Monday, 19 September 2016

Our choice of master

Have you ever been torn by two conflicting thoughts or two conflicting demands on your life? This quite often arises within families, 'I want to go to the football' and 'I want to lie on the beach' scenarios or in work 'You need to reduce your overheads' and 'You need to buy more goods to reach your target'.  In trying to obtain some sort of balance, aiming for the both / and, we compromise on both demands one way or another.  This is perhaps what confronts our poor manager in the story related by Luke (16.1-13) trying to compromise for the benefit of all parties.  This often leads to pain and heartache or else a very unfulfilled life for ourselves.

In a way we are here talking about two houses.  An investment house and one that you actually live in or propose to live in.  The majority of us will spend more time and more money on the house we live in.  Indeed our commitment is to that house precisely for that reason.  Our investment will often only get the needed attention when and if it is required rather than a day to day commitment.  We often have agents or even rely on our renters, if we have any, to care for the second property.  The problem is that in most cases they will not see any need to lavish attention on the property as it does not belong to them.  Their commitment is to keep you happy, provide rent and ensure that the house is livable to provide the income.  That means that at some point we will have to either sell on the investment or else spend more money on it to bring it back up to the state at which it should be.  While we may have had a short term investment that has given us an immediate gratification it may not yield a long term gratification and eventually become an albatross around our necks.

Is our faith home an albatross?

In our faith journey we are invited to invest in two houses at baptism.  The first house is our own well being and what we do in the world.  The second is our faith journey and our interaction with God that grants to us the privilege of  having God's grace and love in our lives. We cannot neglect either house and indeed sometimes both houses need an injection of our time, financial and service commitments Yet, in looking at our investment in the religious institution to which we belong we are much like second home buyers with little interest in the property.  Our focus is on the lives that we lead and our need to have gratification immediately rather than looking to a future.  We do not invest for ourselves but for our community and a vision that is based on a future that is bright with promise and peace.

There are of course two dimensions for us to consider in this especially when it comes to our faith life and the journey we began at baptism.  In undertaking a faith journey we acknowledge the need to commit ourselves to a journey that is embedded in the spiritual but has a firm foundation within our physical lives.  The spiritual side of our journey is one that takes us towards God, it confirms and enables us when we trust in God's presence and give ourselves to that presence wholeheartedly.  The moment we fall away from that trust and that commitment in our spiritual lives we begin to tumble into despair and find things harder and harder to do.  The physical side of our journey moves us towards service rather than concentrating on the spiritual.  The turn here is towards a commitment towards a physical offering of ourselves above anything else.  In indulging on our physical undertakings we pour ourselves into things that we can do while at the same time neglecting our own well being such that we become dependant on others for our own well being and care.

In both cases we come to a dependence on others.  Instead it is we who should be utilising both sides of our inheritance in God to give of ourselves sacrificially for others, including those in our faith community.  Each week at the end of our communion with God we offer ourselves as living sacrifices and if we are true to this offer it comes in both the physical and the spiritual sense.  Not only must we commit to our spiritual lives and sacrifice ourselves in a deep manner to the things of God but we should also be sacrificing our worldly comforts for the sake of God's mission in the world.  The other side of this is that we must ensure that our sacrifice is working for God's promises and not for someone else's pockets.  This means that we should be committing ourselves to our institutions to which we belong and participating in every way possible to be part of the ongoing development and working out of our role in God's plan.  If we sit back and allow others to work we are no better than those who have removed God from their lives.  We are the hands and feet of God in our community we cannot allow ourselves to rest when God is working.

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