The Darkness Around Us Part 2 - Lenten Vespers
February 28, 2018 Pastor: Rev. Lloyd Gross
Verse: Mark 8 :36
Lent THE DARKNESS AROUND US, II Materialism Mark 8:36
Jesus knew all about marketplaces. Hardly a day went by that He didn’t see people buying and selling, bartering goods, and bargaining for the best prices. It was even going on in the Temple, which provoked the Lord to anger. What right did He have to take such forthright action? He had the right to act according to the Word of God. He quoted two of the holy Prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, whose words were a rebuke in their own time to those who were dishonoring the Temple then. Jesus didn’t care whether or not He hurt anybody’s feelings. The Kingdom of heaven is more important. It’s about whether you win or lose the big one. Everything else is secondary to that. He spelled that out when He said, What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but loses his own soul?
Seldom does material success come quickly or easily. It usually takes many years to gain wealth and prominence. So if the Psalm is right about our living seventy or eighty years, we spend twice as much time fighting for success as we do enjoying it. Even then we may have the taste of it without getting to drain the cup. Job was a godly man who obeyed the Law all his life, struggled to gain a comfortable situation, only to lose it all in an hour. It can happen today. Consider the events of October 1929, or the planters along the path of Sherman’s march, or people with an oceanview cottage at the time of hurricane Camille. Should we set our affections on earthly things? Think of the verses of the centuries old poet, Omar Khayam, Ah, take the cash and let the credit go. Perhaps he did know how flimsy the cash was, but at least he could see it.
In our world there is a philosophy called Secular Humanism. It teaches that, for all practical purposes, man is God and earth is the first and last chapter of human existence. Omar Khayam would say “the credit” doesn’t exist. They might agree with us that the important thing is to win the big one, but they don’t know what the big one is. That philosophy is very popular. There are voices in the Church that proclaim it. Don’t you believe it. If you take “the cash,” all you win is the little one. After those seventy or eighty years, you will know whether you won or lost. Either way, it is “for keeps.” No one can prove this is true, or that it isn’t. As long as there is such a question about it, you have nothing to lose by believing and acting upon gaining “the credit.” If you’re wrong all you lose is stuff that doesn’t keep in any case. If you’re right, you have “the credit” to look forward to. If Secular Humanists are wrong, they lose the big one. For a few years they enjoy what man and nature let them, then they lose their souls. Does any rational person want to take that chance?
After the Prodigal Son lost his inheritance, he finally came tom his senses and returned to his father’s house. Wasn’t that the intelligent thing to do? Where is our Father’s house? Is it here in the world of material things? No. As St. Paul says, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard the glories God has prepared for those who love Him. They are not visible now. We can contemplate them, but we cannot analyze, count, or assess them. We possess them by faith. We enjoy them by hope. The Secular Humanist has nothing like our future. God loves them, as He loves all of His creatures. He has loving and merciful plans for them. But they have ideas of their own. If they repent, the same Redeemer who purchased us with His blood, also purchased them. However, they often remain hardened, turning away indifferent to grace, thus fashioning themselves to become vessels of wrath. God will be worshipped. Those who will not worship Him with joy, will worship Him with pain. How dreadful will be that moment when they pass the portal of death to find themselves as part of the universal rebellion for all eternity!
Do you always lose your soul when you try to gain the whole world? Is it impossible to have the best of both? Must we choose between the “cash” and the “credit?” We can’t exactly say it’s impossible, but material things are like salt water, the more you have, the thirstier you get. Besides that, often you have to do something immoral to get then world’s goods, associating with all sorts of evildoers, taking part in their enterprises. But even if you could get it all without hurting anyone else, what would you be doing to yourself? You could be like the man in the Lord’s parable who built bigger barns, only to have God visit him in his sleep saying, You fool! Tonight our soul is required of you. To spend your waking hours in total effort to pursue gain is to cheat yourself of a life. So it might be possible to have both, but remember what Jesus said about the camel and the eye of a needle.
How can we escape the lure of materialism? Jesus says, Seek first the kingdom of God. That doesn’t mean that you have to be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good. You have to live in the real world and deal with it. Not all desires are temptations, but the ones that you have to do something wrong to get are. Start off each day renewing your Baptism, calling on Jesus to take away your sins, and asking for the Holy Spirit to cleanse your thoughts, words, and deeds. Jesus wants to do that. As St. John tells us, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Once sin is pardoned, Jesus is our King, God is our Father, and heaven is our inheritance. So like the Prodigal, let us return to our Father’s house. That wins the big one. You can know now, by faith, you are forgiven and restored. The atonement Jesus made cleanses you and covers you with grace. Be glad that the Secular Humanist is wrong. Be glad that a loving Father awaits you in the next life. But you don’t have to wait until you die. You belong to God now, you win the big one. The light from that victory brightens all the darkness around us. AMEN.