Fourth Quarter


J Nichols Adams et al

October 14, 2018, 21st Sunday after Pentecost, Ord Time 28, Proper 23Date:



LectionAid 4th Quarter 2018

October 14, 2018, 21st Sunday after Pentecost, Ord Time 28, Proper 23Date:

Money Barriers

Psalm 22:1-15 or Psalm 90:12-17, Job 23:1-9, 16-17 or Amos 5:6-7, 10-15, Hebrews 4:12-16, Mark 10:17-31

Theme: Focusing on God


Starting Thoughts

Following worship one Sunday morning, a mother and her little boy were getting ready to go out the door. When they got to where the minister was standing, the mother said, "Go ahead, Tommy, and shake the minister's hand." But Tommy just made a face and kept his hand hidden in his pocket. So, the mother again said, "Tommy, shake the minister's hand!" This time Tommy took his hand out of his pocket, and he extended a closed fist in the direction of the pastor. Finally, the mother said, "Tommy, be polite! Shake his hand." At last Tommy obeyed his mother and shook the minister's hand. Yet as he did, three marbles suddenly fell from his fingers and rolled across the floor.
In the same kind of way, the rich man that we hear about in the Gospel of Mark was not quite ready to shake hands with Jesus, because he had his hands full with other things—other things that he was not prepared to let go of. At first, the rich man seemed to start off well. He raced up to Jesus huffing and puffing and asked Jesus what he needed to do to have eternal life. That's not a bad question to have on your mind! Jesus responds by going over some of the Ten Commandments. Like a Sunday School teacher, Jesus rattles off, "You shouldn't steal. You shouldn't kill. You shouldn't lie." But part way through the commandments, the rich man interrupts him and says, "Jesus, I know what the commandments are, and I've obeyed them. Ever since I was a kid, I've followed them to the letter."
Notice that Jesus believed what the rich man said. Jesus didn't yell, "Liar, liar, pants on fire!" Yet as Jesus looked at the fellow, he could tell that one thing was still missing. There was still one thing that was keeping the rich man from following God in the way that Jesus wanted. So, Jesus said to him, "If you want to have eternal life, go and sell everything you have and give the money to the poor, and then come and follow me." As the story ends, though, we find that the rich man was not ready to do that. Jesus had his hand out, prepared to give that man the gift of eternal life, but the rich man was not willing to put his hand out in return, because it was too full of other things. Are we not like the rich man? We don't have time to even shake Jesus hand unless we have it noted on our calendar. Have we reached the point where our schedules, (or our smart phones rule) our lives? Have we let the things in our lives take over our lives?
Every year in Midland, Texas, a certain Nissan car dealership has a contest. Competitors stand around a pickup truck, and whoever can keep at least one hand on the truck for the longest time wins the truck. In the contest a couple years ago, the winner was a man from Houston, who kept that truck in his hands for 126 hours and 46 minutes.
Over in New Zealand, some advertisers thought they would have a little fun. They put up 27 billboards around the city of Auckland with the word "Nothing" plastered on them. The result was that the billboard company had people calling them, asking them where they could go to buy "Nothing." Even if something is nothing, we seem to have an irresistible desire to get our hands on it.
We let almost anything get between us and God. We certainly allow our pursuit of wealth or in some cases the redistribution of wealth get between us and God. Possessions what we are holding in our hands becomes the barrier between us and God.

