First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
231-547-9122


Sermon & Weekly Bulletin~ September 29, 2019

09-29-2019 Bulletin PDF

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. What do you need to be content? What do you need to be persuadable?
    3. These are questions you have to answer for yourselves, just as I try and answer them for myself
    4. Share a couple of things that may help organize your thoughts, or give you an new perspective.
    5. I have a hunch that to be one makes you more likely to be the other, as well.
  2. Cannot serve two masters
    1. The scripture readings of the past month have alternated from seemingly straightforward to hard to initially comprehend
    2. Yet they’ve had the same general themes
      1. The dangers of loving wealth
      2. God’s love for the lost, or the deceived, to return to God’s way
  • And our ability to be shaped by God’s message
  1. Today’s readings are no different.
    1. I would put them in the more straightforward side
  2. Letter to Timothy says
    1. godliness is a great source of profit when it is combined with being happy with what you already have. We didn’t bring anything into the world and so we can’t take anything out of it: we’ll be happy with food and clothing.
    2. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil
  • 11 But as for you, man of God, run away from all these things. Instead, pursue righteousness, holy living, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness. 12 Compete in the good fight of faith.
  1. Tell people who are rich at this time not to become egotistical and not to place their hope on their finances, which are uncertain. Instead, they need to hope in God, who richly provides everything for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others.
  1. Message from Luke
    1. Cautionary tale about a rich person who does not do this
    2. Asks God, twice, to make Lazarus do something for him, including going back from the dead to warn his brothers
  • ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, then neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’”
  1. Perhaps foreshadowing Jesus’ own return from the dead
  1. Yet, in these same passages I hear two related and more foundational questions. Questions that each of us have to answer for ourselves
    1. What do you need to be content?
    2. What do you need to be persuadable?
  2. What do you need to be content?
    1. I’m not proposing that food and clothing are all it takes to be content.
    2. A good way to classify them might be Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – a psychological theory https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs
      1. Physiological Needs. …
        1. Health, food, shelter, so on
      2. Safety Needs. …
        1. Personal, emotional, financial security
  • Love/Belonging. …
    1. Friendships, intimacy, family,
  1. Self-Esteem. …
    1. recognition, status, importance, and respect from others
  2. Self-Actualization.
    1. the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be
  3. transcendence
    1. giving oneself to something beyond oneself—for example, in altruism or spirituality
  4. some challenge the order that these are placed in, or the assumption that you must go linearly. Still, helpful categories to organize our thoughts.
  5. Or how much of each of these do you need to be content?
    1. Each one represents a temptation, a place to get hung up. A place to think you can’t get enough
  6. What do you need to be persuadable?
    1. But before we go any further with this conversation, I think we should name that this expression of faith isn’t convincing to everyone, including the rich man in the gospel story.
    2. So, the second question – What would it have taken for the rich man to have a change of heart? What would have persuaded him, and us?
      1. This wouldn’t have convinced the rich man, before he died. What did?
      2. What would it take to convince his brothers?
  • Ebenezer Scrooge?
  1. Me? You?
  1. What does it take for you to be persuaded? To change your mind?
    1. Are Moses and the prophets enough? What about someone coming back from the dead (Jesus)?
  2. Everyone is different, of course.
  1. Be open to the spirit of persuasion
    1. So many places where there is reluctance to consider new points of view
      1. poverty, climate change, latest allegations against the president
      2. talking past each other
  • conversation, add to our knowledge
    1. not contest – tear down each other
  1. Reminder, God is still speaking calls us to still be listening, to still be open. – the Holy Spirit
  1. Real, Good Church – make space for new people\thoughts\ministries
    1. Good enough church
      1. 75% comfortable, Give up 25% for someone else
    2. If church is just focused on our selves, our physiological, safety, and belonging needs, but ignores the self actualization, and transcendent goals, it can become very self serving.
      1. Then church is interpreted to be a place to make us 100% comfortable
    3. So there’s also a balance in establishing comfort for self, and caring for others.
      1. Or, to name it another way, to recognize that we have other needs than just our own safety and security – we have a need to go beyond ourselves, altruism, transcendence, connection with the divine. Being the best we can be.
    4. Taking that 25%, and using it to extend outside of ourselves
      1. Connect
    5. Listening to new perspectives, ones that challenge us without getting defensive takes practice, and willingness
      1. And a sense of being content, not anxious
    6. Presence of the poor – source of persuasion
      1. Be like Jesus: Spend enough time with sinners to ruin our reputation with religious people.”
        1. Not just to “save” them, but to be mutually transformed.
      2. “The poor tell us who we are, the prophets tell us who we can be.” Fr. Phillip Berrigan
        1. “so, we hide the poor, and kill the prophets.”
      3. Rich man and Lazurus – even after death, seeing where they end up, the rich man still treated Lazarus as his servant, not a person
      4. From Working preacher “God does not create poverty; human beings do. What humans create, humans can fix, if they so desire.”
      5. “Why do you call me Lord Lord and not do what I say?” Luke 6:46
      6. Compete in the good fight of faith
        1. Engage in struggle, in contest
      7. What would it take to be persuaded? To convince you that we collectively have blessing enough to be content, and to eliminate poverty?
        1. Can you explicitly name what persuades you?
          1. Once you set the goal posts, don’t move them
        2. Can you name when you’ve been persuaded before?
        3. Sometimes it’s easier to say what you don’t believe
          1. I don’t believe
            1. God is cruel
            2. God is trying to trick us
            3. All people aren’t equal children of God
          2. Pastor Greg’s
            1. Persuasive scientific evidence – lack of conflict of interest
            2. Preference to the voice of the underpowered
  • I believe in seeing the fruits of the spirit
  1. From Timothy:
    1. But as for you, man of God, run away from [love of money]. Instead, pursue righteousness, holy living, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness.
    2. Tell people who are rich at this time not to become egotistical and not to place their hope on their finances, which are uncertain. Instead, they need to hope in God, who richly provides everything for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others. 19 When they do these things, they will save a treasure for themselves that is a good foundation for the future. That way they can take hold of what is truly life.
  • Conclusion
    1. Are you closer to answering the questions for yourself?
    2. Seek to foster contentedness and openness to not fall prey to the fear that there is not enough
      1. Love of money is the root of all evil
    3. Instead,
      1. Do good,
      2. Be rich in the things they do
  • Be generous
  1. Share with others

