The Very Rev. Robert V. Taylor
Chapel of St. James the Fisherman, Wellfleet, MA
Sunday August 7, 2022 (Proper 14C)
Genesis 15:1-6 Psalm 33:12-22 Hebrews 11 1-3, 8-16 Luke 12: 32-40
“Pocket-full of Change” by Tracey Lind
How wonderful to be back here with you! Of the many, many places I have preached this place and community has a special place in my heart. And of course, what a treat to be with Tracey and Emily! They are treasured ones as you well know! Thank you for inviting me back…
In the name of the One in whose imagination we are made. Amen.
When I first read through the readings for today, I thought – Promises, Promises, Promises!
We overhear Abram and God chatting about Abram’s obsession with an heir. Abram and Sarah are way, way, way beyond childbearing or childrearing years! On the other hand, God does not appear deterred by such trivial things.
God invites Abram to look through the James Webb telescope with its astounding and gorgeous images of galaxies, solar systems, and stars as far away as 13 billion light years. God says something like, “Abram I don’t want to scare you with how many stars there are out there. You can’t even begin to count them thanks to our new telescope! But here’s the thing; I promise you as many heirs as the stars you can now count! If you want to have some fun Abram with the Webb Telescope you’ll see my creative imagination with the Cartwheel Galaxies.”
It all sounds a tad fanciful; this first promise.
The second is that faith is the assurance of things hoped for. If not here, if not now, or in our lifetime, then in the city God has prepared for us. This is the promise of the big reveal.
A tad difficult if your home was washed away in Kentucky; if you’re a young girl now denied education in Afghanistan; if you have to walk for hours each day to carry safe drinking water back to your village; if you’ve declared bankruptcy because of medical expenses here in our own country; or the woman who lives in poverty and the only place she can go get reproductive health care and make decisions about her own body requires travel and accommodation that is beyond her reach.
Not wanting to be outdone in the litany of promises, the Gospel offers both promise and provocation. The promise that the Son of Man will come at an unexpected hour. The provocation to be on alert and eternally ready for this one moment. To be certain that nothing can distract us from being ready we must sell all our possessions and become an acolyte of MacKenzie Scott who wonderfully disrupts and energizes philanthropy or almsgiving.
Hard to hear this one no matter who you are! I must sell the beach home that has been in my family for generations? You’ve got to be kidding me! Or the man in town who works so hard at the local provision store — You’re kidding me! I don’t have anything to sell! I can barely afford to pay the rent on my tiny apartment never mind find money to feed my family or put gas in my clunker car.
The promises and provocation don’t give me much to think about, to meditate on, to wrestle with, to offer insight, wisdom, or truth.
The spiritual gem of today’s Gospel is found in these words — “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Now those are words to feast on, to dig into, to meditate on, to wrestle with… Words to disturb, to comfort, to provoke, to inspire, to illuminate…
Words inviting our imagination to ignite in new ways. For is it not true that we are made in the imagination of the Holy One?
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This sounds like a riff on the Hebrew understanding that the heart is the seat of our being, the essence of our lives.
For each of us what we treasure changes and evolves with the seasons of our life. We each have stories about the great disruptions of Covid. For many of us Covid is a living reminder that uncertainties are a consistent assurance of life itself, of being alive. There are times when we have had more than enough with uncertainties. We yearn for the familiar, the comfortable, the known.
Yet for many of us the uncertainties and changes of life invite us to recalibrate, re-evaluate and reconsider the relationships, the people, the places, the things that we treasure. I’m profoundly moved and filled with gratitude for those who treasure me.
For as much as our culture tells us life is about me, we know in our heart of hearts that life is about the we and the us. For there is no you, no me, without the we and the us.
There may be wisdom sayings, spiritual passages that are touchstones of your life. As I think about what grounds my heart and serves as a lens for what I treasure I return time and time again to a few of my touchstones.
I think now more than ever of the profound wisdom of the Sufi mystic, Rumi — Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about language, ideas, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.
And the words of the prophet Micah about what the Holy One requires of us — To do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly.
Or the wisdom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama who says, My religion is kindness.
And the encouragement from Ephesians to “Walk in love.” It is of course a reference to the essence and heart of Jesus and the beating heart of Christianity distilled to its purest essence. To walk in love is the pathway to discovering our treasure and essence.
I have many other wisdom passages that I turn to with regularity, but it is these four that are the cardinal points of my compass. You have your own wisdom and spiritual touchstones that are a compass for what you treasure and where your heart is.
Perhaps your heart, like mine, has been broken and might still be a bit tattered or fragile as the scar tissue heals. As painful as a broken heart can be it is usually a channel for new life and doing an intuitive inventory of life, relationships, friendship, work, leisure, time and more.
The healing the heart often reveals that what we treasure often looks different and where we place our heart reflects the difference.
Each of us have a variety of relationships, friendships, and acquaintances. I delight in so many of them. I give thanks for such a rich, diverse, glorious bunch of people in my life. I feel blessed. I suspect you may feel that was about the varying circles of people in your life.
In the darkest days of Covid I thought a lot about the most authentic relationships in my life. I realized how profoundly I treasure them and do not take them for granted. I’ve been having new conversations with them that test, honor or venerate the authenticity of the friendships.
A couple was having dinner at my home several weeks ago. I shared with them my delight in being able to be back in the pew in a parish I adore and where the new co-rectors ignite my imagination and spiritual life. I shared my anticipation about being here, with and among you. I was filled with joy of how this nourishes my spirituality rather than anything to do with religion.
One friend had a visceral reaction. He warned me that I was going back too far into the belly of the beast of religion. Does this gathering look like the belly of the beast? It was followed by a litany of the wrongs, the hypocrisies, and crimes of religion. I understood it, I got it. They have been atrocious. Yet my joy and delight had not been acknowledged or heard. I had clearly triggered something deep seated in the life of my friend that had little to do with me.
I did not sleep well that night. For several days I wrote and re-wrote an email to my friend. If we could not have an authentic conversation about what happened how authentic could our friendship be? Did I treasure the friendship enough to not just let it be?
Before seeing them for dinner the next week I sent the email. The subject line was “A love letter to two beloved friends”. I spoke about treasuring our friendship and how much I love and adore them both. That I had no desire to be right or wrong and how unsafe I’d felt in the words that were spoken that night.
A few evenings later we sat around their dining table and spoke about what had happened. My friend said “Something kicked in and I felt so protective of you. I did not want religion to hurt or wound you. I didn’t want religion to derail the amazing path you’re on. I’m sorry for creating an unsafe space for you.” I apologized for not finding a way to reorient the conversation and to name my reactions to it. We spoke of our love for one another, the treasure of our friendship and we cried and held one another close.
“For where you treasure is, there will be your heart also.”
I‘ve also realized my spirit and heart is enlivened by the community I join with at the Church of St. Paul in the Desert in Palm Springs, California. It begs the question that if my spirituality is so profoundly touched by this community what does that mean for connecting my heart and spirit with the treasure of my time, energy and resources?
“For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.”
As you think, ponder, meditate on, and talk about where your treasure is may it become something to feast on, to dig into, to wrestle with or just let it be floating in your consciousness as you’re out on the water, walking the beach or driving.
Because you are made in the imagination of the Holy One do not be surprised where imagination might lead you with the people, things or places you treasure.
May the journey with your treasure and heart bless you.