Saturday, August 31, 2013

"Cracked Cisterns" - September 1, 2013

Jeremiah 2:4-13

I’m grateful for modern plumbing and a municipal water system, because I once lived in a place that depended on cisterns.
In the Virgin Islands, as in most of the Caribbean, there is no real water table because the islands are so small.  As soon as you begin to dig down into the ground, you reach salt water that cannot be used for drinking and as soon as you start watering crops with it, the salt kills them and poisons the land until it leaches back out again over a period of years.  There are a few freshwater streams, but not enough to support a large population.  In that kind of setting, you learn the value of water.  Building codes in the islands require the construction of cisterns to gather runoff from every roof so that rainwater can be pumped back up again for washing and for general use, although it cannot really be used safely for drinking or cooking.  These cisterns have to be maintained and resealed regularly, though, because they crack and the water runs out into the earth.
Another place that depended on cisterns was the ancient city of Jerusalem, where the water system had to be carefully protected as a matter of defense.  Sometime not long after the year 900 B.C. a tunnel was dug to bring fresh water inside the city’s walls, and it was repeatedly strengthened and re-engineered to provide water for Jerusalem when it came under siege.  Without that water, some of it kept in cisterns, the people inside the walls would have died of thirst.  With that water, they could survive attack.  If you let the cisterns go to ruin, you were ignoring your own safety.
Jeremiah had a chance to see at least one cistern of Jerusalem close up.  He had been warning that the city, under siege by a Babylonian army, could only be saved by surrendering.  That put him at odds with the army, and several officers threw him into a cistern to shut him up, with the intention of leaving him there to rot.  [Jeremiah 38:4]  If the cistern had been maintained properly, it would have been filled with water and he would have drowned.  Since it was cracked, he found himself in mud instead and lived until his friends pulled him out. [Jeremiah 38:10]  What a weird thought it must have been to realize that the only reason he survived was because the city really was unprepared, as he had said.
Surely that had something to do with his awareness that the people were unprepared for their time of difficulty because they had turned away from finding their security in God and God alone and had turned to idolatry of many types.   As he put it,
“my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.”  [Jeremiah 2:13]
I think about that sometimes for our own times and circumstances, both as a people of faith and as individuals.
            I worry that sometimes we have turned away from a God who is both powerful and loving, who describes himself as “a jealous God” [Exodus 20:5 and 34:14], whom the book of Job [38:1] pictures as speaking from a whirlwind, who is, as the book of Hebrews [12:29] says, “a consuming fire” and instead worship a god who is merely “nice”.  Jeremiah saw trouble beginning when the people forgot about or willfully ignored the God whom they had known.
“Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that no one passes through, where no one lives?” [Jeremiah 2:6]
A God who can do things like that is one that can be trusted, and doesn’t need to be replaced with idols and false gods that make claims that will never be fulfilled.
            A God like that can even, in fact, lead his people into dangerous or unlikely territory, precisely because he can preserve and keep them.  Think about the confusing world of Jesus’ parables. 
“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid.  But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” [Luke 14:12-14]
That goes against all social convention.  And if we don’t have a sense of the proper give-and-take of daily life, what is there?  I mean, it’s one thing to invite people who cannot return the favor, but what’s all this about deliberately avoiding the people who can?  But at least it’s consistent with a God who is more concerned about compassion than appearances.  It’s more along the lines of a God who can and does watch over the troubled, which at some point in life is going to include everyone.
            God may be confusing sometimes.  Jeremiah saw his hand in history, but never in the most obvious ways.  Certainly he confused and sometimes even frustrated Jeremiah, and he was not the last one.  Teresa of Avila, one of the great Christian mystics, is reported to have said to God at one point in her life, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so many enemies.”  He does not spare us our struggles, but he sees us through them, and that is one of the ways that we know he is real, because he has never spared himself, either.
Real faith is faith in the God who himself suffered in the person of his Son, who has known what it is, like Jeremiah, to be condemned to death unjustly.  Jeremiah had faith and God rescued him, lifting him from the mud of a cracked cistern.  Jesus went one step further, even dying, and only then being raised back to life from the darkness of the grave.  There is nothing that a God like that cannot do, and with faith in that God, there is no trouble or trial that can overwhelm you.

