06 March 2013

Chapel Homily on the Ninth Commandment

[Text was 1 Kings 21:1–16]

Like pouting Ahab and his bloodthirsty wife, Jezebel (the mafia queen of the Old Testament!), you think you have to have THAT (whatever your that may be) in order to be happy. As though your happiness, your life itself came from the stuff you possess. But hear your Lord’s words loud and clear: “A man’s life does NOT consist in the abundance of his possessions.” You are looking for happiness in all the wrong places, and deep down you know it. I know it. I’ve been there.

We were visiting my cousins and they had KNIVES. Brand new, big honking hunting knives. Of course, they HUNTED. They lived on my family’s farm in Virginia and they actually killed animals and skinned them. I, by way of contrast, lived in suburban Maryland. I had never hunted an animal in my life. But I saw the big new knives. They were so bad. I just had to have one. It is at least an hour and half trip from Richardsville Virginia to Wheaton Maryland, and I used the entire trip home to work on my daddy. I NEED a knife. I JUST HAVE to have one. Now, understand, I am the youngest. I knew how to work my parents. I don’t think we’d made it to the Beltway yet before my dad exploded with: “All right, if you just shut up, I’ll get you a knife.” To which I responded: “Today? Can we go today?”

Off we went to sears and I picked out my new knife. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget the odd sort of sinking feeling that I got in the very moment of possession. Oh, I have my knife. Hmm. Isn’t life grand? I still have it, you know. And how many times do you think I have used it to skin anything? Yeah, that’s right. Still, I keep it around to remind Weedon of the folly of thinking that happiness comes from things.

Your Lord would open your eyes to see that happiness, joy, contentment, that which makes life worthwhile, it just isn’t found in stuff no matter what the stuff is: new tractors or combines, new motor homes or furniture, new cars, the boat and place at the lake or even new eletronic toys. None of those things can deliver what you’re actually aching for, dying for inside. Because finally what you ache for isn’t a possession. Not an "it" at all. He’s a person, a who, and a gift. “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our souls are restless until they rest in you” is how St. Augustine finally saw it.

Your Lord, Your Jesus, His embrace, His forgiveness, His love, His Spirit, His Father, His LIFE. You were made for Him, people loved by God. Without Him you miss out on your life’s very meaning. So repent. Stop giving your heart to stuff and realize that absolutely none of it can ever satisfy your longing or still your spirit. For, of course, you will take absolutely none of it with you when you leave this world. You can’t take it with you anymore than Naboth or Ahab could take that vineyard or I my knife when the breath departs and we were laid low in the dust.

But Him, Him you can take. Or rather, He will take you. Think of it: to give you Himself and to impart to you His own inheritance, He lived a life of poverty. Not owning a blasted thing but the clothes on His back (though all the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof). You see, He was not out to take things from you (well, except your sin) but only to give Himself to you. He proved that a man’s life consists in the relationship he has with the Father through the Son and in His Spirit and in that alone. He didn’t only show it. He died and rose again to give it away to you. To make all that is His your very own. To impart to you His inheritance and house, a life with Him forever that is beyond all the wealth this world can offer.  And it is all wrapped up in the gift of His forgiveness in His blood, His kind embrace, a resurrection from the dead, and a life that never ends.

That sets you free from trying to get your neighbor’s stuff; you can rather gladly help him to keep it. You have been set free from thinking happiness will come to you in the new knife or new whatever. You are free to help the neighbor instead, because you have Jesus and knowing He is yours and you are His is enough and more than enough. To Him be the glory! Amen.

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