Sermon for The Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Sunday, September 19th, 2004
By Father John R. Smith
This morning I’d like to start with a story about a man who collects pearls. One day, while walking through the downtown of his city, he sees in a store window the most beautiful, the largest, most magnificent pearl he has ever seen. Instantly he knows he must have it. So he enters the store and an old guy enters from the door to the rear of the showroom.
The man addresses the storekeeper, "I want that pearl. How much is it?"
The storekeeper says, "How much you got?"
"Well, I have $300 in my pocket."
"Good, I’ll take that. What else you got?"
"Well, I have a Chevy Suburban , low mileage, about two years old, paid off."
"Good, I’ll take that too. What else you got?"
"Well, I have two CDs worth about $18,000."
"Good," says the storekeeper, "I’ll take those too. What else you got?"
This goes on and on. That man gives away his house, his property, even his family. Until finally the storekeeper says, "OK, here. The pearl is yours."
So the man left with everything he had when he walked into the store--plus the great pearl. But there was a big difference. He walked into owning everything he had. He walked out owning nothing. Instead, everything he had before was now a gift.
Do you think you and I have ever played fast and loose with these gifts? Could we ever be accused, as the Gospel puts it of squandering the rich man’s property? What if an account was made of our stewardship and we heard a Donald-like figure say "You’re fired!"
Same with the giving of the cloak- go ahead expose my nakedness- it is you who have lost and been shamed. Here, Roman soldier, I’ll decide freely to carry your pack a second mile- I’m a human being, not the pack animal you think I am. Jesus knew that actions like these counter evil at its source.
I think Bishop Tutu tells the story of South Africa in the days of apartheid of a black woman walking with her children down a narrow lane and was confronted by a white man going the other way. When she refused to step aside as she was "supposed" to do, the man spit in her face. She looked him in the eye and said, Now, will you please do that for the children, too? The man, ashamed, stepped aside and let them pass. That day the evil of apartheid began to crumble in his heart.