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.  Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.”  [Luke 6:20-23]

Saturday, August 24, 2013

“Faithful but Unfeeling” - August 25, 2013

Luke 13:10-17

            I remember a commercial from my childhood that had somebody my age at the time sitting in a wheelchair and looking straight into the camera and saying, “Lucky you.  You never needed anything from the United Way. Luck you. Lucky, lucky, lucky you.”  Tell me that doesn’t beat itself into your psyche.  There’s a sense in which we are aware that none of us is immune to the simple accidents and illnesses that come along and take from someone the abilities and skills that help us negotiate our daily lives, or at least make it so difficult that we need help – whether from a walker or from a doctor.  Seeing someone making their way painfully up a ramp or hearing them struggle to put a few words together can undermine our own false sense of omnipotence.

            I came across a guide for people who are getting used to using a wheelchair that made some very apt observations.  It notes that

“The unfortunate truth is that there are many deeply embedded attitudes in the culture about people with disabilities. People will usually be uncomfortable unless they have already had direct experience with a disabled person. Your presence might make them nervous at first. They'll be wondering if there's some special way to treat you or if they'll be expected to help in some way. They might have an association with someone else, perhaps a parent or grandparent, who used a wheelchair at a time when they were very ill. They might be projecting themselves into your experience, imagining it as a horrible way to live. All of these attitudes are significant obstacles to your ability to make a connection with that person. Once they come to know you well, and witness the kind of life that is possible, they find out that your personality shines through even the most severe disability.[1]

            It’s true that if you spend time around a particular person with a disability, however, those feelings tend to go away.  You realize how strong someone may be, or how incredibly adaptable human beings are.  People live with terrible pain but sometimes keep their sense of humor.  They learn to use the gifts and strengths that they do have to compensate for the ones that are missing.  I don’t cease to marvel at Minnie Thacker.  Those of you who know her know that having been born without hands has not prevented her from leading a full life and in the narthex you can see that it hasn’t even prevented her from being a good painter. 

            The people around folks with challenges adapt as well.  (Maybe I should say that we are all challenged – it’s just that some of us get a break from the challenges while others live with them every day.)  I used to visit a woman who, like the one in today’s reading, was terribly bent over.  When I went to see her the first time she was very apologetic about sitting up on a tall chair and asking me to sit on a low hassock so that we could see one another’s faces as we talked.  After awhile, if I went over, she would just say, “Pull up a rug.” 

            I want to think that’s what may have happened in the relationship of the leader of the synagogue to this woman whom Luke tells us had been unable to stand straight for eighteen years.

“When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.” [Luke 13:12-13]

That’s wonderful, and cause for everyone to praise God.  The leader of the synagogue, however, saw it as an example of Sabbath-breaking.  It wasn’t that he didn’t want her to be healed, but after eighteen years, don’t you think she could wait another day, even less than twenty-four hours?

“But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’” [Luke 13:14]

It took Jesus to remind him that she had a very, very basic need and that to address it was not work, but a joy.

            There is a thin line between treating someone with disability as a regular human being without condescension and becoming callous to their individual situation.  There is where Jesus seeks to bring healing to those who may be physically whole but who sometimes need – let’s call it – an adjustment of the heart, whether learning to see a disabled person as a person, not a disability, or whether learning not to assume that just because they adjust (sometimes in wonderful ways) means they don’t still have (again, like anyone else) specific and real needs.  He healed the woman outwardly, and at the same time straightened out the leader of the synagogue in his attitude.  It reminds me of the old hymn that says,

“Just as I am: poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

She needed the straightening and he needed the “healing of the mind”, and Jesus offered both.
            So, here comes the commercial, or the opportunity, or the chance to respond and to take him up on the offer for yourself.  In about three weeks, on September 18, we’ll be holding a session on “Finding Personal Spiritual Healing” that will be led by Rev. Carolyn Jordan, the pastor at Grimes A.M.E.  If you feel like there is something that has been weighing on your own soul for a long time, that may have been bending your spirit over, I hope you’ll consider being part of that, because Jesus was all about helping us to become whole people, whatever that may mean for you or me.  For the leader of that synagogue it meant having a right relationship to the people around him, learning the ways of mercy.  For someone else it may mean letting go of anxiety, or some ancient hurt, or anger, or fear, or breaking the grip of long-entrenched and destructive habits.  Let me know if you want to be part of that evening, but think about it, and ask yourself what there is within you it would fill you with joy to hear Jesus say, “You are set free from your ailment.”  [Luke 13:12]

            Of course, you don’t have to wait for then.  Just like Jesus didn’t wait until the Sabbath was over for that woman, there is no reason that right now, at this moment, he cannot work within you or me or any of us to undo the ways that the world and its woes have twisted us up.  He can do that right now, if you ask him. 

