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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

 
I gave a well crafted children's church lesson with a story of castles with a flag to decorate and the need to seek first the Kingdom of God, with a Bible story of the foolish farmer, and a candy bar 100 Grand which quickly disappeared as an object lesson on how fleeting riches are. The children seemed to be grasping the truth, until my  granddaughter Grace asked, "Can I have a piece of paper?" "Yes." "Can I use these scissors?" "Yes, what are you making?" "I want to cut it up into teeny tiny pieces and make spit wads." 

Some castles have been in our family for over a thousand years, since a Meredith, King of Powys (one of our ancestors) dwelt in one until William the Conqueror (another ancestor) took them and gave them as spoils of war, and one Castle Arundel ended up in the hands of the Fitz Alans (another ancestor).  They happened to own several castles it seems.  One of the Fitz Alans in the 1300's became an admiral in the King's fleet winning many sea battles against France and Spain but also the jealousy of some in the King's inner circle who had it arranged to have him beheaded for his troubles for the Crown.  The next royalty in power reinstated the title and castle back to the Fitz Alans.  So their lives alternated between the guillotine and knights in shining armor.  Life was only as valuable as who you backed in power, castles or no castles, Admiral or not, knight or not.  We cannot even depend upon nearly thirty-great grandfathers ago to leave an inheritance. Not a copper.  One cannot trust in their lineage or ancestry or inheritance.  Our ship, never came in; it never even crossed the pond. 

The term "fool" was used profusely in the Old Testament, especially in Proverbs, but was hardly used in the New Testament.  But Jesus called a rich land owner with successful crops a fool.  It wasn't because he was successful or rich, but because he trusted in his wealth instead of in God.  He planned for a life of ease, eating, drinking, and making merry after building bigger barns, but his time on earth was over in spite of all his retirement 401 K's or other planning.  Luke 12:21 says, "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."  It is called greed, hoarding, idolatry.  It is easier for a camel to go through they eye of a needle than a rich man to go to heaven.  In Luke 12:15 He says, "Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." 

Saint Augustine said, "The farmer was planning to fill his soul with excessive and unnecessary feasting and was proudly disregarding all those empty bellies of the poor.  He did not realize that the bellies of the poor were much safer storerooms than his barns."  Wealth cannot guarantee the future.
There was once an old farmer who listened to his pastor preach on this passage and had him over for dinner after.  He took the preacher on a walk and said, "Pastor, I worked all of my life on this land.  Do you mean to tell me that it's not my land, that it's the Lord's?"  The preacher wisely said, "ask me in a hundred years."  "Praise is the rent we owe to God; and, the larger the farm, the greater the rent."

 Martin Luther said, "I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands--that, I still possess."  Richard Foster says, "when we lack a Divine Center our need for security leads us to an insane attachment to things."  Stuff.  Our possessions possess us.

It is a almost a contrary notion that we are to be rich towards God.  There's nothing we can give to impress God, but He hates a stingy spirit.  In what ways can we be rich toward God?  I'm praying for a family member who wrote a title check today for the first time: by giving that tithe, there is no money left to buy cigarettes.  She is quitting by giving.  Though poor, she is rich toward God.  In the tithe, the dime out of the dollar or the ten out of the hundred, or the hundred out of the thousand, it is hard to give the large amount unless we've been faithful in the small amount, rich toward God. 

I'm looking forward to our Ladies study this fall with Ann VosKamp's "One Thousand Gifts."  It is a lesson in gratitude, a life of eucharist, which is thankfulness to God.  That is what God desires, our offering of gratefulness.   In that, we can be lavish!

"We who live with hands closed have lost all gold.
We who live with hands wide open have more than a thousand fold."
 
"Never hold onto anything tighter than you are holding onto God."
 
"If you desire many things,
many things will seem few."
Benjamin Franklin
 
 

 
Different views of Arundel Castle
 
A flag would be flown from the castle when the king was home to receive visitors. 
An Englishman, Rev. Staniforth, taught us this song:
"Love is the flag flown high from the castle of my heart
when the king is in residence there.  So let it fly in the sky so the whole world knows
that the king is in residence there."
 
Lesson over.  Now you can make spit wads.

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