 Readings

Continuing in our reading of the first letter to Timothy, Paul has begun to address the issue of false teachers in the faith community. Specifically, those teachers who use claims of godliness to make money.

1 Timothy 6:6-19

6 Actually, godliness is a great source of profit when it is combined with being happy with what you already have. 7 We didn’t bring anything into the world and so we can’t take anything out of it: 8 we’ll be happy with food and clothing. 9 But people who are trying to get rich fall into temptation. They are trapped by many stupid and harmful passions that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some have wandered away from the faith and have impaled themselves with a lot of pain because they made money their goal.

11 But as for you, man of God, run away from all these things. Instead, pursue righteousness, holy living, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness. 12 Compete in the good fight of faith. Grab hold of eternal life—you were called to it, and you made a good confession of it in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I command you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and Christ Jesus, who made the good confession when testifying before Pontius Pilate. 14 Obey this order without fault or failure until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 The timing of this appearance is revealed by God alone, who is the blessed and only master, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16 He alone has immortality and lives in light that no one can come near. No human being has ever seen or is able to see him. Honor and eternal power belong to him. Amen.

17 Tell people who are rich at this time not to become egotistical and not to place their hope on their finances, which are uncertain. Instead, they need to hope in God, who richly provides everything for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others. 19 When they do these things, they will save a treasure for themselves that is a good foundation for the future. That way they can take hold of what is truly life.

Luke 16:19-31 Common English Bible (CEB)

Today’s reading follows almost immediately after the end of last week’s gospel passage, where Jesus reminded us we cannot serve both God and wealth.

19 “There was a certain rich man who clothed himself in purple and fine linen, and who feasted luxuriously every day. 20 At his gate lay a certain poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 Lazarus longed to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Instead, dogs would come and lick his sores.

22 “The poor man died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 While being tormented in the place of the dead, he looked up and saw Abraham at a distance with Lazarus at his side. 24 He shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I’m suffering in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received good things, whereas Lazarus received terrible things. Now Lazarus is being comforted and you are in great pain. 26 Moreover, a great crevasse has been fixed between us and you. Those who wish to cross over from here to you cannot. Neither can anyone cross from there to us.’

27 “The rich man said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, send Lazarus to my father’s house. 28 I have five brothers. He needs to warn them so that they don’t come to this place of agony.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. They must listen to them.’ 30 The rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will change their hearts and lives.’ 31 Abraham said, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, then neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’”