            Let’s take a moment and do that.  I invite you to join me in prayer, first considering what burden, what habit, what attitude, what fear, what grief, what sin most weighs you down, and then looking to Jesus for help with it.  Let us begin by looking to the Lord in silence, and then join together in reading the prayer printed in the bulletin …

Healer of our every ill,
light of each tomorrow,
give us peace beyond our fear,
and hope beyond our sorrow.
You who know our fears and sadness,
grace us with your peace and gladness,
Spirit of all comfort: fill our hearts.
In the pain and joy beholding
how your grace is still unfolding,
give us all your vision: God of love.
You who know each thought and feeling,
teach us all your way of healing,
Spirit of compassion: fill each heart.
Give us strength to love each other,
every sister, every brother,
Spirit of all kindness: be our guide.
Healer of our every ill,
light of each tomorrow,
give us peace beyond our fear,
and hope beyond our sorrow.”

[1] From an excerpt of Chapter 5 of Life on Wheels: For the Active Wheelchair User, by Gary Karp, copyright 1999, published by O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. found at .
[2] Marty Haugen, “Healer of Our Every Ill”.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

“Divided Families” - August 18, 2013

Luke 12:49-56

Let me tell you a little story about some people you see every week when you walk into the narthex, staring at you from the wall.[1]

The first of them is Barbara Heck.  She was born in Limerick County, Ireland and grew up speaking German.  She lived in New York and died near Montreal.  Her married name was actually Hescht, but in English it turned into Heck, and apparently that was entirely appropriate.  She understood what Jesus was talking about when he said,

“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” [Luke 12:51-53]
See, she had grown up in a community of German immigrants who had settled in Ireland as part of the same mass migration that brought the Pennsylvania Dutch to New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.  In Ireland, like here, they proved to be excellent farmers, but there the landlords responded by raising rents on them and milking all they could out of the migrants.  The poverty and the anger and the isolation led them to become an especially hard-living group that was known for its excesses.  It didn’t help that in fifty years they never had a pastor who spoke German.  That was until John Wesley, who spoke it fluently, began to pass through there on twenty-two trips to Ireland.  His preaching set off a revival, and at the age of eighteen, Barbara gave her heart to Christ.  That took place right before the landlords began to confiscate the common lands and the Irish Germans, pushed to the limit, decided to move to North America.[2] 

In 1760 Barbara Heck found herself, then, in New York City.  They had been there about five years when they were joined by another group of Wesley’s people from Ireland, including her cousin Philip Embury, who had been a local preacher before emigrating.[3]  During that five years, the Germans had slipped back into their old habits, and there came a day when Barbara walked into a room and found a group of men, possibly including Embury, gambling at cards.  She scooped the deck off the table and tossed it into the fireplace and told Embury in no uncertain terms that he needed to start preaching to them again or the Lord would hold him responsible for whatever depths they fell to.[4]            

            Shortly after that, she marched her husband, their slave Betty and a day laborer whose name is unknown and sat them down in Embury’s house to hear the gospel and to pray.  The group grew quickly, made up mostly of Irish immigrants and Africans that shortly outgrew the house and so they built themselves a chapel.  There they were joined by this man, Captain Thomas Webb, a British regimental commander, who kept the group together when the Hecks left New York City as they saw the Revolution coming.[5] 

It is now the John Street United Methodist Church, two blocks from Ground Zero, and in addition to housing a vital congregation it was the site of our ministry to the workers cleaning up after 9/11. 

            Barbara understood that when the gospel comes into somebody’s life, that it shakes things up because it reorders our priorities.  She had seen the destruction of lives that had been part of the community’s experience in Ireland and knew the danger that gambling presented, then and now, and would have none of it.  She was not simply going to stand by and watch the cycle repeat.  She knew that it did not have to do that, and the way to break out of it was to begin right there, with her own family, and with the good news.

            People in the same family will have different priorities.  If you are certain of yours, then stick with them.  Understand that not everyone – not even those closest to you – is going to get it: 

“five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
A college chaplain I knew told me about a call he received from some parents one time, worried about their daughter, whom they knew to be active in the Wesley Fellowship on that campus.  They wanted him to sit her down for a talk.  “What’s the problem?” he asked.  He knew her well, and thought everything was going alright for her: she was a medical student who was about to go out and start her residency.  That was the problem, said her parents.  She had just told them that she was turning down a residency in surgery and announced that she was going into public health.  Instead of a respected and honorable career leading to a comfortable retirement, she was looking at years and years of civil service jobs, dealing with immunization clinics, and infectious disease control in slums.  They were sure it had something to do with what she’d been hearing on Sunday mornings and wanted the chaplain to clarify things for her; she’d clearly misunderstood.

