Where ever you are listening or watching, I hope you’ll find a comfortable place to be.
At some level today, our text is the following lyrics, by Roger Waters;
You get a good job with good pay and you're okay
It's a gas
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
New car, caviar, four star daydream
Think I'll buy me a football team
Well, get back
I'm all right Jack
Keep your hands off of my stack
It's a hit
Don't give me that do goody good bulls@*t
I'm in the high-fidelity first class travelling set
I think I need a Lear jet
It's a crime
Share it fairly
But don't take a slice of my pie
So they say
Is the root of all evil today
But if you ask for a rise
It's no surprise that they're giving none away.
(Roger Waters ©1973)
As some of you may be aware, we’re in the midst of a sermon series around Holy Currencies. Last week for example, Jeffrey preached about the currency of Wellness. It is my hope this morning to explore the currency of, you guessed it, money. And while Roger Water’s words are certainly flying through my brain, I am also thinking about the line our Gospel this morning.
“At once the [person] was made well. [They] took up [their] mat and began to walk.” (John 5:9)
I want to link this line to my relationship with money, and the spiritual healing I need about money. I wonder if you sense such a need as well? We don’t talk much about money in church, except perhaps to ask for it. And yet about 25% of the parables in the Christian texts are about money. There are parables about hidden treasure, talents (which was a currency), rich men, and even the great reversal; the labourers in the vineyard and the “first shall be last.” (Matthew 20:16). Given how common money is in our sacred texts, perhaps there are some different ways of thinking and talking about money and our relationship to it? What if instead of being locked in place by our relationship to money, we take up our money mat and begin to move?
I think the reason the Bible’s references to money are so common, in fact far, far more common than references to sex, is because money is so very powerful in our minds. Here’s an anecdote; I was speaking to group of directors of credit union boards some years ago at a meeting in Toronto. We were exploring what I like to call the ‘care and feeding of your CEO’. One of the participants set up a mini poll exercise, where everyone put the approximate salary of their credit union’s CEO on a piece of paper, folded that paper and put it in a hat. The hat was given to me, I did a quick average of the salaries in the hat (there were about 20 people in the room). It lead to a fascinating discussion about the processes various boards were using to learn about and engage with executive compensation. Well, a few weeks later my boss calls me up, and gives me grief about this exercise. They explained that a compensation expert had got wind of the exercise we had done, and had torn a strip off my boss. It was apparently completely unprofessional to discuss salaries of CEOs so publicly among board members. I realized in that moment that in our world today, I’ll sooner tell you about my sexuality than my salary. And yet, Jesus talks much more about money than he does sexuality.
There is a sanctity about money that has to do with, I think, status. Some people might think that $30,000 a year would be amazing and others who might think, $30,000 a month is not enough. I note that recent studies are suggesting that the more money you make, the less you are able to interpret the thoughts and feelings of others.
The higher my financial status, the less connected to others I appear to be. It is interesting to see that Jesus said, “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Matt 19:24)
Most of us, I think, wonder, about ‘enoughness;’ do I have enough, will I have enough? “share it fairly but don’t take a slice of my pie.” This week’s Wondering Wednesdays we had a powerful conversation about our relationship with money. We watched a TED talk where Tammy Lally, a money coach spoke about ‘money shame’; She spoke poignantly of chronic ‘not enoughness’. That feeling that so many of us experience; do I have enough, will I have enough? And linking this to status; if I think I don’t have enough, what do I think or feel about myself? Or if I have lots of money and I look at a person who has less than me, are they somehow less than me, not ‘enough?’ Here and now, hear this; you are enough just as you are here and now. You are well, you are enough, just as you are. In the heart of God, you are precious, you are loved. Now, pickup your money mat and begin to move.
And so, this is the spiritual work to which I will be attending this year. Can I move from seeing myself as reflected in the power of money; am I enough? To being reflected in the Love of God; I am loved. Is money (regardless of how much I might have) a barrier, or a blessing for me in my spiritual journey? Is money a barrier or a blessing for us as a community here at Christ Church Cathedral? And herein lies the Holy Currency framework.
I invite you to join me on a spiritual journey this coming year about our relationship with money. To get us started,I hope you’ll join me at virtual coffee hour, right after this service to begin this exploration. You see, while money can get in the way of our journeys as spiritual beings, it can also be a blessing. Money to me is like the circulatory system of a body. And the body to which I refer can be my own, or a more collective metaphor. If there is too little, in me, or in the community that is a problem. If it is pooling in one area of my body, or is stagnant in one part of the community, that too is a problem. Like blood, money is important, it feeds us, it brings blessings to our various parts. Money, like blood, needs to flow to bring about its blessings. One of the participants, in Wondering Wednesdays and I have their permission to share this said, “you don’t know the power of giving, until you have received.” And since then, I’ve wondered about reciprocity; being a receiver inspires giving. It’s about the flow.
So we’ll wonder together after this service, and beyond, to explore the question where has money been a blessing for you, or a time in your life where money has been a blessing. It could be a story or experience in which your parents, relatives, friends, or elders had used money in a way that built relationships, told truth, fostered wellness, built up community.
For me, the story that comes to mind is one of a member of this community, a few years ago, who was missed by the collection plate as it went around the congregation that Sunday. I caught their eye from the altar, and they signaled to me as the hymn finished, and as the plates were being brought up. I went over to them, and they put 18 cents in my hand. 18 cents. I was weeping on my way back to the altar knowing a little of the story of this person, they had saved these 18 cents during the week so that their money could be a blessing to others. So that their money could enhance relationships, be used for truth telling, to foster wellness and to build community. That is a holy currency.
So please join me as we work, share and reflect on the ways that money, “New car, caviar, four star daydream, think I'll buy me a football team,” might instead be a blessing to us and to others, so that we might all be made well.