“The Goal of Being Rich Toward God”
July 31, 2016:
The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 13)
Ecclesiastes 1: 12 – 23/Psalm 49: 1 – 12/Colossians 3: 1 – 11/Luke 12: 13 - 21
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Today, we celebrate the receiving of Patriarch Adler of the Christian Life Fellowship International group into the one holy Catholic Church done last July 31, 1994. God started the work. Cathedral of the King was started by God. The Charismatic Episcopal Church is from God. He who began the good work is faithful to complete it.
We have the presence of the Bishops of the different Dioceses and the presence of the Priests and Deacons front the Parishes and Mission Churches of the Diocese of Manila. We have one Father; we are one family. We have been on this journey and we have had our ups and downs, our joys and sufferings, our good and bad days, but the joy has always been available because God has always been present with us. We have the assurance of His peace. It is not our idea of peace, but God’s peace which is always available to us no matter what the circumstances.
Whenever two or three are gathered in His midst, there is He in our midst. This is the big deal and God will be faithful to complete what He started in us. We have seen milestones, how time came to a fullness, and the Lord was active and He gave us the opportunity to participate in His work. We have seen these, but we will see yet more of them. It is the Kairos time; the fullness of time. Now, we are looking forward to breaking ground and blessing the first property owned by the Cathedral of the King. God is faithful. It is no racetrack, but God is there. God will meet us there. I don’t know about you, but I am excited because God promised that the glory of the latter house will be greater than the former.
In Luke 12, Jesus said, “Now even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possession.” Even our lack is not what our life is all about. We don’t live on bread alone, but on God’s will. The will of our God who is more than enough is: we have bread for food and we have seed for sowing. Bread is for eating; the seed is for planting.
I don’t believe in the “prosperity gospel” that says that even the excess is for us. No, the bread is for us, and the excess is for planting. It is for blessing, for gleaning of those who are in need. This is why our God is more than enough. This is why He gives us more than enough so that what we need is satisfied and we have an excess to bless others who are in need. This is God’s will and this is His design. It is not His will that we eat the seed. It is harmful to us.
In the feeding of the four thousand and the five thousand, the people were satisfied. The leftovers were not given to those who were satisfied because they got their need. The excess is not for them, but it is for gleaning. If we withhold, that is when we lose. The excess is set aside; it is the sacred portion. In Deuteronomy 26, it says, “I have removed from my house the holy and sacred portion.” The excess is not for us to consume and we know it is an excess because our God is El Shaddai. It is not for us, but it is to bless others with and meet their needs.
Prosperity, the excess for self, is not the will of God. Poverty is not the will of God either. Poverty is a bad testimony of our God because our God is more than enough. His hand is not too short. He owns heaven and earth and all it contains. Even frugality in a tight and sparing sense is not the will of God. Proverbs 30:8 says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with food that is my portion.” There is our portion and there is sacred portion. “…That I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?” Deuteronomy 8:17-18a says that when we have become full, don’t forget the Lord, your God, and say, “Who is He? He doesn’t give me the power and the ability to make wealth.”
God is the One who gives us the ability to make wealth. There is our portion; and there is the sacred portion. Proverbs 30:9b: “Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.” Ephesians 4:28 says, “Let him who steals, steal no longer.” There was a specific purpose for which this verse was said - so that one can work with his hands and have a produce so that he can share with those are in need. We do not say, “This is mine. I worked for it.” No, we work so that we have ability to share our excess with those who are in need.
God designed us to have needs (not just material needs) to be satisfied by His provision. Sometimes, we have a higher calling of sacrificial giving that even that which is our portion, we are called by God to sacrifice. It is, “My life for yours; my bread for your hunger; my life for the life of the world.” God responds with the Resurrection and multiplied restoration. We will know when God calls us to do this because in giving, we never lose.
In Colossians 3, St. Paul instructs us to set our minds on things above, not on the things on earth. It is not because there is no hope here on earth, but because we are born from above. We are in the business of making the Kingdom come on earth. We implement that Kingdom. We plant the flag of the Kingdom of heaven here on earth because it has been tainted. We are the instruments in the kingdom of God, which is our active part in the prayer of The Lord’s Prayer.
How do we best accomplish making the Kingdom come on earth? Is it by having a good church management? Do we need unique projects? Do we need a perfect leadership? Do we need excellent accounting skills? Do we need well-articulated canons to make the Kingdom come on earth? Do we make rules of no smoking, no drinking? Are these the best ways to make the kingdom of God come here on earth? Are we to pursue these things that when we are not busy, we are fighting each other and magnifying each other’s weaknesses? When we are not busy, we log in to our social media accounts and bash him who has a weakness? Is this how we make the kingdom of God come on earth?
We make the Kingdom come on earth by accepting one another. It is by loving one another. It is by forgiving each other and walking in unity and proving that we are children of God and partakers of the divine nature.