            The thing is, that she had understood perfectly.  She knew well Matthew’s version of the words we heard from Luke this morning.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” [Matthew 10:34-39]
It’s a great story, and I have no idea how it ended.  I’d like to think that her parents came around.  I’d like to think that eventually they came to realize that life is found in that kind of discipleship – but I just don’t know.  What I do know is that somewhere on this planet there is a town or city where a child has been vaccinated because of her choice, or where a parent has been kept healthy enough to provide for their children because of her dedication, or where a grandfather has lived long enough to hold a baby in his arms and pray for God’s blessing, all because of a disease that he did not catch from a mosquito that did not bite him because she insisted on good drainage.

And I know that she did that because she chose to follow Christ.

[1] The paintings are part of a longer series of water color portraits of people of faith, mostly Methodists, by Jack Schaenkle that hangs in the back of First United Methodist Church, Phoenixville, PA.  Come see them.
[5]  Webb was instrumental in the establishment of Methodism in Philadelphia and the founding of St. George’s United Methodist Church.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

"Wise Investment Strategies" - August 11, 2013

Luke 12:32-40

            Jesus talked about how the way that we use our gifts here on earth being an investment in heaven.

“Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 
[Luke 12:33]

That’s been misused sometimes to extort money from people with the idea that somehow it’s possible to buy a place in heaven.  There were all kinds of barons across Western Europe in the Dark Ages who would keep their people essentially in slavery and then go off and slaughter their rivals or skirmish with their neighbors over next to nothing, then turn around and endow monasteries and great cathedrals as a way of (in their mind) compensating for their deeds.  While encouraging that kind of thought is an effective way to balance a church budget, it’s very bad theology.

            What Jesus teaches is that

“where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
[Luke 12:34]

That is a whole lot more profound, because it recognizes that where we direct whatever we value, whether it is money or time or effort, not only shows what is important to us but also anchors a part of us in the place where it goes. 

There’s a little-known story by J.R.R. Tolkien, nowhere near as famous as The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, but thought-provoking in its own way, called Leaf by Niggle.  It’s the tale of a painter named Niggle who tries to paint a tree, but is always being interrupted.

“He was kind-hearted, in a way.  You know the sort of kind heart: it made him uncomfortable more often than it made him do anything; and even when he did anything, it did not prevent him from grumbling, losing his temper, and swearing (mostly to himself).  All the same, it did land him in a good many odd jobs for his neighbor, Mr. Parish, a man with a lame leg.  Occasionally he even helped other people from farther off, if they came and asked him to.”[1]

Tolkien was a faithful Christian, by the way, a Roman Catholic who was active in his local church, so you might see some kind of allegory here about an artist who’s always being interrupted in his “real work” by Mr. Parish.  I’m not going there, though.

            The point of mentioning this story is what happens to Niggle as it goes on.  The day comes when he is called to go on a long journey and finds himself in a beautiful forest that he suddenly realizes has sprung from the single tree that he struggled so long and hard to paint.  In the place he came from it was flat and two-dimensional, and he was never really satisfied with how it looked.  In the place he went, it was real and fully-formed.

“Before him stood the Tree, his Tree, finished.  If you could say that of a Tree that was alive, its leaves opening, its branches growing and bending in the wind that Niggle had so often felt or guessed, and had so often failed to catch.  He gazed at the Tree, and slowly he lifted his arms and opened them wide.  ‘It’s a gift!’ he said.”

Jesus said,

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  [Luke 12:32]

Too often, we think of that as a distant, future event – and that is what it is, in its fullness – but there are moments even here and now where the kingdom of God is among us.

            Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a sonnet called “Dante” that is about how he felt when he sat down to work on his translation of Dante’s poetry from Italian into English.

“Oft have I seen at some cathedral door 
A labourer, pausing in the dust and heat, 
Lay down his burden, and with reverent feet 
Enter, and cross himself, and on the floor 
Kneel to repeat his paternoster o'er; 
Far off the noises of the world retreat; 
The loud vociferations of the street 
Become an undistinguishable roar. 
So, as I enter here from day to day, 
And leave my burden at this minster gate, 
Kneeling in prayer, and not ashamed to pray, 
The tumult of the time disconsolate 
To inarticulate murmurs dies away, 
While the eternal ages watch and wait.”