Exegetical Comments

So, the rich and very wise young man came to Jesus. He was a very pious man and he was trying to get into heaven on his own. We can be very selective about how we read the passage where Jesus says: “Jesus looked closely at the man. He liked him and said, “There’s one thing you still need to do. Go sell everything you own. Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come with me.” Of course, the rich man gave up and walked away. He did not hear nor many of us do not hear the rest of the events. Jesus went on and said: “Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “It’s hard for rich people to get into God’s kingdom!” The disciples were shocked to hear this. So, Jesus told them again, “It’s terribly hard to get into God’s kingdom! In fact, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into God’s kingdom.” Jesus' disciples were even more amazed. They asked each other, “How can anyone ever be saved?” But the kicker came at the end. The problem is not being rich or getting through the eye of a needle, but it is simply trusting God to save us. Jesus is saying we cannot save ourselves.
As we walk through life with our hands constantly at work trying to accumulate more and more stuff, Jesus has some very pointed words for us. For Jesus declares, "How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God!"
We, of course, often try to convince ourselves that those words do not apply to us. We keep telling ourselves that Jesus is talking only to rich people. We figure that rich people are people like Bill Gates and others who have billions upon billions of dollars at their disposal. In comparison to them, we classify ourselves as poor. Therefore, these words of Jesus don't apply to us.
Deep down inside, however, we know that we are rich. Even if we don't want to admit it, deep down inside we know that these words of Jesus do apply to us. We have seen those pictures from Africa, with flies swarming around half-dead children, with their bloated stomachs and lifeless eyes. We have seen those images, and we know that in comparison to them, there is no denying that we are rich.
Around the ninth century someone came up with the idea that maybe the needle that Jesus spoke of was the name of one of the gates in Jerusalem, a gate that was extremely low, so that if you wanted to get your camel through it, you had to unload it of all its gear and get it to crawl through. According to that interpretation, when Jesus said that a rich person getting into heaven was like a camel going through the eye of a needle, Jesus wasn't saying that it was impossible. Rather he was merely saying that rich people need to make a little extra effort to humble themselves before God, but they can make it if they try.
The problem is that is not what Jesus meant. His point was not that we can make it into heaven by ourselves if we just give it the old college try. After all, just a few verses later, Jesus comes out and bluntly declares that as far as heaven is concerned, it's impossible for humans to make it in. It only becomes possible when we turn to God. That was what Jesus was trying to get that rich man to realize. Jesus was trying to get the rich man to consider where his focus was: on God or on his money?
A few years ago, there was a story in the news that some airline pilots were caught reading dirty magazines while they were in the cockpit. When the pilots are in the cockpit, of course, their focus is supposed to be on flying the plane, keeping an eye on the instruments and looking ahead to make sure the plane doesn't crash into something. But instead, it seemed that those pilots had put their focus elsewhere.
Where is our focus? What do we try to fill our lives with: money and possessions, or with God? The problem is that we're often like kids who go to an amusement park. While we're at the park we stuff ourselves with cotton candy, fudge, and taffy. But then when we get home, and a real meal is set before us, we're not able to eat it, because we've filled ourselves with all that junk food. That was the problem that Jesus saw with the rich man. He had so stuffed himself with money and possessions that he didn't have any room left inside him to receive what God wanted to give.

Preaching Possibilities

The two ideas that go hand and hand is the destructive force of greed against the need for everyone to have enough clean water and good food and shelter. Christ’s solution to these two problems is simply to focus on God. Christ teaches us to focus on God means that we also focus on the needs of others.


Different Sermon Illustrations

The ancient rabbis used to point out that when you look at a piece of glass, you can see right through it. But if you put a little bit of silver onto the glass, it suddenly turns into a mirror, so that the only thing you now see when you look at the glass is yourself. In the same way, the rabbis said, with a little money, what was once transparent quickly becomes obscured, cutting off our view of what lies beyond ourselves.

We are a nation bent on obtaining more and more possessions, even if that means that we have to go deeper and deeper into debt. The average American household has 14 credit cards. Those credit cards though don't go unused. The average household has an outstanding credit card debt of slightly more than $7000. Of that debt, more than 5% is at least 30 days past due. But the credit card companies know that our massive debt isn't enough to shock us back to our senses. In 2001, the credit card companies sent out five billion credit card applications. In 2018 things have improved. The outstanding debt per household has gone down to approximately $6500. The number of credit cards per user is down as well. 29% of households in 2017 do not have a credit card.

Benjamin Franklin was a firm believer in the right to hold private property. In 1776, as he presided over the convention that drafted the constitution for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Franklin endorsed a provision that asserted the right to acquire, possess and protect property. But Franklin also backed another provision that ultimately was rejected: "That an enormous Proportion of Property vested in a few individuals is dangerous to the Rights, and destructive to the Common Happiness, of Mankind; and therefore, every free State hath a Right by its Laws to discourage the Possession of such Property."

One way we try to avoid having to use our possessions for the benefit of the poor is by creating a system whereby we don't have to see the poor. As a result, we conclude that if we don't see any poor people, then there must be no need for us to take what we have and give it to others. In forty-six of the nation’s fifty largest cities, governments have enacted anti-begging ordinances. Atlanta, for instance, forbids "aggressive" begging, while Austin bans panhandling in public altogether. Some legal-aid groups are attempting to challenge some of those ordinances as unconstitutional. Scott Cameron of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty said, "If many of these ordinances were challenged they would be thrown out. Unfortunately, most beggars can't afford lawyers."

