What goes around, comes around….
Readings: Amos 8: 4-7; Luke 16: 1-13
So how has your first full week of learning gone?
Are you relieved to be back into the familiar routine of lectures, tutorials, labs and readings lists? Members of Staff and maybe even returning students as well?
Or has this first week of adult life, having to get up, get dressed, make breakfast, find your Way from DRA to the centre of town for a 9am lecture, two or three times a week, been too challenging?
How is it all going?
I hope it is going well and remember the chaplaincy and student support services are always here to support you through it if it isn’t!
But don’t worry if this first week has been a sensory overload of information, sunshine, passion and peopling.
This coming week is only week 2 and there are still 94 days to Christmas – so there is plenty of time yet during this semester to adjust, breathe and find your own rhythm.
For me, the beginning of the new academic year – coinciding with the changing of the seasons, the slow shortening of our days and nights as we slip naturally into autumn and winter, are the best days of the year.
Any excuse to wear jumpers, eat stodgy puddings and hibernate works for me.
And yet, we are in the middle of September, the leaves are beginning to entertain us with their splendid ever changing colourful displays before they fall, and I am still not wearing a coat!
My mother’s mantra was always – 1st of September on with the vest and the tights -but not this year.
WHY? Well Climate change probably!
One thing I did not expect from the revelations of climate change was it to impact my daily fashion decisions, and yet here we are.
This week has seen the most magnificent display of worldwide, child-led political activism highlighting said Climate Change, that I have ever seen in my entire life.
Indeed, many of you here may have joined Donald in creating a visible, silent and powerful line in the sand at West Sands beach on Friday.
For it seems that what goes around comes around and what we have been sowing for the last hundred years of industrial development we are now reaping in a harvest of discontent and climatic impending disaster.
And it is taking our children and you, our students, and young people of the world to make us all wake up, sit up and finally listen.
We hear you and we have added our voices to yours. Good news yes? We are all being heard.
More than that we are all changing our own individual behaviours – one paperless sermon at a time.
Individual conscious choices about what we wear, what we eat, how we shop and how we entertain ourselves, indeed at the core of all of this lies the decisions about how we spend our money, our wealth.
And do you know the other good news and helpful guiding principle God has for us today?
The good news that you cannot serve God and wealth.
In a week that has been full for so many of us, politically and personally, of challenging conversations, this is one of the most challenging conversations Jesus ever had.
I like wealth. No scratch that, I would like to be wealthy.
I also would like to live in a world where all are wealthy, healthy and happy and yet the chances of me winning the lottery and being that wealthy, healthy, happy person are very slim.
Especially if like me you never even buy a lottery ticket.
But that is the point isn’t it?
Amos in our reading today says that we must always remember what ever befalls us, whatever we choose to do to others good or ill, God Never Forgets.
Believing in a God who never forgets and who asks you to choose between wealth and following the paths she puts before us of living out the gospel of love, is a challenging one.
One that I admit I find hard to follow every day and night of my life.
I have experienced first hand the reality of wealth. Living amongst the rich and famous on a tax haven, indeed having a father who was by profession managing the money of the wealthy has birthed in me a cautious attitude to money.
Money can corrupt and influence people and we have to always remember that what is here today can simply be gone tomorrow.
This is a salient lesson to remember especially living in these turbulent economic times. Oh I so nearly got through a whole sermon without referencing Brexit. Dash it!
But wealth is a strange object and how in fact do you measure it?
In itself, money nothing but a a number on a screen in the bank or a few notes or coins in the pocket.
It is only when you come to spend it that it judges you. The amount of money you spend is not the issue. You can have a lot of money and spend large sums, or you can have little and spend small sums. The amount is not the issue but the object of your spending is.
I know wealth. But I am also from a long line of working class EastEnders, Essex girls and true cockneys who used to pawn their Sunday suit on a Monday just to buy food for the week, work the week in the docks of London – dirty filthy backbreaking work and then redeem their pawn tickets on a Friday to get back those same Sunday suits. Well, God expects you to look decent on a Sunday morning at church.
That memory of the reality of poverty is one that never goes away along with the eternal fear of it.
But what is wrong with being wealthy? Nothing, absolutely nothing. And god is not saying that to us this morning.
God is saying to us, using the penetrating commanding words of Christ,
what goes around comes around,
what is given to you and how you use it to help others, yourself and the world around you,
is how God will see YOU.
Just as the Cross is clear in the outline shown within this penny coin, so too will the sacrifices that we make as we become effective, enabling and educated stewards of our wealth.
This then leads us back to how we look after ALL of our assets, our wealth, our health, our earth.
Education, cold hard cash, gold, homes, doggie, handbags, chocolate factories, cars, land, forests, wherever your wealth is invested, all has to be managed well without deceit, without malice, without dishonesty.
Because, as our gospel story informs us this morning we have to heed the warning that
‘if you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches’?
WE are all being called at this moment in time, the second week of semester, in this place, St Salvators Chapel
to use what we will learn in our degrees, in our research, in our writings,
in our listening to preachers in pulpits and prophets on protests,
to use this knowledge and power for good.
For our good, for the good of others and for the good of this precious beautiful fragile world whose unknown future is in our hands. True riches indeed.
For what goes around comes around and we are the ones dealing with the consequences of past generations actions.
One of my favourite memories of doing my theology degree here at this university at St Mary’s College, was the delight of my faith resonating with something I was reading for a lecture or tutorial.
Those moments stayed with me and, for me, never does this poem I discovered back then resonate with me today that it ever did before.
Shelia Cassidy in her book Sharing the darkness, speaks of a divine economy. It is a concept that I have returned too time and time again in sharing my belief that we have to be careful with what we are given – be it pain or pleasure in our lives – because nothing is ever wasted or can be lost.
I personally believe that our divine economy begins and ends with
God is love
and my sermon is going to end now with sharing with you Shelia’s powerful poem, her own personal credo so you can decide for yourselves how you wish to manage your own wealth, how you draw your lines in the sand and how you effectively manage your very own divine economy;
No pain is lost
No tear unmarked,
No cry of anguish
Lost in the hail of gunfire
Or blanked out
by the padded cell.
I believe that pain
And prayer are
Used in the divine economy
Shed in Salvador
Will irrigate the heart
Of some financier
A million miles away.
By lava, flood or earthquake
Will be caught up
Like mist and fall again,
A gentle rain
On arid hearts
Or souls despairing
In the back streets of Brooklyn.