The love of money

Can we clear something up?  “Money is the root of all evil,” is not an ancient proverb.  It isn’t an old saying.  It is just a bad paraphrase of what “Paul” actually said to “Timothy” toward the tale end of his “first letter.”  The actual saying that people are trying to recall when they ignorantly say “money is the root of all evil” is “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…”  Yet, that isn’t even the whole sentence.  We’ll get to that in a minute, let’s look at this piece of text a little more closely.

Philarguria – the Greek word translated “love of money.”  Prior to looking this up, I assumed it was two words, but there it is, a single word that means “a greedy disposition love of money, avarice, covetousness.”  It is a pseudo-hapaxlegomenon, appearing in the Canon only here in 1 Tim 6.10.  It also shows up in the Apocryphal book 4th Maccabees in a section that sounds like it could have been written by an Enlightenment philosopher or perhaps even Richard Dawkins, subtitled in BibleWorks as “The Supremacy of Reason”, “In the soul it is boastfulness, covetousness, thirst for honor, rivalry, and malice;…”  It obviously has roots in philos, which is one of the four Greek words that gets translated as “love” in English Bibles.

Rhiza – the Greek word translated as “root,” which has deeper connotations as it also can mean shoot or offspring.  The love of money is a basis of and chief provider for

and here’s where my Greek transliteration gets fuzzy

Panaton ton kakon – the Greek phrase (very loosely transliterated) that is translated as “all kinds of evil,” but is more literally “all the evils.”  An internet meme waiting to happen.

The Young’s Literal Translation captures it best, “a root of all the evils is the love of money…”

It is a pithy saying and one that is easily repeated and often misquoted, but the deeper question that goes unaddressed in remembering only half of 1 Timothy 6.10, is “why?”  Why is the love of money a root for all the evils?  The answer is “in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”  As I said in last week’s sermon, the pursuit of wealth is quite possibly the single strongest opponent to faith in God.  It distracts us from the work of the kingdom, which, more often than not, invites us to give our stuff away, to share it with our brothers and sister, and, most assuredly, calls us to care for the poor, outcast, widowed, and orphaned.

Money isn’t the root of all evil. The love of money takes our attention away from God’s dream and focuses it squarely on ourselves. As Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame (and my doppleganger) is prone to say, “Well, there’s your problem.”

I love good foreshadowing

We are well into our trip with Jesus on his single-minded journey to Jerusalem.  Yet, we still have a good two months to go until Advent arrives and the new Church Year begins.  It’ll be six months or more until we arrive at Holy Week and hear the end of the story, and by then, we’ll be in Matthew’s Gospel.  So, it is helpful to get a reminder every once in a while of what is really going on in the lengthy trip we’re taking with Jesus.

This Sunday’s Gospel lesson gives the preacher a good opportunity to reflect on where we’re going.  The story itself is eminently preachable, You’ve got a chance to talk about Hades and hell and the reason why one is referenced in this parable and not the other.  You can preach about the disparity between the rich and poor.  You can try to dance around works righteousness in a parable the sounds an awful lot like, “if you help the poor you go to heaven.”  And of course there is the, “if you read the Bible, you’ll know what you should do” line from Father Abraham.  Any one of these could be 12 minutes of gold, but what strikes my fancy here on Monday afternoon is the foreshadowing that Jesus sneaks into the parable right at the end.

The rich man, sometimes called Dives, is arguing with Abraham about warning his five brothers of their impending doom and says, a’la Ebeneezer Scrooge, “if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.”  Father Abraham replies, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

What a scathing accusation for Jesus to make as he approaches Jerusalem and the cross.  He has began to argue more frequently with the Pharisees and Scribes.  They think Moses and Prophets say one thing, but Jesus suggests they are saying something very different (Sounds like our current religio-political climate).  The Scribes and Pharisees simply close their ears and shout “I can’t hear you!”  The underlying assumption for them is that if God really wanted to get their attention, he will, but what Jesus knows and foreshadows in this parable, is that even a man coming back from the dead won’t change the minds of those who have closed their eyes, ears, and hearts to the Lord.  We are still en route to Jerusalem this week, and I’m thankful that Jesus snuck a reminder in to his parable.

