements of belief that we affirm together as the people of God. Page 883.