If we doubt that there are truly in need in the world, consider these statistics that were presented at the 2003 Medical Benevolence Foundation conference. Each day 3000 children die of malaria, a disease that can be cured for $1.50. Around the globe there are about 1.2 billion people who struggle to survive on less than one dollar a day. Eleven million people around the world die each year from preventable diseases. Physicians in many countries perform operations with blades made out of tin cans, and they use hand-crank respirators to assist patients with their breathing.

Those who have money often assume that those who lack money are simply suffering the consequences of their own laziness or foolishness. Quebec Premier Bernard Landry got himself into a lot of hot water when he remarked earlier this year, "If birds, whose brains are tiny, manage to feed their offspring, how is it possible that some people don't feed their children?" Political opponents and anti-poverty leaders were quick to criticize the premier's comments and described him as the one who had the birdbrain.

In case you can't accumulate possessions fast enough, a new service is being introduced to help expedite the process of matching buyers and sellers. The British company Responsa is offering a service where shoppers can use their cell phones to input data about what they are searching for. That information is then communicated to participating merchants, who are able to contact the shopper via voice, text, or multimedia messages. At present, there are at least 4750 Responsa searches per minute in England.

"There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, `Mine!'" (Abraham Kuyper, "Sphere Sovereignty: Inaugural address at the Free University," in Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, edited by James D. Bratt (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1998), p. 488.)

"Theirs is an endless road, a hopeless maze, who seek for goods before they seek for God." (St. Bernard of Clairvaux, On the Love of God)

"I will place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of Christ." (David Livingstone, jouranl entry from 1853)

In the film Jerry Maguire Jerry is similar and different from the rich young man in Mark's story. He is an energetic agent at a large firm that represents major athletes and other celebrities. He is well paid but not satisfied with all the perks he has. He does not find the so-called "good life" fulfilling. One night as he sits at his computer he has an epiphany. He believes that he and his agency have a higher calling than just making more money for their clients and themselves. So inspired, he writes through the night and comes up with the Manifesto, a declaration of principles that eschew profits as the chief basis for what the agency does, substituting service to others. For him "The client comes first" is not just an empty advertising gimmick, but also the real thing. The next morning, he makes copies of the Manifesto and distributes it to everyone at the office. They cheer him when he appears. However, the cheers soon stop. The bosses want none of his altruism. All his colleagues but one turn away from him as he gathers his things from his desk and leaves. Thus, Jerry is very different from the man who sadly turned away from Jesus. Jerry's character is a secular version of the man who, when confronted with giving up his possessions for a better cause, was willing to do so.

In the film Barbershop Calvin almost follows in the sorrowful footsteps of the rich young ruler. He has inherited his father's barbershop but hates it, believing that cutting hair is a meaningless occupation. Longing for something better, he is always trying some harebrained scheme to get rich quick. Currently it is setting up a recording studio in his basement, but he needs a lot of money for equipment. The money comes in the form of an offer from the local numbers runner who offers to buy the barbershop. Calvin accepts—and then a series of events converge to show him what a treasure the barbershop is, how it has served as the gathering place for so many men of the neighborhood. The semi-retired barber who started out when Calvin's father opened the shop, Eddie, especially impresses this upon him. Sort of a holy fool with outrageous opinions, Eddie reminds Calvin that in the barbershop everyone was welcomed, and many were helped by the generosity of Calvin's father. In a theological sense, the barbershop was a place of "amazing grace." On top of this realization, Calvin learns that the new owner does not intend to operate the shop as a working barbershop, even though, as he had promised, the shop will not be changed. The shady owner plans to run his numbers racket in the back room, thus using the barbershop as a front. Calvin tries to give the money back to the buyer, but he will not accept it. How Calvin manages to overcome all obstacles and accept his father's lowly vocation of serving his neighborhood is in itself a wonderful tale of grace.

There is a wonderful line in Harry Emerson Fosdick's great hymn "God of Grace and God of Glory" that describes the plight of the rich man in Mark's story. The hymn is a prayer that God will pour his power on the church so that it will be up to meeting the tremendous challenges of the times. The second stanza recognizes that we are surrounded by "the hosts of evil," and so the prayer is to be freed from fear and to receive wisdom and courage "for the living of these days." It is in the third stanza that the petition in question is found, "Shame our wanton, selfish gladness, rich in things and pour in soul." The rich man was so "rich in things" that when the offer of his life came along, to follow the man he admired so much, he was too "poor in soul" to be able to accept it_and so "his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful."

