preached by the Rev. Lowell E. Grisham, Rector
Paul's Episcopal Church, Fayetteville, Arkansas
26, 2014; 20 Pentecost, Proper 24, Year A, Track 2
Revised Common Lectionary
22:34-46 – When
the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered
together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to
him, "`You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all
your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment.
And a second is like it: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these
two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Now while the Pharisees were gathered
together, Jesus asked them this question: "What do you think of the
Messiah? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David."
He said to them, "How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord,
Lord said to my Lord,
until I put your enemies under your feet"'?
If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be
his son?" No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did
anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
"Love the Lord your God with all
your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And, love your neighbor
It was a cold morning. I was driving
toward my church in Fort Smith to open up for the early service. There was no
traffic at that hour. Back then I drove a 1937 Chevy street rod. Kathy called
that car my mid-life crisis. It was a pretty toy that ended up becoming a pretty
expensive toy. But that morning, driving down an empty street, the light turned
red on me. I stopped, and a small, cold looking fellow in Army fatigues wobbled
a bit unsteadily across the street, his breath visible in the chill. Instead of
staying in the crosswalk in front of my car, he headed right toward me. My
first reaction was an anxious one, but then he grinned a big wide smile,
exaggerated by his missing two-front-teeth. He signaled for me to roll down my
window. I rolled down my window. "Hey Father, how much would you take for
that car? I wanna buy your car?"
"I think my wife would give it
to you, but I'm pretty attached to it," I said.
"I like that car, Father,"
he chuckled, his blood-shot eyes glistening. I caught a whiff of what he must
have been drinking that night to keep himself warm. "I'm gonna buy that
car from you," he laughed as he walked on, crossing in front of me.
It was weeks, maybe months later,
when I got a call from one of our local recovery programs. They said a fellow
named Philip had checked in to their 30-day detox and rehab center. When they
asked him about his income, he told them he was on disability. When they asked
who his payee was, he said, "The Father down at the Episcopal
Church." "Are you the Father down at the Episcopal Church?"
"Yes," I said. "But what's a payee?"
So they explained the system to me.
When someone is placed on disability for addiction, the government requires a payee
to serve as the party responsible for administering the funds for the disabled
person. The rehab center needed a payee to cover the costs of Philip's stay
"Well," I said, "the
name Philip doesn't ring a bell with me, but if he says I'm his payee, I'll be
glad to come down and see what the situation is." It was the beginning of
a beautiful relationship.
It seems Philip's payee had been
fleecing money from him, and Philip liked my car. So when they asked him who
his payee was, he just made it up and said I was. We talked a while. I learned
about the responsibilities of a payee. And we made a deal. I'd be his payee and
take care of his living costs as long as he was sober. If he started drinking
though, I'd put his money in the bank for him. I wasn't going to pay for his
drinking. Until he was sober again, he was on his own. Philip grinned that big,
toothless grin and we shook on it.
We got him set up in a pretty spare
furnished apartment. I didn't know what I was doing and made some mistakes at
first. I wrote up a budget and schedule for him for rent and food and
essentials. A couple of days later he came back. "Father, don't be mad at
me. I gave away the money to a poor family with two children."
"Okay," I said, admiring his generosity but anxious about his own slim
margins. "How much did you give them?" "Oh, all of it,
Father," "What? Nearly $400? That was everything you had to live on
for the whole month." (It was the first week of the month.) "Oh,
Father. They need it more than I do. They have children to take care of. I got
one of them a little Teddy Bear," he grinned. "Philip…!" I
moaned. "No wait, Father. Don't be upset with me. They really need it, for
those children. I can get by just fine. Why I could go down on Garrison Avenue right
now and panhandle, and I could get ten dollars, twenty in half an hour. Maybe
even more. One time a guy gave me a fifty dollar bill. Can you imagine that?
Fifty bucks! Wow. I felt rich. He must have been rich."
I learned something fascinating. Philip felt
absolutely secure. Philip knew he could take care of himself. He didn't have to
have income in order to get by. He didn't have to have a home to be just fine. More
than once he said to me, "The good Lord will take care of me. He's never
failed me. I believe that. You believe that too, don't you, Father?" And
he looked at me in a way that made me wonder about my own level of trust.
Philip's sense of security and
unattachment to money made him free in a way that I am not free. Free enough to
give all of his money to a family poorer then he was simply because they had
children. Often Philip acted with spontaneous, radical generosity that just amazed
me. Philip needed to plan in order to keep enough money for his rent and
utilities. I had to adjust my plan for him as his payee to account for his
Now, I'm not built like Philip. I'm
not spontaneous and radically generous as he. I'm also not that secure or that
free. I need to plan in order to be generous, in order to give money to good things
before I rationalize my wants into exaggerated needs.
You see I find it is easy for me to
exaggerate my needs and to get very attached to my wants. I can rationalize
buying a 1937 Chevy street rod. I needed that car. Actually, it is my appetites
need some discipline.
Unlike Philip, I need to plan in order
to be generous. I like making a plan to give away a known percentage of my income
as an act of gratitude to God for all that I enjoy, and as an act of generosity
toward some things I believe in and want to support. I think tithing is a
satisfying and fulfilling act that generates in us some of the joy that Philip
experienced whenever he gave to children.
I encourage you to make a plan in
order to be generous. Give away a known percentage of your income. Give it to
St. Paul's, and to KUAF and 7hills or to whatever you believe in. Give
spontaneously whenever we have our Community Kids Closet drive to get winter
coats for kids or when we help John Agana ship a container to his home in
Give because you need to. Give
because you are so happy to be able to give. Give because you've got a home and
electricity and water. Give because it feels good. Give because you can do
better things with your money than buy whatever your version of a 1937 Chevy
street rod might be.
And be glad. Giving is a way of
loving. Give to God because you love God. Give as a way of loving your neighbor
Give to St. Paul's because you love
God, and because everything we do is about Jesus' liberating commandment of
love – Love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your
mind. And, love your neighbor as yourself. That's what we're trying to do – as spontaneously
and generously as we can.
The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church is to explore and
God's infinite grace, acceptance and love.
For information about St. Paul's Episcopal Church and its life and
mission, please contact us at
P.O. Box 1190, Fayetteville, AR 72702, or call 479/442-7373
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