YES! It’s Sunday. Whooo hoo! Yeah we made it. It’s Sunday, not your birthday!
Why I am so excited, so pumped that it’s Sunday?
No it’s not just that there’s a Packers game at noon.
It’s worship. Well OK-I’m your pastor, that’s what I’m supposed to say.
Really, I’m happy that it’s Sunday because. The world didn’t end yet. A Christian group by the name of eBible Fellowship, in its reading of the bible had predicted that the world would end on Oct. 7, 2015. That was Wednesday. Today is Sunday! Yay, the world did not end .
Because there is no way I would be ready for that.
You know there’s all those doomsday preppers show’s on TV. Lately my two boys have been watching this one called Doomsday Castle. This show is about an ex-army guy and his adult children building a castle in some undisclosed location to pepare for the end of days. They have food, equipment, and weapons, and guns. They have everything.
Except. Happiness. I’ve had to endure watching this show, and let me tell you, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone crack a smile. Laughter, joy are in short supply. I think I can safely say these are not some happy people.
Which I think is kind of ironic, because isn’t that what this country is founded upon. It says it right there in our very Declaration of Independence -“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”
According to this country’s founding document God wants us to be happy.
Jesus came to make us happy right? That’s what happened in our gospel story right?
Jesus did not make that rich guy who came to Jesus, who wanted to follow Jesus, the one we just read about in our gospel story from Mark. He wasn’t real happy. We know that when he left Jesus he was sad, other translations say his face fell; he was grieving.
Because Jesus told him what?
“you lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me”
And then Jesus confounds his disciples back then and still us today with all this talk of how difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.
Isn’t it funny that with all the various chapters, verses, with all the various commands that we, that our culture has tended to take literally–I mean to really seriously this (with the fewest of exceptions) is not one.
Our country tells us that wealth is good, especially if it’s our wealth–then it’s really good. Because money, money does all sorts of things doesn’t it. Money can buy us all sorts of stuff.
A really funny thing happened as I was working on this sermon. One day this week a phrase kind of popped into my head. The phrase is “money buys happiness”, and I’m thinking you know think I heard something on NPR about this, and so I started digging around on the internet and you know what? You know what I learned? I was wrong. What is the phrase? “Money can’t buy happiness”. That’s the real phrase.
Now this isn’t some new-anti capitalism. It’s old, really old, like 500 years before Jesus, Greek philosopher old– Democritus, said “Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.” And, “By desiring little, a poor man makes himself rich.” or if you don’t want anyone so “foreign”
Good old Benjamin Franklin said “Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has, the more one wants.”
Yes, I got it wrong. I am big enough to admit. But our country our culture? I wonder if it’s too big to fail, or too big to admit failure. Because nation, people — money can’t buy happiness.
So, perhaps what the rich man lacked–remember Jesus says to him–hey buddy with all the wealth that you have, with being so rich and full of your righteousness, you lack one thing.
I think that one thing was happiness.
And Jesus way before, thousands of years before the latest studies, knew that the only way that money can buy happiness is to give it away. Now we have learned with all our studies and science that using money for the benefit of others actually makes people feel good–giving money to/for others makes us happy. The only way that money can make us actually feel good–be happy. Is if we give it away, use our money for others. In other words, generous people are happy and happy people are generous people.
And, it’s because they are not just thinking about themselves. Perhaps that’s what’s wrong with our country. We just want to make and keep ourselves happy. And by gum, we are going to do that, by hook or by crook we are not going to let anyone get or steal our happy. We are going to protect it, protect ourselves. It’s my right.
And so we use our money to build bigger and better castles and we fill our homes with fancy goods and guns till we are armed to the teeth, and beware of anyone who’s going to take away our happy. We are going to hold on to it, protect it, till it makes us miserable or kills us. till it seems like it’s impossible to get guns out of our homes, off the streets. But impossibility does not hinder our God.
I guess reading this story tells us that well, Jesus is not a good American. Today the words of Jesus, it is harder for the rich and wealthy to enter the kingdom, than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. That word of God using the language from our reading from Hebrews–that word is like a two edged sword to cut away at our American, or self-focused way of life. It means to cut away the things we use to protect ourselves, to justify ourselves, to separate us–the haves from the have nots, the prepared from the un-prepared, the worthy from the unworthy, righteous from unrighteous. God does the impossible. God gives us true freedom. No more will our money buy us a false sense of security. No more will our money buy us distance and distraction. God does the impossible; only God can free us from prepping to meet our maker. Because God does the impossible; God pours and pushes, squeezes and squishes into our world to be with us. The impossibility of Divine desire for us–God’s love enfleshed in Jesus. And Jesus throws open the castle doors (whether you imagine one of gold up in the sky or right here made up of justice and peace) Jesus throws the doors open and says come on in, and the impossibility continues. It does not stop, it does not run out. There is room upon room, space, and place for each and every one of you–poor, rich, young, and old, addict and politician. And we join all creation laughing at the impossibility possibility of no exceptions, no exclusions, of camels and needles or love, grace, and salvation, and we will declare with undeserved and unreserved, Oh happy Day. O happy Day. Amen