Sermon Notes for 28 September 2008
Still thinking about the traumatic financial crisis which is gripping this country and affecting the world.
The good news is really in the first line of today’s epistle:
(2 Corinthians 4:6) It is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Though St. Paul refers to the Genesis 1 story of creation, it is a message of hope in every generation. There are many kinds of darkness which can take over our lives – the darkness of sin, of natural disasters, of war/invasion, of plague/pandemic, of economic disaster, of manmade disaster, of depression.
God still commands light to shine out of darkness. Darkness does not overcome God’s light, though we might experience the darkness as real, and the light as vague hope or even distant delusion.
Darkness does not overcome the light, though darkness can oppressively last for years as witnessed by the Jews, and many others through the centuries.
This is why it is important that we not contribute to the darkness by our political decisions!
[that God commands light to shine out of the darkness tells me that the basis for light is spiritual not material. The basis for existence is spiritual not material. In fact the basis for the material world is spiritual as well. The Big Bang (used by science as a description of the beginning of the known/empirical universe) is from what we can know light emerging out of the nothing. The basis of the empirical universe is not found in matter but in the nothing which precedes matter, from our point of view, from the spiritual, from God!]
(Luke 5:1-11) Jesus  saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. …  Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Economic downturns and disasters have been known to humanity as long as human social systems existed – famine, flood, draught, invasion, insect plagues, disease, warfare have all taken their toll on human fortune and fortunes. And in a time when there were no hourly employees, as the apostles knew, you could work long hours, but if you produced nothing, you earned nothing. The fisherman are washing their nets – they have to continue working and cleaning up and repairing even when they earn nothing! Economic demands are pitiless.
The Gospels are full of stories about bad financial decisions, unscrupulous financiers (the publicans! Zacchaeus!), money lenders, people who got rich off the miseries of others. There is no Parable of the Good Merchant. The Gospels say a lot about debt, debtors, the rich, the prosperous. People were very familiar with poverty, taxes, financial disaster and economic oppressors. Christ’s followers knew very well what it was to work hard and long and to have nothing to show for it. He who won’t work, doesn’t eat – but even those who work hard might not have anything to eat in this system!
 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.  So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. … Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”  When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Note in the story, Jesus doesn’t ask the disciples to abandon their business when things had failed – when they worked hard and had nothing to show for it. He asks them to follow Him after the hugely successful catch of fish. He asks them to abandon prosperity to follow Him, not to abandon poverty and failure! The disciples don’t leave behind their empty nets, but rather their enriching catch to follow Jesus.
While we may all feel the need to turn to God during times of economic downturn seeking His merciful intervention, it is in times of prosperity that we are most tempted to forget not only to thank God, but that God exists.
In Washington politicians may work out a bailout plan for the troubled financial market and their agencies of wealth (gained and lost), but whatever ideas they implement are themselves fraught with risks and offer no guarantee of success and might in fact exacerbate the problem.
Prayer in bad economic times offers no risk, except that it might go unanswered. On the other hand, it might turn God to attend to us, but at the minimum will make us attend to God.