- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Andrew Sloane at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in the District.

I was pondering the story of the parable of the rich fool [in Luke 12:13-21], and I thought up a headline: "Christian stewardship as antidote to a world of greed." This nation, that is northern and western in the so-called First World, is a society that is based on greed. I wonder if it's too hard to say that it's greed that motivates society. That is a hard saying, isn't it, in this particular city, the capital of the nation's involvement in greed. And greed is alive and well in Washington.
So I bring a stewardship sermon in August. We're supposed to do that in October. You and I know that Christian stewardship is more than money. It is all that we do with all that we have all of the time. It is all that I do after I say "I believe." The faithful exercise of Christian stewardship is the living out of an ongoing converted life in Jesus Christ.
Stewardship is three T's: time, talent and treasure. This morning I'd like to reverse the order. Let's begin with the last, treasure. We call it what it is: money. Wealth is always dangerous for individuals and for societies. The danger for those who have it, like the rich ruler in the parable, is they tend to hoard it for themselves. The danger for those who do not have it is they become envious of those who do.
The Christian attitude toward money is that you give it away because at the end, it doesn't matter. Sacrificial giving is a sign of a converted life. A man at a parish where I once served, one day telephoned me and asked to come to my office. He gave me a check for $250,000 made out to the church. He said, "I've learned something recently. I am a rich man, and I know that I cannot take it with me." That is the sign of an ongoing converted life.
Here was a man who became not just rich but became rich toward God; a man who after that endowed one of the chairs at one of the seminaries of the church. Christian stewardship means being rich toward God. Why? Because God is rich towards us.
Time. You've heard me say, when I was first ordained in 1978, people were loath to part with their money but willing to part with their time. And in the subsequent 20 or so years, that has been reversed. People are loath to part with their time, which has become such a precious commodity in our society. They would just rather give a check. Do you remember all the talk about what we were going to do with this leisure time we were going to have: three-day weekends, four-day weeks? But I see 80-hour weeks. What happened?
Stewardship of time. Every second, every minute we have is a gift. Where is our time with God? The priority of the worship of Almighty God in the church, the priority of time with God in our prayer life, the time for oneself, the time for family. Most people on their deathbeds do not wish they had spent more time at the office. Most people on their deathbeds, in my experience, wish they had spent more time with the God who they will shortly encounter and with the people who matter to them.
Thirdly, talent those talents with which we've been endowed by God and the spiritual gifts given to us by God and the Holy Spirit. It's in this area we see the most opportunity for the transformation of our world of greed. All baptized people are called to ministry.
The passage from which today's Gospel is taken ends with the well-known verse, "Where your treasure is, there let your heart be also." That is the way it works. Heart follows treasure. This night your soul is required of you. And perhaps it will be. And where will you stand? In good evangelical plain talk, is your heart right with the Lord? And as you and I answer that question this day where is your heart? first of all find this out: Where is your treasure?

Next week: a sermon at a Maryland congregation.

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