Preached at the Service of Dedication and Evening Prayer at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square on the evening of Sunday, June 20, 2010 in honor of the generous gifts from Wilmette Lutheran Church to St. Luke’s at the time of their closing in 2009.
Texts: 1 Timothy 6:6-19 / Mark 10:17-31
I want to begin, and end, by saying thank you. First of all, thank you to all of you who have been a part of the community of Wilmette Lutheran Church. Could I ask you to rise for just a moment so that we can acknowledge you?
Then secondly, a special thank you to Pastor Robin Brown, who responded to God’s call to serve the church with faith that whom God calls, God equips – not knowing all that her call would entail. Pastors and congregations begin each worship service with words and songs that gather us in, and we sometimes wish that our whole life as a church could be lived in the gathering mode; but we also know that each worship service ends with a sending out into the world, and some ministries are marked by faithful preparation of God’s people to go into the world bearing God’s Word as seed to be planted in new ground. It is not an easy ministry, so we are thankful that God gave Pastor Robin to Wilmette to guide them through what are naturally difficult days.
Finally, many thanks to our Director of Music and Community Arts, Dr. Kyle Johnson, and the musicians here at St. Luke’s – our choir, soloists and instrumentalists. I have been listening to you prepare for this evening’s service of dedication for weeks now, and I know what care and attention you have devoted to this evening’s music. That time and dedication, as much as the music itself, is a form of praise and thanksgiving to the one who gives us music as a gift so that we might experience a small measure of the joy our Creator felt during the first moments of creation when sound burst through silence and the world was born.
The readings shared among us this evening speak to us of the difficulty that comes with practicing non-attachment. Jesus and the early church were not the only ones to teach the importance of non-attachment, nor were they the first. The Buddha taught that all things are impermanent, that our perception of a constant self is an illusion, and that our attachment to this illusion that life should remain as we have known it is the source of great suffering. The stoic philosopher Seneca, who lived during the time of Jesus, said “it is not the [person] who has little, it is the [person] who craves more that is poor.”
Tonight, as we listen in on Jesus’ conversation with the rich young man and read the letter addressed to Timothy, but even more as we give thanks for the generosity of Wilmette Lutheran Church as they faithfully drew to a close their ministry in that place, we are reminded that it is often our attachment to things – and to things as they are – that prevent us from experiencing the freedom and the joy that God has in store for us.
Jesus is approached by a person of sincere faith, but also of privilege. He tells Jesus that he has kept the commandments since his youth, but that he wants more – he is looking for eternal life, the promise of immortality in this life and the next. Jesus knows that the bargain made at birth is the inevitability of death, and that fear of death keeps us from truly living, so he encourages this young man to give up those things he things give his life meaning, his many possessions, and to discover the joy that comes from discovering God in the people and unexpected places to which Jesus will travel. That is more than the boy can bear. He wants to experience more in his life, but is unwilling to make room for more to fill his life.
This corresponds to the wisdom offered to Timothy, “we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.” Many of us remember this passage of scripture for the famous phrase, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” but we should note that it also gives us the following advice, “as for those who in the present age are rich… they are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that is really life.
That is what we at St. Luke’s have experienced in the generosity of the Christian community at Wilmette Lutheran Church. They surely did “fight the good fight of faith” and, when the time came, let their final sending be an act of mission that witnessed to their faith in the God that is always gathering us into the life that really is life. For that we are so grateful, we say thank you, and amen.