We live our lives by two stories. There’s the one we present at an interview, when we want to impress people; and there’s the other one we tell only to a counselor, a confessor or the most trusted friend. The church also lives its life by two stories. There’s the story of faith, and courage, and martyrdom, and sacrifice, and perfect love. That’s the story we call All Saints. And then there’s the story of fragility, and fear, and failure, and foolishness, and forgiveness. That’s the story we call All Souls.
In today’s gospel lesson Jesus speaks to his disciples about their relationship with material possessions. As he does at many points throughout Luke’s gospel, he explains that their stance toward possessions is a very important indicator of their relationship to God, if not the most important.
Those of you who have had to make a move recently know about how quickly stuff can accumulate. So much so that two people can sit in the living room scratching their heads wondering how they are ever going to get rid of it.
Around 220 million people, more than 3% of the world’s population, are currently migrants. About one-fifth of that number travel beyond their region of origin. These folks are driven by political or economic aspiration – or more often desperation. Such desperation is increasing for a number of reasons. The political reasons mostly concern war and persecution: unrest or oppression in Zimbabwe, Colombia, Afghanistan, DR Congo and Somalia, and Syria.
Some find their way to here because they want a better life. A very similar reason as to why your ancestors made their journeys.
It was a conversation I had with myself before my son went to college. I had not saved quite enough for room and board and tuition. So I sat in a hot bath reflecting on all the stupid ways I had wasted money. Then I made a huge resolve to do things differently. That’s when I started shaving my head, so as to save 25 bucks every two weeks.
I wonder if you feel like an exception, where the inside, part of you says, “I’m different.”
I had an 85 year-old look into my eyes after hearing he had lung cancer, and that those 60 plus years of smoking Pall Mall unfiltered had caught up with him. I remember his words: “Jim,” he said, “I think that we all feel a little special that bad things may happen to others but somehow we are special and they won’t get us.” He looked at me and said “not true.”
Have you ever had a moment when, a certain someone seems to be able to see right through you? And then you know that you can never undo that moment. My wife is good with that. Just a look and she knows.
A comedian wrote: “when I woke up this morning my wife asked, 'Did you sleep good?' I said 'No, I made a few mistakes.” That may sound clever, but is it wisdom. Wisdom seems rather more out of reach.
Choice is supposed to be a wonderful thing, but without wisdom, choice is useless. Privilege is to be in the position of having plenty of choice. But wisdom is the capacity to make good choices. And that’s the challenge for those going away to college this week and for many others.
The thing about prejudice is that there’s just a tiny sliver of truth in it, otherwise we would dismiss it as stupid. But prejudice takes a tiny insight and makes it into a colossal generalization that obscures the complexity, texture and goodness of its object.
At the Versailles Conference in 1919 the allied powers decided peace meant defeating Germany and then keeping it in a straightjacket for as long as possible. Peace meant punishment and constant policing.
At Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 peace meant killing 200,000 people in one stroke. Peace meant destroying and intimidating to a sufficient degree to end war and then making sure your enemy didn’t get hold of the wherewithal to do the same to you.
It’s difficult to articulate the relationship between church and state. Why, because we find it so hard to think constructively, positively and hopefully about the future. Where are we going? It’s also the most difficult question to answer and that’s not just because the future is always unknown. It’s because our political vocabulary has been eradicated of notions of ultimate meaning and purpose.