I don’t believe in teaching 10% tithing because I have come to understand that the people most susceptible to its teaching can least afford the financial burden and those who have the most capacity for following it are the least likely to meet it when in actuality they should be exceeding it.
So where are we with counting the cost and saving all we can? Wesley comes down hard on people’s vanity in this section. Don’t buy stuff for the sake of pride. No keeping up with the Joneses - it’ll just leave us bitter and empty - not to mention potentially broke. Wesley invites us to keep it simple and to teach our children the same.
So what does John Wesley have to say about earning all we can? If I were to sum it up, it would be something like this: work hard, find the thing that you can do, do it well and with honesty and integrity. Don't take a job that makes you sacrifice your morals. Nothing that hurts other people or forces you to lie, cheat, or abuse anyone. Work hard but not so hard that your body breaks. Make sure that you can rest - remember that we need Sabbath rest - and that the labor doesn't literally kill you. The same goes with your mind. Make sure that you have time to rejuvenate. Make sure that you have time for your family and community, because that's part of our life's work.
How do we understand ourselves apart from those who have helped to make us who we are? Honestly, we really can’t. Those who have gone before us will always be a part of us and we can find some comfort and perhaps healing in the remembering.
The trajectory of the biblical canon moves toward more and more justice, more and more love, more and more compassion. As the people who experienced God lived more into their faith and into the fullness of God’s love, their understanding of God also shifted.
Over and over again in the Gospels Jesus tells us that faith is demonstrated. Just like love is demonstrated. You could tell me that you love me with words, but it is through a warm embrace, loving appreciation, kindness, shared excitement, and generosity that I feel your love. Faith is similar. We can’t just do it lip service. Faith is demonstrated.
After the service he was approached by several businessmen. They told him in no uncertain terms "leave labor matter alone and just stick to saving souls. Stay away from political matters, you are rubbing fur the wrong way." To which Billy Sunday replied, "If I'm rubbing fur the wrong way, tell the cats to turn around!"
Turning away from our neighbors in need defies God’s work on our hearts. If all we can think of is ourselves, how we look to others, how we feel at any given moment, or paying into the latest and greatest new fad on the market, you can bet that we’re not giving God the room to teach us to love. What a miserable way to live.
This is what we were promised. Not that we would never suffer or even that all suffering would be inherently meaningful. No, we were promised that we would not have to suffer alone. God infuses our sorrow with meaning the way a parent does with a sad child, through a closer bonded relationship.
I began writing this sermon halfway up Mt. Mansfield this week. Now, you could argue that it's pretty clever rationalization to work a hike into my sermon prep. And you wouldn't be entirely wrong. Man, that was a nice hike. But I did, indeed, have a method to my madness for my Wednesday hike. Our subject today is joy and a mountain hike is a fabulous metaphor for this sermonizing journey.