SERMON 9-26-10 Pentecost 21C

1 Timothy 6:6-19
There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time– he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

Late in the afternoon on a cold winter’s day, 5,000’ above the Appalachian Mountains, the small plane pilot was on a long cross-country flight from Georgia to Tennessee. The flight was letter perfect. The sun was slowly inching toward the horizon. The radio was silent, the air was crisp, and the sky was turning various rich, golden and red colors. Yes, this was the perfect flight, the perfect day. A sense of satisfaction came over him as he realized the pleasure, the happiness, the satisfaction, the contentment of that moment. We have all experienced moments of contentment: the moment you enjoyed the perfect sunset with the one you love, the smell of a new car, the warmth of fresh-baked bread, the smell of roses, the comfort of a new suit. We spend our lives seeking those moments of contentment, yet we know it comes at a price. We have an insatiable appetite to recapture the moment. Nothing satisfies the deep longing within ourselves, to experience contentment; the moment of being ok with one’s surroundings, one’s experience, one’s self.
Is it really the moments of pleasure, which we seek, or is it something deeper, much deeper; something that is at the very core of our being. We seek to know, that we are acceptable. We seek to know that “I am ok.” What we really seek is that which only God can give. Acceptance. God says to us, “I love you; I love you so much I walked among you, I endured that with which you endure. I experienced your hunger, your anger, your fear, your love, and your restlessness.” God in Christ came to us, redeemed us, and brought us the ultimate identity with which we can be content. Through the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Our Lord, we are adopted as Children of God. We have through Christ, the ultimate contentment of knowing that God accepts us.
Yet, we continue to pursue contentment in other things: comfort, experiences, stuff. The pursuit of pleasure in things is not in itself something to resist, something to reject. It becomes a problem when those material distractions become the means by which, we attempt to find our satisfaction. The insatiable quest for fulfillment is the direction of this path, but it leads to being never satisfied, never whole, never complete. Sometimes this becomes our life’s work, it becomes everything we know and everything we are. The quest for contentment becomes our life.
Jesus said, “When you lose your life, you will find it.” It is by losing ourselves to God, that we find the life, which God has in store for us. It is only in Well, you may say, I’m too mature for that. I can’t change now; I’m set in my ways. It is never too late to lose your life. It is never too late to allow God to transform you, to fill you, to bring you to ultimate contentment. God’s abundant grace is not a short run thrill, it is not a quick fix, fast food, “buy one get one free,” blink of an eye deal. God’s grace overflows beyond our ability to imagine. We have to become lost in our old self, to see it. We must be willing to accept the acceptance, which God has already given us.
As you come to the table of Our Lord, with outstretched hands, receive the gift of abundant grace. Receive the acceptance from God freely and abundantly given to you. Know in your heart that you can be content in a life lived following Our Lord. Then know that we are the ones that God calls to share that abundance with others. Our contentment in God flows through us in our response of godly righteousness, by loving God with all our heart and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Who is my neighbor? The question really is, “who is NOT my neighbor.” Our contentment in God flows through us in our response of enduring faith. Remain in it for the long haul. God is faithful to us, even when we stray. Stay with it, keep the faith, and rely on God by trusting his promises of love.
Finally, live your life in loving gentleness; one of the most difficult challenges of this journey. I struggle with this one too. Give your sisters and brothers, “Space for Grace.” Make room for God’s grace to flow through you to others. Remember your own failings when it comes to loving gentleness, but acknowledge the abundant forgiveness from God given to you. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Losing that life of pursuing contentment filling the hole in our soul with stuff, is the beginning of finding our life of contentment in God. God calls us to himself, with outstretched arms; arms nailed to a cross. Arms wide open calling us to know and to accept a love, which is self-giving, self-denying, and fully abundant. Set your hearts on the contentment found only in God and accept the life, which God has in store for you.

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