The abundance of God more than makes up for the sacrifices we make in following Him. Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity, and his good friend, Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, gave up lucrative law practices for something more important: providing good, safe housing and legal representation for those who could not otherwise afford it. They view their service of others as highly satisfying, and, more importantly, vitally encouraging, bringing hope to hopeless people.

Aesop's fable about the dog who saw his reflection in the water and dropped the bone in his mouth attempting to get the other dog's bone is illustrative of the all too frequent greed we see all around us. When we are generous, our lives fly in the face of the culture of acquisition. Yet it really is true that the best things in life are free: faith, hope and love.

One of our sons went through a time of great struggle, spending several weeks in a mental health facility. When it came time to experiment with coming home, he was asked to write a covenant with us regarding how he would change his behavior, what he would give up. He was willing to give up virtually everything, that had gotten him in trouble, but he was adamant about seeing the "friends" who had lured him into a negative lifestyle. We acquiesced, but soon learned that was a big mistake. He was soon involved again in the behaviors that had caused a rift before. We learned that often the thing we most cling to is the thing we must give up in order to be whole.

As expected, citizens who live in more competitive free market systems cared more about money, power and achievement than people who live under more cooperative systems. Research also supports the notion that the more people care about money and power, the less they care about community and relationships. A study by Kasser, University of Victoria psychologist Fred Grouzet, PhD, and colleagues, for example, asked students in 15 countries about the goals they value most, including community feeling, financial success and physical health. They found they could chart those values onto a kind of pie with some values—money versus community and relationships, for example—in direct competition with each other.
"Of course, we can care about community and money," Kasser. "But as money becomes important—the bigger its slice of the pie—the desire to help other people tends to become less important."
University of Minnesota psychologist Katherine Vohs, PhD, demonstrated this idea in a series of studies in which she primed participants to think about having large amounts of money. Compared with a group of students who were primed to think about neutral concepts or insufficient funds, participants with wealth on their minds were less helpful at, for example, picking up spilled pencils, and were less generous, for instance, donating less to charity. These participants were also more insular, choosing to sit farther away from a colleague or work independently rather than in a team.
Money and community are inherently incompatible because they tap into two fundamentally different motivational systems, says Kasser. Helping the community and forming personal relationships satisfy intrinsic psychological needs while financial success satisfies extrinsic needs of rewards and praise.
And for those motivated by rewards, America's corporate incentive system may even encourage unethical behavior, says Ryan. Investment banks, mortgage companies and other industries that fueled the economic downturn reward employees for specific outcomes—say, selling more mortgages or obtaining high quarterly profits—rather than other aspects of job performance. Research shows that the people who are offered these types of rewards take the shortest route to reach their goal, whether it's ethical or not, Ryan says.
"Rather than rewarding good practices, we've been rewarding outcomes, however they're attained," says Ryan. "And that's driven a lot of greedy behavior from folks who wouldn't normally act that way." (

There has been marked progress on reducing poverty over the past decades. The world attained the first Millennium Development Goal target—to cut the 1990 poverty rate in half by 2015—five years ahead of schedule, in 2010. Despite the progress made in reducing poverty, the number of people living in extreme poverty globally remains unacceptably high. And given global growth forecasts, poverty reduction may not be fast enough to reach the target of ending extreme poverty by 2030.
• According to the most recent estimates, in 2015, 10 percent of the world’s population lived on less than US$1.90 a day, compared to 11 percent in 2013. That’s down from nearly 36 percent in 1990.
• Nearly 1.1 billion fewer people are living in extreme poverty than in 1990. In 2015, 736 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day, down from 1.85 billion in 1990.
While poverty rates have declined in all regions, progress has been uneven:
• Two regions, East Asia and Pacific (47 million extreme poor) and Europe and Central Asia (7 million) have reduced extreme poverty to below 3 percent, achieving the 2030 target.
• More than half of the extreme poor live in Sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, the number of poor in the region increased by 9 million, with 413 million people living on less than US$1.90 a day in 2015, more than all the other regions combined. If the trend continues, by 2030, nearly 9 out of 10 extreme poor will be in Sub-Saharan Africa.
• The majority of the global poor live in rural areas, are poorly educated, employed in the agricultural sector, and under 18 years of age.
The work to end extreme poverty is far from over, and many challenges remain. The latest projections show that if we continue down a business-as-usual path, the world will not be able to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. That’s because it is becoming even more difficult to reach those remaining in extreme poverty, who often live in fragile countries and remote areas. Access to good schools, health care, electricity, safe water, and other critical services remains elusive for many people, often determined by socioeconomic status, gender, ethnicity, and geography. Moreover, for those who have been able to move out of poverty, progress is often temporary: Economic shocks, food insecurity and climate change threaten to rob them of their hard-won gains and force them back into poverty. It will be critical to find ways to tackle these issues as we make progress toward 2030. (