Longfellow's desk was the place where creative activity, touched by God’s grace, brought heaven closer for him.  I’ve heard other people, with other talents or other interests, remark that when they are woodworking or making music they sometimes have that feeling.  In the movie Chariots of Fire the Olympic runner Eric Liddell is asked about what it means for him to be a Christian athlete and he answers, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast.  And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

            Those moments of creativity, of generosity, of love, of kindness, of mercy; all of those times when you put your whole self into something good, no matter whether anybody else appreciates what is happening or not: those are times when heaven is right at hand.  It isn’t that they earn us heaven; only Jesus does that for us.  They are a bit of heaven touching earth.  James, the brother of Jesus, wrote to us that
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” [James 1:17]

And one day, by God’s grace, we’ll see how very many such gifts we have known without even realizing it.  So, meanwhile,

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  [Luke 12:32-34] 

[1] A pdf of the whole story can be found at .  You may have to load the page more than once before it appears.  Maybe that is symbolic – you’ll get it if you read the whole thing.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

"A Tale of Two Brothers" - August 4, 2013

Luke 12:13-21

Bleak House is one of Charles Dickens’s great novels.  It centers on characters who are thrown together by a fictional lawsuit called “Jarndyce versus Jarndyce”.  Dickens describes the case this way:

“This scarecrow of a suit has, in the course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it all means.  The parties to it understand it least, but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises.  Innumerable children have been born into the cause; innumerable young people have married into it; innumerable old people have died out of it.  Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves made parties in Jarndyce and Jarndyce without knowing how or why; whole families have inherited legendary hatreds with the suit.  The little plaintiff or defendant who was promised a new rocking-horse when Jarndyce and Jarndyce should be settled has grown up, possessed himself of a real horse, and trotted away into the other world.  Fair wards of court have faded into mothers and grandmothers; …there are not three Jarndyces left upon the earth perhaps since old Tom Jarndyce in despair blew his brains out at a coffee-house in Chancery Lane; but Jarndyce and Jarndyce still drags its dreary length before the court, perennially hopeless.”

Then, in chapter 65 of the book, the lawsuit comes to an end because the entire estate is finally used up in court costs and lawyers’ fees. 

It’s a great joke as Dickens tells it but it isn’t all that funny if your last name is Jackson and you’re trying to get your slice of Neverland Ranch.  It isn’t funny if your last name is Mandela and you’re part of a big argument about who gets buried where, since where there are tourists there will be concession stands.  You don’t have to travel far to see it in person: in Northeast Philadelphia, there is a Geiger’s Bakery that makes great buttercake and a Geiger and Sons Bakery that makes great buttercake from the same family recipe.  Do not get them confused with one another; it gets ugly.  Even Jesus wanted to stay out of that kind of dispute.

“Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’” [Luke 12:13-14]

            What makes it so awful is that when families fight over inheritance, two rotten aspects of human nature come into play.  On the one hand is greed and on the other is envy.  Money or property or possessions can and do come between people who should love one another.  At the least, you would think they would treat one another with whatever respect comes with being kin.  When the fur starts to fly, though, it is hard to stop.  The time comes when it becomes impossible to sort through the right and wrong of it all.  It’s far better at the outset to hear Jesus’ warning:

 “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” [Luke 12:15]

Although poverty will definitely make your life harder, riches will not necessarily make your life easier – at least not the kind of riches that can be put into a will.

            It isn’t just where inheritance comes into play, or even sibling rivalry.  Jesus’ teaching is that we should be, as he says, “rich toward God”, a large part of which is to be in good relation to the people whom God has put into your life.  That won’t happen if money or possessions are more important to you than they are.  There’s a line in Hello, Dolly! where the title character says, “Money, pardon the expression, is like manure.  It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.”

            John Wesley had a lot to say about the influence of money on spirituality.  In 1786, he wrote about his concern for the revival that gave birth to the Methodist movement. 

“I fear, wherever riches have increased, (exceeding few are the exceptions,) the essence of religion, the mind that was in Christ, has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore do I not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue long.  For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality; and these cannot but produce riches.  But as riches increase, so will pride, and anger, and love of the world in all its branches.”[1]

            Perspective and priorities matter so much.  What is most important?  Is having cash on hand right now a reason to destroy the environment for future generations?  Is a CEO’s ability to boast about his or her compensation (and boasting can be done by ostentation as well as by word) so important that somebody else is not paid a living wage?  Again, it is not that people don’t deserve fair compensation – but at whose expense? 

            In the end, it may even be at the expense of the one who amasses the riches.

“The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ [Luke 12:16-20]

Good question!  Or will two brothers be fighting over them?