Sunday, July 31, 2016, Reflection on Luke 12:13-21
By Bren Dubay
It was a long time ago. My grandmother died — the woman who had raised me — and the responsibility to take care of her belongings was mine. She didn’t have much. A wig she wore after she lost her hair to chemotherapy. A few clothes. I remember being sad putting those belongings away because there were no memories — no photographs or notes, letters or books. No mementos or funny hats from family vacations. And yet I remember the simplicity. There was something about the simplicity … Maybe I had thought about materialism and greed before packing that bag to deliver to Goodwill, but I do know that since then both consciously and unconsciously this subject of materialism and greed have been working on my soul. I’m a slow learner.
God spoke in this parable we heard this evening. I learned just last night that it is Jesus’ only parable in which God speaks. “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?”
According to Luke, Jesus follows God’s quote with “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”
Greed is for self. Some synonyms are selfish, close-fisted and gluttonous. Some antonyms for greed are charitable, extravagant and generous. All those antonyms imply other. I am charitable to others. I am generous to others. Is this what matters to God? Are we rich when we share?
I look around at the natural world and it is extravagant. And it is beautiful. And it has been shared. It is a gift.
Maybe it’s my age or all the years I have carried inside of me that day I packed my grandmother’s belongings away or maybe it’s immersing myself in this particular way of life for so long and some of the good of it has rubbed off on me, but in me is this very conscious desire to give away. Maybe it’s ego — I’d be embarrassed to whomever it falls to in our community to sort through my belongings. Too much stuff. I think all of us here can look at ourselves individually and ask, “Do I have too much? What do I have I can share? What do I have I can give away?”
And I think Koinonia members can do the same when it comes to our community. We have. There were long discussions about do we build a new dining hall and renovate the guesthouse? Are we doing it for us or for others? If we weren’t such a place of hospitality, I think we would have been fine in the old dining hall. “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” This hall does not belong to any one individual. We are stewards of it and share it and we pass it on to those who are coming after us.
“Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Greed is more than building up and hoarding material possessions or storing up goods in barns. We can be greedy with our time, with our words of support, with our willingness to open our heart to others.
Much to think about. But I end with these questions — All the things we have — to whom will they belong? What does it mean to be rich in what matters to God?
Who is my Neighbor?
Sunday, July 10, 2016, Reflection on Luke 10:25-37
by Elizabeth Dede
We’ve all heard stories of how Koinonia was a Good Samaritan to its neighbors who were outside the standards of acceptability. And this brought on the days of the violence and boycott.
But there were also people who were neighbors and Good Samaritans to Koinonia, and their stories are not to be forgotten.
There’s Maize and Caranza Morgan who were loving and caring neighbors. Caranza was an African American farmer who smuggled in supplies to Koinonia during the night. If he had been caught by some of the good white folk of Sumter County, he probably would have paid for it with his life.
There is also a remarkable story involving Con Browne. Con and his family were members of Koinonia during the height of the boycott. One day Con went into town to deliver packages to the post office. He was grabbed from the car and beaten by a man who wore brass knuckles. After the beating, Con was taken to a clinic where he was treated and released with the direction that he go home and rest.
When Con and the others got home, the Sheriff if Sumter County, whom Martin Luther King, Jr. called the meanest man in the world, greeted. Now, you would expect that the Sheriff came to Koinonia to take a statement from Con. Instead, he arrested Con and charged him with disturbing the peace and reported that Con had beaten himself up to get attention.
Rather than resting in bed, Con was taken to jail. The Sheriff put him in a cell with a convicted murderer, thinking, no doubt, that this man would finish the job that the assailant in town had begun. What happened was astounding. This convicted murderer, whom the Sheriff wrote off as a violent man who could only do violence, stayed up through the night, caring for Con.
So who was the neighbor?
Neighbors come to us in unlikely ways. And as Jesus teaches, it is often the person who is least likely to be our neighbor. Who would have thought that the Samaritan in the story, an outsider who was despised, would turn out to be the truly loving and caring person?
Who would have thought that man of violence would stay up through the night caring for someone who was utterly defenseless?
Once again it is the stranger, the outsider, who is the angel. Or one who lives across the way who is of another race or another religion. Who is my neighbor? I would suggest that it is precisely the person whom our society labels as “not one of us” or one who is undeserving, just like the Samaritan was the one labeled in Jesus’ time as undeserving. We should look for our neighbor in the one in prison, in the undocumented laborer, in the drug addict, in the person on welfare, in the homeless alcoholic, in all of the people who are outsiders in our time. It is here, Jesus suggests, that we will find the true neighbor.
Morning Chapel, Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Devotional on Psalm 105:2-7
By Elizabeth Dede
How do we serve God constantly? Western culture is a culture that is self-serving, so it is a difficult charge to serve God constantly.
At Wal-Mart you serve yourself by checking out without the help of a cashier. At the gas pump you serve yourself by pumping the gas without the help of an attendant. The younger ones among us don’t even remember a time when there were attendants at gas stations. At the buffet you serve yourself and eat as much as you want. The examples go on and on.
So how do we serve God constantly? We try to resist the power of the self-serving life. We can serve God by serving others. A few weeks ago I went with John and Evelyn to the Harvest of Hope Food Pantry. Our job that morning was to bag up fresh green beans. A local farmer came with a trailer full of them. Apparently he does this regularly when he has fresh produce. People’s arms were overflowing with food, so much so that they had to have help carrying it to their cars. It was good to know that in addition to the canned food they would also have fresh produce.
This nameless farmer serves God constantly by offering his produce to the poor and needy. I know that God is happy.
God loves to be served. We can also serve God through worship. God loves to hear us sing, even if we can’t carry a tune. So sing loudly when you are at worship. Singing praise to God’s name is service.
It is also important to remember God’s saving acts and to be thankful. We can, like the children of Israel, remember our rescue from slavery and recount those stories.
I was trapped in my depression. I had tried years of therapy, but nothing seemed to help me. Then my friend Michael Galovic took me to the doctor. I was scared to death and wouldn’t have been able to go on my own. Michael gave me such a gift. I got diagnosed and got on medication. Like the children of Israel that we’ve been hearing about in the Old Testament readings, I have fallen back time and again into slavery to my bipolar disorder, but God and my friends are always there to rescue me. So I sing His praise.
God is pleased with our service and worship. Let us go about our day, serving him constantly as we do our work, as we greet each other, as we care for the poor, as we worship and pray, and as we sing loudly, if off-key, to God. Amen.