Shrewdness at 815, The Missionary Society, and Unrighteous Mammon

As an Episcopalian, the past 24 hours have been interesting for me.  Now, to be clear, when I say “as and Episcopalian,” I don’t mean the faith that is between me and my Lord.  I don’t mean the community bonds that exist between me and my Episcopal congregation.  I don’t even mean the ties I have to my Bishop and the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, where, as a member of the clergy, my membership rests.  No, when I claim to be an Episcopalian, I do so with the fullness of its meaning in mind.  I am part of something bigger than me and my congregation.  I engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them.  I take my part in the councils of the Church.  I care about what happens at 815 2nd Avenue.

Over the last 24 hours, I’ve been reminded about how all of that solidifies just how strange I am.  As a colleague of mine quoted on Facebook yesterday, “scratch any American Christian and you’ll find Congregational blood.”  I’m trying to bleed Episcopal red, but the truth of the matter is that most of our members don’t give a rip about what happens beyond their parish bounds.  Hell, I’d say most clergy don’t care about it either.  They show up to Diocesan functions when Canon requires (and when they can’t find a viable excuse to violate Canon), but very few give much thought to what goes on outside of their congregations, let alone their diocese.

It was with all that floating around my brain that I stumbled across a post on Episcopal Cafe about a name change at the top of our Church, that apparently nobody noticed.  On July 25, 2013, Episcopal News Service published a story entitled, “COO Bishop Sauls announced innovative missionary program to connect Episcopal Church dioceses, staff.”  Mired deep in the article was what some are calling a re-branding, others a name change, and still others “a terrible idea” that the staff members of The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (the official corporate name of The Episcopal Church, despite the fact that it only gets used on checks and nobody, aside from me perhaps, really likes it) would refer to her henceforth as “The Missionary Society.”  I suppose in the same way that Ohio State alums call it “The Ohio State Univeristy,” or University of Miami alums call it “The U.”

What this renaming effort effectively amounts to is one more attempt, among several (see the sale of 815 and staff restructuring, for example), by Chief Operating Officer, The Right Reverend Stacy Sauls, at restructuring the Church on his own, with a strong nod, I believe to the House of Bishops, and by means of shrewdness and the mammon of unrighteousness.  This may seem to be too stark a commentary on the matter, but it seems to me that while the majority of the Church is acting like congregationalists, The Powers-That-Be are taking the money that we call “a gift to God” for use “in the ministry of the Church” and frittering it away on outdated systems of governance, management, and, in the case of the sale of 815 saga, the ridiculous idea that The Episcopal Church having a presence in mid-town Manhattan means anything to anyone outside of some staffers who make nice salaries because of cost of living and some Bishops who covet the Presiding Bishop’s apartment.  The 77th General Convention, along with several others, resoundingly voted in favor of a resolution stating that it was “the mind of the convention” that the headquarters of the DFMS or 815 or The Episcopal Church, or, God forgive me, The Missionary Society, should be relocated from 815 2nd Avenue in as financially prudent and expediently a way as possible.  Instead, Bishop Sauls has attempted to circumvent that system in a reported dated February 13, and The Executive Council sub-committee tasked with looking into it, will no doubt be over run by the UTO debacle, Church naming questions, and whatever the TREC folks have up their sleeves half-way into the triennium.  By the time the 78th General Convention rolls around, it’ll be another suggestion swept into the circular filing cabinet underneath the Presiding Bishop’s desk.  The Church will continue to waste money that our people have given to the glory of God for the ministry of the Church, and, unfortunately, nobody will care.

