Monday, August 5, 2019


St. Thomas may have been a doubter 
           because he was a bit crafty himself.
A legend, not in the Bible, shows Thomas and Jesus 
           both with a crafty side. 
The story goes that after the Resurrection, 
         Thomas staid around Jerusalem.
One day on the street, he met the Risen Lord,
            and Jesus said, 
           Thomas I’d like you to take the gospel to India.
Thomas said, No way! Those people don’t speak Aramaic.
            They don’t keep kosher. They dress funny. 
             I’m staying here. 

Next week, as Tomas was walking downtown,
            he saw Jesus across the street talking 
            with a slave trader.
The slave trader handed Jesus a wad of cash 
          and walked over to Thomas.

The slave trader said, 
             That man over there says you belong to him.
            Is that right?
I suppose I do, Thomas sighed.
Good, the slave trader said, because he just sold you to me
and you’ll be on the next boat to India.

Thomas, an architect by trade, was sold to a wealthy raja
            who wanted him to build the most glorious palace 
             in the land.
Thomas said, Ok but we’ll need construction costs.
The raja gave Thomas a huge sum of money. 
Once outside, Thomas gave all the money to the poor.

After a few months, 
        the raja asked how his palace was coming.
Thomas said there had been some delays 
and the construction funds were exhausted.
The raja gave him another substantial sum,
            which Tomas promptly gave away as charity. 

After this happened several times, the raja lost patience, 
            and shouted,
I don’t care how incomplete it may be. 
insist on seeing my palace now!
Thomas replied, Well raja, it’s like this. 
                          You can’t see it yet.
            There was nowhere on earth worthy 
             of a palace fit for you.
            So I built you a palace in heaven 
            by giving your money to the poor.
The raja looked at Thomas with a puzzled expression,
            trying to take in what he was hearing, then said, 
           Ok, thank you. 
The raja got it because his religious tradition understood             
            the illusion and futility of worldly projects 
             like palace building. 
Jews knew it too.
For all is vanity and chasing after the wind, Ecclesiastes said.
The word translated as vanity is the Hebrew hebel, 
            which literally means a mist, a vapor. 
All is vapor and chasing after the wind. 

Similarly, in our Gospel lesson, 
         the fool is bumping up against futility.
He’s just in denial about it 
        – wanting to build more silos to store up wealth
 for his security. 
He’s saving for a raining day, planning for his retirement, 
trying to secure a good life for himself.  
Jesus doesn’t call him a bad man, just a foolish one,
            because he’s building his palace 
            on a foundation of vapor.

It’s a question of where we invest our lives.
Money, career, romance, acquiring influence, 
         reputation, power  
-- there are plenty of entertaining options. 
But Ecclesiastes calls all the world’s projects the same thing
 – vanity, a mist, chasing the wind. 
St. James agreed, saying  our life Is 
            a vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. 
But we spend all our time and energy  
        trying to shore up the illusion 
that life can be made solid and dependable. 

When the fragile, transitory nature of things shows itself,
            we panic and scurry to shore up the illusion. 
As Paul Simon put it,
            And so I’ll continue to continue to pretend
            my life will never end
            and flowers never bend with the rainfall. 

But suppose the transitoriness of life,
            the futility of our striving and acquisition,
            our anxiety, frustration, and despair 
            are the gateway to God?

In The Wisdom of Insecurity, Alan Watts said that 
worldly anxiety and frustration open us to eternity. Boetheius said the same thing in the 6th Century.
They push us toward what Soren Kierkegaard saw 
         as the only way to God 
--  a seemingly absurd leap of faith.

It’s as if we watch a movie so intently we forget it’s a movie.
We think it’s real. Then the house lights come on.
We see the screen, and the screen is God.

Christian life is a spiritual discipline
of looking past the illusion and living into truth.
How do we do that?
Jesus said, Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth
            where the moth corrupts, 
             and the thief breaks in to steal.
            Store up for yourselves treasure in Heaven 
            where the moth does not corrupt, 
             and the thief does not break in to steal.
            For where your treasure is, 
            there will your heart be also.

Christian life relocates our hearts through exercise 
         in faith and generosity.
Faith is the opposite of fear – fear of scarcity,
fear we’ll run out of what we need, 
fear of not having enough.
Faith trusts that God will care for us; 
so, we don’t have to cling so tightly to our money.
When we open our fist, it opens our hearts, 
         and lets some life slip in.

We give to the Church to advance God’s Kingdom Mission 
            first because God’s Kingdom is where 
            our true joy is to be found,
            and second because the giving 
            reshapes our souls for eternity.

Two brothers from Zarephath, Nebraska 
         shared a farm 50-50.
One had seven children; the other was single.
A famine came. 
One brother thought, I have half the grain
            but my brother has seven children to feed.
So each night he slipped some of his grain 
             into his brother’s bins.

The other brother thought,I have half the grain
            but I have seven children to work and support me,
            while my brother has no one.
So each night he slipped some of his grain 
             into his brother’s bins.

Each was mystified. 
Though he was giving his grain away, it was not diminished.
One night they met on the path and discovered
            the miracle lay in each other’s generosity.

We store up  treasure in Heaven by trusting God,
        loosening our grip on our worldly  security,
and giving to support each other 
in God’s Kingdom Mission.