Archive for August, 2007

bargaining with God part 2

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

Proper 14C
Genesis 15:1-6
Psalm 33:12-15, 18-22
Hebrews 11:1-16
Luke 12:32-40

In the Genesis reading, Abram again argues with God. The New American Bible translates Abram’s response to God’s promise as something like, “What good are your gifts to me, since I have no heir?” God has just promised Abram the spoils of war (Do not fear, I am your shield. Your reward shall be great). Abram wonders what good that will do him.

Abram understands a basic truth about material wealth. It does the owner no good if he or she can’t share it. Only when used as a gift will wealth increase one’s status in a community. That was the problem with man whose fields produced so richly in Luke’s story last week. He wanted to hoard all his wealth in his barns. Even though Abram understands that wealth must be shared, nevertheless he doubts God’s ability to provide good. I wonder how often we do the same thing: say to God, “What good is all this you have given me, since . . .” Fill in the blank. We tend to set conditions on God’s goodness. None of the rest of God’s grace matters, because that one thing we hope for isn’t so. We see the one thing wrong among all that is right.

God responds to Abram in a surprising way. Go outside and look at the stars. God’s goodness is as sure and as vast as the stars. Essentially God says to Abram, “Get yourself out of the center of the picture, and you’ll see the goodness around you.”

The passage from Hebrews says the same thing. All these people had faith and looked for a city with foundations. They looked for the community of God. We never get to that city, but we always look for it.

The passage from Luke is a real mish mash. It seems to be grouped around the ideas of treasure, delay and thieves, following after the man who built bigger barns and exhortations not to worry. Heavenly treasure is material wealth used as gift. When it circulates, it builds up a balance of exchange as gift. It connects us in a network of mutual indebtedness. Nothing can corrupt that. In that network of relationships, the master is not shamed to serve the slave. The return of the master from his wedding feast, serving his slave is a picture of the reversal of the eschatological banquet. That’s the city our forebears anticipated. That’s the network we build in which we store heavenly treasure.