The mission of the Cathedral of the King and the Diocese of Manila, our way of making the Kingdom come is to know God and to make Him known. This is why we are members because we are to know God and to make Him known. All the ministry plans and mission statements throughout the Diocese must align with this. The mission should be tailored particularly to the each ministry. What each ministry does must align with the mission of knowing God and making Him known.
Each one, every day, 24/7, we must ask ourselves: “Is this what I do make me help to know God and to make Him known?” We know God in the breaking of the bread, the sacraments, in word, in the prayer and even in nature. We make Him known not according to the world’s way, not according to Hollywood, but it is through our love, our relationship and our unity. Psalm 133 says, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity." This is how we make God known for God is good!
Our former Patriarch Adler said that the Charismatic Episcopal Church will not be known for its theology or for the convergence of three streams. It will be known for our relationship, how we treat and take care of each other.
I love Hillsong, Hosanna, Praise Inc., Papuri but long before in the 70's in the liturgical songs, there was this song entitled "Isang Pananampalataya" from Ephesians 4. Its lyrics say, "Isang pananampalataya, isang pagbibinyag, isang Panginoon, angkinin natin lahat. Habilin ni Hesus noong Siya'y lumisan: kayo ay magkatipon sa pagmamahalan." It doesn't say, "Kayo ay magtipon so that you can display your wonderful vestments and your ability to sing and dance," but it is to dwell together in love.
"Ama pakinggan Mo ang aming panalangin, dalisay na pag-ibig sa ami'y sumapit. Mga alagad Ko, pa'no makikilala, tapat nilang pag-ibig, wala nang iba pa." It is not about liturgy or being charismatic, but by our love for one another. "Kaya nga, O Ama, sana'y Iyong hawian ang aming mga puso ng mga alitan." Jesus said to love one another, forgive one another and this is what we are all about. People will know that we are His disciples by our love for one another. Love for one another will make the glory of the latter house more glorious than the former. It is not with a bigger temple, although I won't refuse a bigger house, but we are missing the point. The glory of the latter house is not in size or gold, but because we have love for one another.
Another song entitled, "Pananagutan" says, "Walang sinuman ang nabubuhay para sa sarili lamang. Tayong lahat ay may pananagutan sa isa't isa." Romans 14:7 says, “For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself." We are built with spaces meant to be filled by other's gifts, by each other's success. This is God's design. From Adam was taken a rib and that was his empty space. When he sees Eve, he says, "You complete me.”
Do not ever think that we don't need each other even with those whom we think have lesser ability. We are not to belittle because they are our brothers. We need one another because God's design is for us to accomplish His will together, in unity, interdependence. Each has something given by God that another needs. No ministry is more glorious than another. Don't belittle your role, your work or other's work, or your ministry and tend to be discouraged. Don't grow weary. It is a calling, a vehicle for gift and a means of grace to make God known.
Being rich is the freedom and the joy to meet another's need using God's provision. Being poor is the absence or lack of such even if with a supply. Hence, rich or poor has nothing to do with the amount of resources that we have, but it is our attitude. It is either generosity or greed; love or avarice.
The five loaves and the two fish fed the five thousand because of love. A whole harvest with greed won't even feed five people. Peter said to the beggar, "Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have I give to you." It is not about money, but what we have. Be rich toward God; use what He's blessed you with to be a blessing. Don't be poor by withholding. We need to shift focus from own affairs to making God known, to the needs of the people. We will see opportunities galore. We will not have a shortage.
Use God's gifts and blessings to meet needs. It is not all about money, but what we have - ourselves. We have people asking to start churches in different places. We need to continue the work in Leyte, Samar, Alfonso, Pasig, and Taguig. We have a lot of opportunities. We need teachers; we need ministry trainings and livelihood trainers; medical people; equipment for birthing clinic. We have needs for the prison ministry and Pililia. We have a lot of needs for manpower and prayers, too.
Again, God has blessed each of us. Don't look down on anyone because they don't have what you have - beauty, wisdom, talent, money, or even speaking English. You have something that God has given that will benefit the Kingdom and make Him known. The worst thing that we can do is to let other's flaw or lack to affect our giving and your service. Recognize and understand that we are one family. We have one God; we have one Father who is over all and through all and in all. We need to work with each other.
I challenge you not to look at each other according to the flesh. Christ is in all of us. This is the hope we have. Our relationship is symbiotic. It is a reciprocation of life. We impart to somebody life because they impart to us life also. Our withholding will break that cycle. We each have gifts and in 1Corinthians 12 - 13, St. Paul shares that there is a more excellent way to use our gifts. Don't just use your gifts. Use your gifts to make God known. Use your gifts out of love. You may have gifts, and be spiritual, but if you don't have love, they are nothing. Gifts without love is nothing. Money without love is poverty.
I have been talking about money, yes, among all other gifts. Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none (in the present tense). After seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness, God gave the church silver and gold. It is not to reward for leisure. It is not so that we can have excess but it is because the excess is for our giving, for our equipping to better seek, pursue our mission of knowing God and making Him known.
This is the goal of being rich toward God: to know Him and to make God known. And this is the way in the kingdom of our God.