August 25 - 31, 2008


Lives lost and gained

I was two steps into the pedestrian crosswalk of a touristy street when the guy approaching in the enormous black pickup truck made it clear he was not about to let me cross. Instead of the brake he hit the gas, and I heard the throaty warning of a powerful engine speeding up. Seeing the grille of a 3,000-pound truck accelerating toward my 185-pound frame, I did the physics and stepped back to the sidewalk.

As he went by I stared at the man. His eyes were shielded with Ray-Bans, but the smirk on his face conveyed his total satisfaction in power, oppression and victory.

But I wondered, who is he really? Who is he when he takes off the sunglasses? Who is he when he's not at the wheel of a truck the size of an armored personnel carrier? And I wondered if he himself even knows who he is behind the macho masks of flashy sunglasses, a beefy ride and the other trappings of masculinity, American style.

For most of us, our possessions reveal not who we really are, but who we think we are and, more importantly, who we want others to think we are. It happens because our sinful world tells us that our true worth as a human being is reflected in the power we have to control others, the amount of money in our bank account and the size of the reputation we earn. So we work to accumulate these things: power, wealth and fame.

In the Gospel lesson for this week, Jesus reminds us that these things we crave and work so hard to accumulate only mask who we really are. They keep us from seeing our real identity before God: Underneath all the wealth and power and fame, we humans are, without exception, all fragile, limited, mortal, pathetic children who are entirely dependent on God's love.

This idea is so radical and fearful that most of us do anything and everything to avoid it. And that's why we cling to the masks and possessions that prop up our false sense of self. They shield us from introspection and blind us to the truth of our utter weakness. Clinging to our masks, we remain in bondage to lies.
But the Gospel tells us that far from losing our power, when we see our true helplessness we are actually strongest because our hearts are open to God's love, riches and power working in our lives. We have true power, tremendous wealth and a good reputation with the only One whose opinion counts. That's the paradox of the Kingdom of God. We lose our false lives in the masks and deceptions of wealth, power and fame, but we gain our real lives as children of God.

-Rob Blezard, Webmaster and Editor
Reprint rights gladly given to congregations for nonprofit, local use. Just include this notice: "Copyright (c) 2008, the Rev. Robert Blezard, Used by permission."

New This Week:

UMCMessage of Christian Stewardship Reaches New Audience Online
Jesus warned us against pouring old wine into new wineskins, so why are we still using old stewardship approaches with new people? “The gen-Xers and the Y generation are very difficult to reach. They’re a very visual group and rely on television and Internet for their information. This carries over to their church lives, too." Click here to read “Message of Christian Stewardship,” from the United Methodist Church.

Dana ReardonSpread the Good Word about Tithing
Our columnist from 2003-2007, Dana Reardon, is back with a guest essay – reflecting on a new member who did not feel right until she got back to tithing. “I have to wonder why God would lay it on the heart of this faithful Christian to tithe, and yet not lean just as heavily on the faithful people who have been in this church for many years.” Click here for “Spread the Good Word about Tithing,” from the Rev. Dana Reardon. Click here for archived essays from Pastor Reardon.

360Great Website: 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy
Here your church members will find everything they need to get a handle on their finances – for a lifetime! Call it an accountant’s answer to all the dumb questions clients have asked over the years, this site is a free, online primer in household finances. Click here for 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, from the American Association of Certified Public Accountants.

Labor Day Resources
The economy is the number one issue on people’s minds on this election year, and that gives Labor Day 2008 special meaning. Here is an assortment of materials to help your congregation to celebrate Labor Day at worship this coming Sunday. Click here for Labor Day Resources, from Christianity Today.

Stewardship from the Lectionary
Your ChurchLooking for a way to put more stewardship into your preaching? Here is a great help -- a weekly commentary that highlights stewardship aspects in the weekly lectionary texts. Click here for "Stewardship from the Lectionary," from ELCA Stewardship Resources.