More than 45 million people, or 14.5 percent of all Americans, lived below the poverty line last year, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday. The percentage of Americans in poverty fell from 15 percent in 2012, the biggest such decline since the year 2000.

The poverty rate in Germany reached the new record level of 15.7 percent in 2015, according to the report, entitled "Human dignity is a human right," by an alliance of organizations called the Paritätische Gesamtverband.Mar 2, 2017

According to the most recent estimates, in 2013, 10.7 percent of the world's population lived on less than US$1.90 a day, compared to 12.4 percent in 2012. That's down from 35 percent in 1990. Nearly 1.1 billion people have moved out of extreme poverty since 1990.

Efforts to alleviate world poverty in the last twenty years have proven relatively successful, with the percentage of people living in extreme poverty being cut nearly in half. But, there is still much work to be done.
Below are the most up-to-date, quantifiable poverty statistics from the world’s top data gathering and humanitarian organizations. The information below compares wealthy to poor and rural to urban populations on topics such as child mortality, sanitation and hygiene, life-expectancy, malnutrition, and extreme poverty.
Behind every statistic is a real person facing genuine challenges. In addition to economic strains, poverty affects feelings of worth and mutes the voices of the poor.
These nine world poverty statistics can seem overwhelming, but real change is happening in some of the most rural and remote parts of our world.
#1. Globally, 10.9% of the world is living on less than $2 a day.
A third of the entire urban population is living in a slum, which are unsafe or unhealthy homes in a crowded city.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, 42% of the population is living at less than $1.90, the World Bank’s international line for extreme poverty. Those experiencing poverty to this extent can often feel a lack of control over their own outcomes and circumstances. With 42% of Sub-Saharan Africa living in extreme poverty, billions of people may be experiencing a reduced understanding of their own potential.
#2. For every 1,000 children born, 41 will die before they turn five years old.
Although tragic, this is remarkable progress when compared to UNICEF’s 1990 report of 93 deaths per 1,000 births.
The 2017 UNICEF Child Mortality report claims, “1 child in 36 dies in the first month” in poorer areas like Sub-Saharan Africa, “while in the world’s high-income countries the ratio is 1 in 333.”
Most under-five deaths are caused by preventable diseases like malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia. The most common contributors to these diseases? Malnutrition, contaminated water, and poor sanitation and hygiene.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 3 children will experience stunted growth because they are not getting enough food, or not getting the vitamins they need in their food. Stunted growth also affects cognitive ability, making it more difficult for children to excel in class.
#3. Globally in 2016, over 63 million children were not attending school.
That’s tens of millions of school-aged children in the world who miss out on their education.
According to the World Bank, Africa has experienced rapid increases in school enrollments, with total net enrollment of children in primary school expanding from just 55% in 1995 to 74% by 2012. Still, literacy rates are lowest among young women in South Asia and in West and Central Africa.
#4. Of all the children living in extreme poverty, 75% live in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Children are disproportionately affected by poverty.
According to World Bank Data from 2016, half of the population living in extreme poverty are children. Of those children, three-quarters live in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
#5. Today, approximately 12% of the world’s total population is still practicing open defecation.
Open defecation means people are defecating outside, whether that be in a field or behind a home or a bush. When people defecate outside, human feces find their way into food and water sources, polluting and causing disease among people in those communities.
#6. Rural populations around the world are four times as likely as urban populations to be drinking contaminated water.
The discrepancy among rural and urban populations is striking, with rural populations experiencing extreme poverty at much higher rates than their urban neighbors.
Access to safe water is a major marker of socioeconomic classes globally. Families who are drinking water infested with disease fall sick much more often, causing them to miss work, school, and spend their income on health clinic fees.
In addition, the World Health Organization found that rural families are three times as likely to walk far distances for safe water. In developing countries, walking long distances for water almost always falls on the shoulders of young girls or women; the travelers are vulnerable to assaults on these daily journeys, and the time investment often results in girls missing school.
#7. While 81% of urban residents can wash with soap and water, less than half of rural populations have the knowledge and resources to manage their own health in this way.
UNICEF reports that the simple practice of washing your hands can reduce preventable (and in many cases, deadly) diseases by 40%. The behavior is the most effective and affordable hygiene practice that a community can undertake.
But, those experiencing extreme poverty often lack this knowledge and clean water to effectively practice handwashing.
#8. People in the United States are expected to live 18 years longer, on average, than those born in Sub- Saharan Africa.
Life expectancy at birth is an important measure of the overall health of a country. It’s influenced by employment rates, quality of education, access to health care, and more.
While the average person in the United States lives to be 78, the average person is Sub-Saharan Africa lives to be 60.
The divide is the greatest between Monaco, Europe and the Republic of Chad in Central Africa. While someone born in Monaco can expect to live to 89 years, someone born in Chad will, on average, see 50 years of life.
#9. About a third of the UN’s Least Developed Countries are also the least evangelized countries in the world.
As a matter of correlation, 1 in every 3 countries listed by the UN as those with the least socioeconomic development are also those that have had little Christian influence.
Poverty Alleviation in the Past
Overcoming poverty is a complex endeavor that the world isn’t finished with yet. Rural populations still disproportionately live with the hardships of extreme poverty, and thousands of children are lost each day due to preventable illnesses.
Poverty alleviation efforts in the past have been guilty of exacerbating the problem—providing aid when development and/or rehabilitation programs would be more apt a solution and failing to listen to the needs of communities. This, overwhelmingly, shames, disempowers, and invokes feelings of inability among the poor.
Water’s Role in Poverty Alleviation
Clean water lays the foundation for poor communities everywhere. It frees people from water-borne illnesses that inhibit work, costs communities in health clinic fees, and prevents children from attending school. It is essential to stepping out of poverty.
Clean water, however, is not maintainable without water access, sanitation, and hygiene practices (WASH) that keep water safe. (

