Remember the important life
affirming, God affirming things (the big things) and to let the mind act
as a sieve allowing the anxious, hurtful, prideful memories and actions
(the little things) pass through.
‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
25 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
The pastor had recently performed the
marriage ceremony for a couple from the church. That was not unusual. He
had done this for thousands of couples. What was unique was that the
groom was over 80 years old, a confirmed bachelor, who was rather hard
of hearing. Let’s call him George. That is not his real name. It has
been changed to protect the innocent. He married Gladys who had been
married for over 45 years and then widowed. After the wedding, Gladys
moved into George’s comfortable home. Everything seemed to be going fine
in their marriage so the pastor was surprised when his assistant came in
his office to say a very distressed George was on the phone. The pastor
took George’s call and asked what was up. George said he needed to speak
with the pastor right away. When asked what was troubling him, George
said it was about Gladys. He wanted
to meet with the pastor right away, it was terribly important. The
pastor invited George to come to his office but George wanted to meet
elsewhere. To the Pastor suggested they meet at “Starbucks” for a cup of
coffee. (This is the northwest after all.) The Pastor and George ordered
their coffees and took a seat. “Now, tell me what is troubling you,
George” said the pastor. George began to relate how he was busy in his
basement workshop and Gladys was in the house cleaning and doing
laundry. “You know” George said, “that my washer and dryer are in the
garage. Gladys is not use to this house and somehow she managed to lock
herself out. Well, she yelled for me to let her in but I could not hear
her. She rang the front door bell, she tried banging on the basement
windows but I did not know this because I could not hear her. Next she
went to the neighbors and used their phone to call home but I don’t have
a phone in my workshop and I did not hear the ringing phone. Finally,
Gladys called her son to come pick her up. During the day, I had come up
to the kitchen and made myself a sandwich then gone back to my workshop.
I was having a great day! Eventually, I got hungry about dinner time and
came upstairs again. I sat down in the living room to watch my favorite
program and think about what to eat when the front doorbell rang. I
answered the door and standing there was a very angry Gladys demanding
to know “Why didn’t you let me in? Didn’t you realize I was missing?” I
didn’t know what to say. I just said, I forgot I had you?” My mom would
say George had a memory like a sieve.
This is Memorial Day weekend when our
nation commemorates the U.S. men and women who have died in military
service to their country. You may know that this holiday was instituted
to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War. After
World War I, it was expanded to include those who died in any war or
military action. Although the lectionary readings for today were not
chosen with this specific holiday in mind, there is a connection. We
have just read the passage from Matthew in which there is an implied
request to remember the important things in life. The Bible extols us to
remember. In fact it repeats the words which translate as “remember,”
about 140 times. I looked this up! Jesus asked us to remember. As
Disciples of Christ, we comply with his request every Sunday when we
celebrate communion and hear the words, “When you eat this bread and
drink this cup, do this in remembrance of me.” Memory and remembering
can be a tricky activity. The scripture says man can not serve two
masters. What is more important to you, God or mammon? Do you remember,
as daily life impacts you and bills need to be paid, which choice you
made between God and mammon? It is a curious truth that we humans need
to be reminded to remember. As my mother would say, we “have memory
like a sieve.”
Let us return to our scripture passage and
look a little deeper. I already mentioned the first sentence of the
scripture which deals with serving one master – God or mammon. Mammon is
not a common word. You don’t hear, “Mammon doesn’t grow on trees” or “A
fool and his mammon are soon parted” but riches or wealth is the meaning
of the word. One definition of the word Mammon when it is capitalized is
“a personification of riches as an evil spirit or deity” (Dictionary.com).
It is interesting that the translators left the original Greek word in
the text. They did not translate the word into English. Why? Perhaps to
reinforce the idea of a personified idol. That is the real significance
here. There is something about the original Greek word that sounds odd
or bad. Our idolatry of money is not as explicit as prostrating
ourselves before an idol or praying to it. Most apostasy is much more
subtle than that. Perhaps that makes it more insidious.
The scripture continues on to say “do not
be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink,
nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food,
and the body more than clothing?” Food and drink are hot topics right
now. Church World Services tells us that “more than 800 million people
in the world go hungry” and the wealthiest fifth of the world’s people
consumes 86% of all goods and services, while the
poorest fifth consumes 1%.” These
are staggering numbers. And we know we are a part of a wealthy, wasteful
nation. But what can we do about the issue of world hunger? I did not
come prepared to discuss this weighty issue today. I would refer you to
the EMO or CWS websites. This issue of world hunger deserves more than a
short sermon. We could spend all day discussing the issues. I do not
wish to demean the mammoth issue of world hunger but I do want to touch
on the other part of the scripture about clothing. This issue seems
silly when juxtaposed with world hunger, but perhaps for us that is part
of the point. You know the apparel industry is big business in our
country. We all want to look our best. My husband and I agonized over
what I should wear today. Every parent strives to send their children
off to school dressed appropriately. Of course, we parents don’t always
know what the “in” thing to wear is. And our children certainly want
their input considered when it comes to what they wear. My youngest son
was always very conscious of his clothing. Even as a little guy, not yet
speaking, he refused to wear certain clothing. I had many attractive
Oshkosh overalls that his brother had worn. I loved them. They looked so
good on little guys. But my Ryan would stand there in defiance and
absolutely refused to wear them. We have an image of ourselves, and
clothing is supposed to reflects the image. Do you remember what you
wore yesterday? Did you consciously choose to wear something different
today? Most of us have a variety of choices in what we wear.
