Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Sermon August 6, 2017 8th after Trinity

One evening a wise old grandfather told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all.
One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"
The wise grandfather simply replied, "The one you feed."
From this old story, which comes from the Cherokee people, the evil wolf can appear in sheep’s clothing. There are at least two aspects of ourselves which can seem to be a war within us.  We have devices and desires which encourage us to go places that we know we should not go and do things that we should not do.  St. Paul was very aware of this battle.  He complains to God in a prayer of desperation, which is unusual for him, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate”. 
The collect for today sums it up:
O God, whose never-failing providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth; We humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which be profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Do we always know what is profitable for us today?  Do we always know which wolf we are feeding?  I don’t think it is.  Perhaps it has never been as two thousand years ago St. Paul was struggling with this challenge.  I don’t know the origin of the Cherokee Legend but it legends are usually ancient.
But what of profit; is it always a good thing?  Today the world certainly looks at profit as a good thing.  A company which has its bottom line in the black is looked on as a good investment.  However, making a profit can be good whether it is personal or corporate or for government.  Profit is considered to be an admirable thing.  However, it depends on what you do to make that profit.  We can live lives that are profitable when we look at the bottom line of our bank accounts, but how we are spending our resources. 

Which wolf will we feed?

The quest for corporate profits can be ruthless when it seeks to put share value and the bottom line over proper treatment of workers.  It can seek to break unions and seek the lowest wage jurisdiction without regard for what happens to workers.  It can encourage corporate managers to line their own pockets with stock options rather than the long term health of the company. 

Which wolf will we feed?

The same can be true for us as individuals.  How are we giving back from our bounty?  For many years I have been a follower of a column in the Saturday Globe and Mail; the Financial Facelift.  This column takes a look people’s financial situation—there assets and liabilities and how they spend their money and recommend what changes they should make to reach their goals—often it is having a secure retirement or owning a house or enough money to live comfortably.  There is nothing wrong with that.  However, I have been saddened by the small amount that people often give to charity in their spending.  These are usually people who are relatively well off—comfortably middle class.  Sometimes they are in poor financial shape—usually because their spending is in excess of their income—sometimes radically.  However, their spending often doesn’t include much in charitable donations.   There was one column recently that illustrates this.  A letter to the editor commented on it which I will quote from:
Last Saturday’s couple in their 50’s with total assets of $2.5 million took the prize for self-indulgence.  Buried among the expenditures of a net monthly income $13,975 were vacation spending ($500), discretionary ($1,131), dining, drinks and entertainment ($775) and charity ($10).  What? Did they buy some Girl Guide cookies?
Which wolf will we feed?

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  Jesus lays it on the line for us.  We can have a debt free financial bottom line.  We can spend our money on vacations and cottages and all sorts of luxury items.  Can we gain our worldly security and lose our souls?  
That is true for us and it is true for individuals and our corporations and our governments.  How are those who are on the fringes of society treated by our governments who represent us?  How are treated by us personally?  How much support do out governments give to refugees and aid to third world countries? 

Which wolf will we feed?

Jesus tells us, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”  Are our lives going to produce good fruit or will it produce grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?  A good tree bringeth forth good fruit and a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. 

Which wolf will we feed?

We do have two wolves within us; an evil one and a good one—an evil tree and a good tree.  It is not always easy to recognize which is which.  And when we do recognize it, it is often not easy to feed the good one as St. Paul tells us. 
All we can do is to make the effort to recognize which is which.  When we do recognize it we can strive to feed the right one.  When we fail, when we fall into sin as we inevitably will, we can repent and turn around.  We have the assurance of God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ. 

Let us feed the wolf of our better nature.  Amen.

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