Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sermon, "You cannot serve God and mammon", by Raymond A. Foss, Portage Congregational Church, September 22, 2013

September 22, 2013
Portage Congregational Church
Raymond A. Foss

You cannot serve God and mammon.

Let us pray, Lord please speak to us a message in these words of holy scripture and may these words that I share be a blessing to all of us here. Lord, may your will be done through me or in spite of me. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

A reading from Luke, Chapter 16, verses 1 to 13, “The Story of the Crooked Manager”. Listen for God’s message to us. . .

(read scripture)

Christ is saying something important here, something repeated in scripture many times. You can’t be listening to the world AND listening to God’s call.

I often joke with my wife Ruth that I am not as good at multi-tasking as she is. If we go back to the stone-age, the men were off in packs, with rudimentary spears and axes trying to kill wild animals. They needed to be single-minded because the hunters can soon become the hunted. Fear can be a great motivator to stay focused on the task at hand.

In the same way, the ancient women in the hunter gatherer days before farming started were already doing many things at once, taking the babies with them as they looked for food to live on.

I think I understand the story here, the push and pull of different masters in the story of this servant. He was torn between serving his master and looking out for number one; but when he was focused, he was driven, and for that he was praised. Fear was a great motivator; but he was focused on the dust.

I can relate; I have been pretty successful at a number of jobs. But I haven’t always felt fulfilled, or that I was following God’s call.

We have a similar story with Mary and Martha, maybe not directly the same but maybe another face of the same coin. That is found in Luke 10, verses 38-42. Even doing good may not be the best.

You see Martha loved Jesus and welcomed him into her home; but Martha was distracted, busy, making the dinner and cleaning the house. She asked Christ to chide Mary, who sat at his feet, to get her to help with the work. But Christ answered in beginning with verse 41, “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

It seems Jesus was saying something connected in these two stories, though the actors were very different. But it sort of goes back to that ancient dynamic and, ultimately, the need to choose what you are going to focus on and who you will follow. We need to be faithful always, to the One who created us, the One who saved us, and the One who guides us in life, our Triune God, Father, Son and Spirit. We need to put off the other issues, other interest, other focuses that can turn us away from God.

Martha had trouble on focusing on Christ and the crooked manager was focused on the wrong thing. Christ uses both stories, both people focusing on the things of this world, the things of dust, of mammon, of the earth. Mary, the younger sister, chooses to sit at the Lord’s feet and drink in the living water.

Yes, the crooked manager is complimented in the parable for being focused, be we must choose wisely in what we focus on. Our good work can keep us from doing what we are supposed to be doing. You can’t serve two masters. We must be single-minded in cleaving to God, to following His word, His message, and His call upon our lives.

I have had that struggle in my life, feeling that even though I was good at what I was doing, maybe I was being pulled in too many directions, or the one thing I was doing wasn’t what God wanted me to focus on.  I feel like I am on the other side. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.

In 2004 after I finished studying for the NH Bar exam and had returned to my faith I began writing faith based poems. When I started, I had written 300 poems in my life. By 2007, when I went on a religious retreat called the Walk to Emmaus, I had written 1,600. That weekend, I committed to God that I would strive to share this gift of poetry.

By the Fall of 2009, I had written 4,700 poems. In the Laity Sunday sermon, I included this paragraph. “Should I give up my law practice and try to write poetry for a living? Am I not following Christ because I haven’t dropped this one life and picked up the cross and trusted that this was what Jesus wants me to do?”

Well, I tried, in a Martha kind of way. I welcomed Christ in and drafted a “closing my practice letter” and sent it out; but then I didn’t actually closed my practice. I limped along, trying to do both. To serve the law and God. Back in law school the Dean said on our first day, “The Law is a selfish mistress”. How true that is. Other people said I could do both; but I just couldn’t.

My poetry poured out like water. But my law practice died, until I only had one active case by this spring. But you see, God was preparing me for a radical change.

In May of this year, my wife Ruth got an appointment to Stetson Memorial UMC in Patten, and I was able to close my practice in less than a week, because God was ready when I was.
God closed one door and I was finally open for another door to open, in His time.

            I am still writing like crazy; I’m up to 25,000 poems and I have started teaching in Katahdin High School. I finally feel like I am actually using all of my skills for God’s glory, focusing on the one thing that was missing, sharing the gifts God has given me, out in the world.

            IS there something that you are doing that is keeping you from the one important thing, your purpose in God’s kingdom? Are you afraid to pursue your dream? Are you denying God’s voice inside? Are you too busy?

            Trust me when I say, it is better on the other side. Listen to God’s calling and don’t let anything be a stumbling block. Don’t let your own fear stop you. Trust in the Lord.


September 21, 2013
Luke 16:1-13
Luke 10:38-42
and sermon “You cannot serve God and Mammon”
by Raymond A. Foss
Portage Congregational Church
Portage, ME
September 22, 2013

All of my poems are copyrighted by Raymond A. Foss, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. All rights reserved. Contact me at Ray Foss for usage. See all 38,130+ of my poems at Poetry Where You Live.

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