The time has come for us to wake up and either decide to disband the Church in the name of congregationalism or to BE The Episcopal Church and live into what it means to be an international Church of Jesus Christ.  If we really don’t care about being a part of the Church catholic, then let’s quit pretending, quit funneling money up the pyramid scheme of the Church, and go about local ministry.  But if we are serious about being The Episcopal Church, then let’s call our leaders to task when they attempt to ignore or worse, actively circumvent the mind of the Church.  Let’s hold them accountable for the proper use of our resources.  Let’s make sure that we are poised to serve the Kingdom as true missionaries of the Gospel for the 21st Century.  I am an Episcopalian, and I’m proud of that fact.  I hope some of you are too.  Let’s use our own shrewdness and the mammon of unrighteousness entrusted to our care to change the Church to meet the road ahead.

Grant us Lord, not to be anxious…

This is the prayer on the lips and in the hearts of every preacher who is opening the Lectionary for the first time this morning and finding out that Proper 20, Year C is THE  SUNDAY!  The Sunday that we are challenged with the Parable of the Dishonest Manager.  The Sermon Brainwave gurus tell me that none other than Rudolf Bultmann calls this “The problem child of parable exegesis.”  It is, without a doubt, a really tough lesson to understand for one’s self, let alone to attempt to preach about for a congregation filled with people from every stratus of the socio-economic ladder.  How do you preach about wealth to the single mother who is barely scraping by?  How do you preach about it to the DINKS trying to decide whether to travel to New Zealand or Iceland for their next ridiculously amazing vacation?

Perhaps even more importantly, how do you preach Jesus’ words, “And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.”  This parable seriously challenges us, and 2,000 years later, we’re still not sure what to do with it.

My friend and colleague, The Rev. Evan Garner, blogged this morning about staying on the surface with this passage.  You should read his post, it is a good place to start, but I’ve suggested to him that by staying on the surface, we miss the impact of parable as literary time bomb.  At some point after hearing this lesson read, after it sits and stews in our gray matter for a while, this parable will pop back up, raising all sorts of deep theological and philosophical questions, that the preacher, hopefully, should be prepared to help answer.

I’ve planted the bomb in my brain this morning.  Now to wait, hopefully without much anxiety (thanks to the Collect), for the meaning to explode from within.

What’s It All About?

Last night, Draughting Theology, the real-life get together restarted for the fall.  Fourteen of us gathered behind the bar at our local O’Charley’s to begin to discuss our topic for the fall: “Where is the Church headed?”  The underlying question, it seems to me, is “is the Church relevant?”  Does it matter at all?  If your congregation closed its doors tomorrow, would anybody notice?  Or, for that matter, if the Church (universal) ceased to be tomorrow, would it really matter?

We went back and forth on these questions, especially as they relate to the local community.  At one point we found ourselves asking the perennial question of the relationship between mission and evangelism.  Is the Church relevant if it makes an impact that nobody can see?  Is the Church relevant if it doesn’t stake its claim on the impact it has clearly made?  Is the Church relevant only if impact and evangelism are hand-in-hand?  As someone asked last night, “What is our job?  Is it to feed people or preach Jesus?”

Maybe it’s both.

Certainly, it’s both.

This all came to mind as I read the Epistle lesson for Sunday, as Paul articulates to Peter, as clear as day, what the faith of the Church rests upon, “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…”  He did it through social action: healing, feeding, caring, and advocating.  And he did it through evangelism: preaching, teaching, and, most importantly, listening.  Social action without the Gospel is a nice civic organization.  Evangelism without service is seed strewn upon rocky ground, destined to be choked out by hunger or oppression.  The fact of the matter is that Jesus Christ came to save sinners: from hell on earth and in the hereafter.

Post No. 1,500!

According to the good people at WordPress, this post is number 1,500 in the life of Draughting Theology.  Somehow, over the course of the last seven years and four months, I’ve found 1,500 things to write about.  Thanks be to God that the Scriptures are living and active so that there is always something new to say about God’s ongoing self-revelation in and with and through each of us.