Clothing also says a great deal in
society. You can often tell a person’s occupation by their clothing.
Construction workers, cowboys, bus drivers, even preachers and priests.
You know who they are because of what they wear and if you pay close
attention, you can probably judge how expensive a certain piece of
clothing was. Some of you may think this only relates to people we would
call “clothes horses,” but think about your cars. Isn’t that just
another form of clothing? Do we not “put on” the car so to speak? We can
make assumptions about people by the type of car they drive. The
advertising industry plays upon our assumptions. There are even books
written about what type of person drives what type of car. We remember
our cars. Especially our first car. Pastor Michael Turner tells this
story about one of his first cars:
He was in college. And he
worked three jobs. His parents’ did not have a lot of money, and he
wanted to save his parents from the burden of spending money they did
not have on his pricey undergraduate education. He also knew that he
wanted to go to divinity school.
He studied, worked and saved.
Then the time came to graduate and go to divinity school. He was
pleasantly surprised to learn that much of his schooling would be paid
for by scholarships, but he needed a way to get to the school. The car
he had been driving died. And so, he took the money he had saved for
four years from his three jobs and bought a brand new Honda Civic.
He was proud. He washed that car every
week. When the time came to start divinity school he packed the car full
of stuff and moved to Durham, NC into a neighborhood called Duke Manor.
Duke Manor may sound like a ritzy place
but it was not. It was actually pretty rough. The week after he moved
in, the building next to his was raided. It was the largest heroine bust
in Durham history. There were always rumors circulating about cars being
vandalized, broken into, or stolen.
He was so worried about his car that he
parked it right under his bedroom window to keep tabs on it.
Occasionally, he’d walk by the window and peer out. Every time there was
a noise in the parking lot, he’d sit straight up in bed and do some
quick surveillance of the parking lot. There was constantly noise in the
parking lot. After several restless nights, exhaustion set in and he
said to the Lord, “Lord, I can’t keep this up. I came to divinity school
to grow in my faith, draw closer to you, learn your scriptures, and
learn how to be a leader in your church. I know something’s got to
give.” After a short pause, the Lord replied, “Yes. Yes, it does”
The writer of Matthew goes on to say, “26 Look
at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into
barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more
value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add
one cubit to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about
clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither
toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the
grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the
oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?” When I
read this passage I immediately think of one of our Disciple
congregations, The View Christian Church. The people of The View are in
a process of discernment which involves 40 days of prayer. They are
striving to listen and understand what plan God may have for them. They
send daily reminders to their prayer partners with suggestions of
thoughts on which to meditate. The other day, the thought was this:
Sit quietly, close your eyes and remember:
Remember a sunrise you have seen
Remember a sunset you have seen.
What made each of them special?
Remember, remember, remember how
beautifully spectacular are the colors of sunset and sunrise. What did
you do to make them so gorgeous? Nothing! It was God who did and as
beautiful and special as they are, Jesus says you’re even more beautiful
and special to God.
There is a prayer that Jewish people pray
that is called the Shema. Shema Yisrael -- "Hear O Israel, the Lord our
God, the Lord is One" -- is perhaps the most famous of all Jewish
sayings. The Shema is a declaration of faith, a pledge of allegiance to
One God. It is said upon arising in the morning and upon going to sleep
at night. It is said when praising God and when beseeching God. It is
the first prayer that a Jewish child is taught to say. It is the last
prayer before death. It’s a call to remember (Simmons). You will find
it in Deuteronomy 6:4-16. Verses 4 – 7 go like this:
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.
shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your
soul, and with all your might. 6 Keep these words that I
am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to
your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are
away, when you lie down and when you rise.
The Shema may be, “Hear, O Israel”, but
it’s a call to remember. “Remember there is only one God and that God is
our God.” We parents say to kids, “Are you listening to me? Then repeat
what I just told you.” We remind our children to remember. Maybe we
grown-ups need to be reminded to remember the important things in life.
God remembers us but God seems to choose to have a memory like a sieve.
That is, God has demonstrated through Jesus an inclination to love us.
God is like a sieve that allows the little particles to pass through the
holes of the mesh. God keeps the big particles – the love, the acts of
kindness. God loves us unconditionally. God does not say, “I forgot I
You remember the story of Jesus and the
scribe? The incident where they are discussing which of the
commandments was the most important? It’s in the Gospel of Mark, chapter
12. It goes like this,
"Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;
30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all
your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' 31 The
second is this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no
other commandment greater than these." 32 Then the scribe
said to him, "You are right,
Sound familiar? It’s the Shema. Jesus is
just remembering the Shema. That’s what’s important. Jesus says to
remember. Remember that God loves you unconditionally, that’s what’s
important. Love yourselves and treat others like you’d like to be
treated. That’s what’s important.
It’s the day before we celebrate Memorial
Day. Let’s remember the life affirming, important things in life and let
the rest go. Shema Yisrael, the Lord our God, the Lord is One! Amen.
Bible - New Revised Standard Version
24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and
love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.
25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you
shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall
put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap
nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you
not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being
anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? 28 And why
are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how
they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you,
even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is
alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe
you, O men of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be
anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What
shall we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things;
and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But
seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall
be yours as well. 34 "Therefore do not be anxious about
tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own
trouble be sufficient for the day.
riches or material wealth. Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:9,11,13.
(often initial capital letter)
a personification of riches as an evil spirit or deity.
ME < LL <
Gk mam(m)ōnâs < Aram māmōnā riches]
1. possessions, money, gold.
Simmons, Rabbi Sharaga.