Stewardship and the Wealthiest Nation on Earth

The earth is the LORD’s and the fulness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein; for he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the rivers.  (Psalm 24:1-2, quoted at the burial commital)

For “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”   (1 Corinthians 10:26)

The Fathers‘ fundamental understanding of property was as gift or more often as a loan, something that God has given to the rich for use of all.  Every owner is therefore a steward, someone charged with the social administration of goods for the benefit of one’s poorer brethren.  When they refuse to share, the wealthy become evil and, paradoxically, thieves with respect to their own property, for they divert it from its proper destination and thus have deprived it of its being a loan for social use.

St John Chrysostom was the most radical, truly an apostle of social ethics. ‘The rich are stealing from the poor even if what they have is honestly acquired or legally inherited.’  ‘In refusing to give and to share we thus earn the punishment of thieves.  We are as guilty as the tax collectors who use the money of all for their own needs.’  ‘The rich are a kind of robber.’  ‘Do not say, I enjoy what is mine.  You are enjoying the property of others.  All the things of this earth belong to all of us together, just as the sun, the air, the ground and everything else.’  Even later, in the eleventh century, St Simeon the New Theologian would echo what St John Chrysostom said in his homilies. ‘Money and all other goods are the common property of all,  just as the light and the air we breath.’

… The sole owner of the earth is the Lord and this is why the earth is holy and belongs to all.”  (Paul Evdokimov, IN THE WORLD, OF THE CHURCH, pp 82-83)

… your Father who is in heaven… makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  (Matthew 5:45)

The Maker of Heaven and Earth

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light; true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made..  (Nicene Creed, emphases added)

In the Nicene Creed we profess a belief that God created everything and everyone.  St John Chrysostom says this fact has an implication for all of us and how we approach the created world we live in (as stewards entrusted with God’s property gifted to us) and how we approach all the people we encounter (as fellow neighbors sharing God’s earth).  For Chrysostom there is only one thing we really own – our good deeds.  Our deeds are our only true possession and the only thing we really can offer to God.

“… Chrysostom … felt that there was but one owner of all things in the world – God Himself, the Maker of all.  Strictly speaking, no private property should exist at all.  Everything belongs to God.  Everything is loaned rather than given by God in trust to man, for God’s purposes.  Chrysostom would add: Everything is God’s except the good deeds of man – it is the only thing that man can own.

As everything belongs to God, our common master, everything is given for common use.  Is it not true even of worldly things? Cities, market-places, streets – are they not a common possession?  God’s economy is  of the same kind.  Water, air sun and moon, and the rest of creation, are intended for common use.  Quarrels begin usually when people attempt to appropriate things which, by their very nature, were not intended for the private possession of some, to the exclusion of others. …

Chrysostom was after justice in defense of human dignity.  Was not every man created in God’s image?  Did God not wish salvation and conversion of every single man, regardless of his position in life, and even regardless of his behavior in the past?  All are called to repentance, and all can repent.  There was, however, no neglect of material things in his preaching.  Material goods come also from God, and they are not bad in themselves.  What is bad, is only the unjust use of goods, to the profit of some, while others are left starving.  The answer is love. Love is not selfish, ‘is not ambitious, is not self-seeking.‘ ” (Georges Florovsky, ASPECTS OF CHURCH HISTORY Vol 4, pp 84-85)

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Sermon 31 October 1993

Sermon Notes from 31 October 1993

Luke 9:43-50

And they were all amazed at (overwhelmed by) the majesty of God (the might God showed in this deed). But while everyone marveled at all the things which Jesus did, He said to His disciples, “Let these words sink down into your ears (pay close attention), for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men (handed over to human power).” But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.

Then a dispute arose among them (Instead, they began to discuss) as to which of them would be greatest.

And Jesus, perceiving the thought of (the calculation of) their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.”Now John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.”

Did anyone notice anything unusual about this morning’s Gospel reading?

Since we are preparing for our Annual Parish Meeting and today is Vocation’s Sunday in the OCA, I wanted us to look at a text that speaks to issues of leadership and vocation.

This Gospel lesson shows some sharp contrasts between what our Lord wanted His disciples to focus on and what they wanted to talk about. This is an important lesson for us to remember at our Annual parish meeting.

The story opened with everyone being amazed at the majesty of God because of the miracles Jesus was doing. And while everyone is being so amazed at Jesus’ divine power, the Lord speaks to them about his imminent death on the cross.

While the disciples are all starry eyed looking at Jesus, he tells them almost sternly, “Let these words sink into your ears…”   While their hearts are bubbly and excited, Jesus wants them to get a grip on themselves and to PAY ATTENTION! Let my words penetrate into your hearts & not remain out in the air somewhere. The lesson he offered them is the same He offers us – “Yes I am revealing the majesty, glory and power of God to you, and I am going to continue to do so by being nailed to a cross and killed by the Romans.”

It is a hard lesson for us all. While we all like the lessons which promise us prosperity, peace, love, eternal life and God’s unending favor and Kingdom, Jesus tells us that being nailed to the cross is also part of the plan of salvation. There is no other way to the Kingdom then through the cross. We who make decisions at the Parish Meeting must keep this in mind. The way of Christ Jesus is the way of the Cross. A heart breaking love and self-sacrifice are God’s way.

We can note the reaction of the disciples to these words. The disciples immediately get into a dispute as to who is the greatest. They are unwilling to discuss their Lord’s sufferings, but eager to debate their rank. My friends let us in this community learn the lesson that the apostles could not grasp at this point of their ministry.

Our power, our greatness, is not something that derives from our own goodness nor from our good intentions nor even from the good things God has given us. Our power, our opportunity to be great comes from understanding and embracing the mission on which Christ Jesus has sent us. Namely to bring the Gospel to all people, to teach all that the Lord Jesus has taught us, and to baptize all nations. That mission we must always remember, for in that mission is your and my salvation.

As the Lord taught, greatness comes from receiving God’s commission, from doing the will of God, not from any rank or recognition the world or even the church bestows upon us.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta is oft quoted as saying, “The Lord did not call us to be successful but to be faithful.” She has grasped the Lord’s intent, as we should also.

We should not be threatened by the success of others, nor by the fact that others seem to have power we don’t, nor by the fact that others outside of the church may do great and godly deeds, nor by the fact that the world may praise others outside the church for doing good works more then they praise us.

If we remain faithful to the Great Commission that the Lord has given us, we will be doing well, no matter how others succeed or fail, no matter how the world may judge us.

So, Let us hear the word of God and graciously and thankfully do it.

Then let us depart in peace into the world to accomplish God’s will.