I realized this feat late yesterday afternoon and asked my Facebook friends if they had any suggestions for the big post.  Mostly, they were smart alecks, suggesting topics they knew would get me riled up, but I’ve decided to address all of their challenges quickly today before moving on to a more serious post.

  • Thoughts on the Oxford Movement? – In its original intent as a holiness revival with the Church of England, I can find not fault with the Oxford Movement, but as is always the case, the second and third generation took it to an extreme that its founders probably never imagined.  So Oxford Movement – generally good.  2nd Generation Ritualism – bad.
  • Low Churchman’s Guide to Anglicanism – Read the 1549 Prayer Book and notice what Cranmer was trying to do before the influences of the mainland ruined the 1552 iteration.
  • 1,500 more – I will with God’s help.
  • Free Will or whether pets go to heaven – nope, not gonna get sucked in.
  • Video Blog – I don’t like the sound of my own voice on our sermon podcasts, ain’t no way I’m gonna video tape myself.
  • A Satirical High Churchman’s guide to the low church celebration of communion – that would be fun, but the target market is quite small.
  • Scrabble – it goes with the header – A little known fact about me is that I was a member of the Scrabble Club in High School.  I was terrible at it then and still am now, but it was as silly a club as any for all of my friends to sign up for en masse.
  • 24 hours of glory and praise in the middle of the muck – leave it to my Rector to offer a serious challenge, I’ll come back to this in a moment.
  • When are you going to write your *expletive* book – I’m guessing never, I just don’t see anyone paying to read what I have to say.  The truth of the matter is that I would write this blog even if nobody read it.  It has become a part of my spiritual discipline.  When I miss my four posts a week, as I’ve done often recently, I notice it.  Life isn’t the same if I’m not engaged in reading and writing on the Scriptures.  I’m doubly blessed that a handful of you read this thing each day, that you keep me accountable to write, and that you pray for me when I’m absent.  Thank you.

Now, back to TKT’s challenge: 24 hours of glory and praise in the middle of the muck.  I feel like maybe this is how I can begin to understand how Jesus would be so bold as to leave the 99 behind in order to find one lost sheep.  Every time my phone has rung recently it has been either bad news or an expensive fix or both.  Moving in to a brand new house should have been a joyful experience, but instead it has been one headache after another.  So today, thanks to Keith’s challenge, I’m leaving the 99 problems behind to seek after that one bit of good news: God loves me and cares for me and is walking with me.  Who knows, by the end of today, maybe heaven will rejoice as I once again turn from my sin of worry and stress and frustration and self-centeredness and return to the fold of God’s presence.  It all starts with thanksgiving.

So thank you dear reader for being a part of my life.

They Grumble. I Give Thanks.

I love the way the Gospel lesson for Sunday opens up.  It follows quickly on the heels of Jesus’ attempt at reverse marketing that we heard read last Sunday, where he listed all sorts of things that would keep someone from being his disciple.  You know, stuff like: family, life, and material possessions.  It seems amazing then that two verses later, we hear that “All the tax collectors and sinners were coming to listen to Jesus.”  Seems they had nothing to lose.

The Pharisees and Scribes, however, were not impressed.  Luke tells us they were “grumbling” about with whom Jesus was hanging out.  “This fellow welcomes sinners!  He eats with them!”  This is not the way a proper Rabbi was supposed to act.  They knew it.  Jesus knew it.  Even the sinners and tax collectors knew it.  Which is probably why they chose to hang out with Jesus in the first place.

The Pharisees and Scribes grumble at Jesus’ choice in road trip mates, but I give thanks.  If he didn’t welcome sinners and eat with them, I’d be up a creek without a paddle.  There’d be no salvation for me.  There’d be no hope for the future.  And the eating thing is big in the Church, even more so in sacramental churches like The Episcopal Church, in which I am ordained as a priest, commissioned to feed from the Lord’s Table sinners and the outcast.

Thank God that Jesus hung out with people like me.  Thank God he chose to eat with them.  Thank God he gave up his life for them.