Austerity vs Abundance

1 08 2012

Text:  John 6:1-21

Delivered on Sunday, July 29, 2012, St Peters Key West

If you have been following the news, you may have heard newscasters and politicians use phrases like “austerity measures.” What this generally means spending cuts, benefits cuts, and tax hikes which tend to be hardest on the middle class, the working class and poor. These measures were put in place largely as a result of the debt crises in Europe shortly after the financial meltdown of 2008. In this country, we are weathering that storm for a variety of reasons, but you still hear out own newscasters and politicians say things like, “we can’t afford this” even when it comes to basic things like fixing our roads, paying policemen, firefighters and teachers. It all seems very bewildering especially when you heard about paychecks for top executives going through the roof and corporate profits being higher than ever before and large companies sitting on hoards of cash instead of being invested. To make matters worse, there is a drought going on in the Midwest the size of which has not been seen since at least the Dustbowl of the earliest 20th century. Already you are beginning to see warnings of an increase in food prices, fuel and a scarcity of resources.

According to the powers that be that run the world, resources are like a pie. There are only so many pieces of pie you can cut away before the pie is gone. You can have a few large pieces, or many smaller pieces or some combination of the two. If YOU are in charge of cutting the pie, you get to ask how big a piece someone wants or you could even choose for yourself the size of the slice to be cut.

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Faithfulness in Evangelism

1 08 2012

Text:  Mark 6:1-13, Ephesians 1:3-14

Delivered on Sunday, July 8th, St Peters, Key West

If there is one thing that strikes fear and trembling into more than a few Episcopalians it is the prospect of talking about “Evangelism.” This week I came across the story of a lady who was working at a bookstore, and as she was opening up, a Hasidic Jew came into the store in full attire: hat, dark suit, white shirt, full beard and ringlets coming down from his head. She asked if there was anything specific he was looking for, and he replied that he wanted to learn about Jesus. Dutifully, the lady pointed out the Spiritual and Religious section of the bookstore and rattled off a few titles she personally enjoyed. Imagine her surprise when the man said, “no, no! I want to know what you think about him. You tell me what you believe about Jesus.” Than woman later said, “My Episcopalian soul shivered” not even knowing where to begin.

When we think of Evangelism we usually think about speaking about our faith in the hopes that someone will become a Christian or, if they are already a Christian, will worship with us on Sunday and join our church. This is something that we in The Episcopal Church have convinced ourselves that we do not do very well. We tend to prefer to talk about Mission as is evidenced by our commitments to social justice and our various outreach programs. Our brothers and sisters in other churches, noticeably the Baptists or non-denominational churches seem to do a better job at getting new members, at least at first glance. If you look and listen closely, you will find a great deal of anxiety there when it comes to that topic. When I was hanging my hat with the Pentecostals in my early 20s, one thing I remember when talking with Pastors and lay leaders alike that the amount of pressure one can be under to “lead people to Christ,” and getting them to say the Sinners’ Prayer as if it were a magic spell rather than making sure we do things the Bible says Jesus is going to one day ask us about such as “Did you feed the poor? Comfort the sick? Visit those in prison?” Our tendency as American Christians is to try and separate the concepts of Mission – how we act out our faith – and Evangelism – how we speak about our faith. The two are actually very much intertwined. St. Francis of Assisi is famous for saying, among other things, “Preach the Gospel and use words if you must.” And sometimes, even dyed-in-the -wool Episcopalians must speak about their faith outside of the comfort zone of the Church.

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