Top of Page prayers (WorshipAid)

Call to Worship (Based on Psalm 22:1-15)

Leader: O God, why are there times when You seem to have abandoned us?
People: O God, why are there times when we call out to You, yet You seem to be so distant?
Leader: But You, O God, are the One who delivered Your people in ages past. They put their trust in You, and You saved them.
People: Be near to us in our times of trouble. As we look to You, and as we put our trust in You, save us by Your almighty hand.

Prayer of Confession

Heavenly Father, with our words, we say that we want to pursue the way that leads to eternal life. But when it comes time to act, often our deeds show that our real focus is on the things of this world. We are a society today that congregates more often at the mall than at the church. We are a nation that has turned Christmas and Easter into shopping seasons, rather than religious festivals. We are a people who have forgotten the difference between "I want" and "I need.." Merciful Lord, forgive our greed and self-absorption. By Your Spirit, transform us into generous givers, so that we might share with others the vast riches that You have shared with us. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication

Blessed Lord, release us from the grip that our wealth has on us. Free us to take what we have and to offer it all for Your sake. Guide us to keep our sights focused always on You, for You alone are our hope for all eternity. Amen.

Pastoral Prayer

O Lord our Creator, we are rich. Our basements and attics overflow with more clothes than we can wear. Our garages are stuffed with so many boxes of belongings that our cars no longer fit inside. Our refrigerator shelves are filled with so many leftovers, that we don't know when we'll ever get around to eating all of it. We live in a land of prosperity. We live in a land of abundance. What we toss away in the trash each day would be considered valuable treasures by millions upon millions of people around the world.
O Lord our God, we are rich, yet we are poor. Despite the material possessions that fill our homes, we realize the lack we often have when it comes to matters of the Spirit. We keep ourselves attuned to the latest sales at the department stores, but we fail to attune ourselves to Your voice in prayer. We read the financial pages to keep abreast of our net worth, yet we hesitate to keep abreast of Your Word by reading the Bible. Holy Lord, help us to get our priorities in order. Cause us to put You first. For long after our possessions have rotted, decayed, and vanished, our relationship with You is all that will endure. We offer our prayers in Your Son's strong name. Amen.