8 Trinity 2008

The Eighth Sunday After Trinity
July 13, 2008
Verses 12 & 13 of Romans 8:12-17
“Beware Of False Profits”

Have you ever been in debt? Are you presently in debt? Are you wondering if you’ll ever get your debt? Lots of people are finding themselves in dire circumstances these days. It all appears to have begun with the Enron collapse and bankruptcy in late 2001, followed by its ensuing financial scandal and the trial and conviction of certain of its chief officers. Enron was one of the world’s leading electricity, natural gas, pulp and paper, and communications companies, with claimed revenues of $111 billion in 2000. For six consecutive years Fortune Magazine had named Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company”.

Enron’s innovative policies were soon disclosed as being willful corporate fraud and corruption. At the end of 2001 it was revealed that its reported financial condition was sustained subtantially by institutionalized, systematic, and creatively planned accounting fraud. The big executives at Enron had ‘cooked the books’ and lined their own pockets; while thousands of Investors ended up loosing their life’s savings.

One of our own diocesan priests, retired and living on fixed income, had put his life’s savings into Enron stock because someone had assured him it was a sound and highly profitable investment. His motivation was not greed; he wasn’t looking to make a bundle. He just wanted to place his money where it would do well and he where would be free of financial worry. Then came the collapse and the retired, elderly priest was ruined, and died a few years later near penniless. It was not only the general public that suffered. Many of Enron’s employees too, some 22,000 people lost their jobs and any money that they too had invested in the company.

At the time, financial analyists and news reporters began to ponder the question: Who else will go down and how soon? Their question was soon answered! Along came the surprise collapse and demise of the financial giant Bear Stearns that sent shockwaves across the international economy and had an immediate psychological effect on our own economy. Making what financial analysts had perceived as a possible mild recession suddenly look like a possibly massive one.
Then the real estate market began to topple in mega-metropolises like Los Angeles and New York, creating a domino effect that filtered down to every city in the United States. Next along came the recent financial collapse of Countrywide Home Loan, a financial lending institution, which boasted of a huge selection of loans built to suit the specific needs of the customer, promising quick and easy loans, no-closing cost loans, with low, up-to-the-minute rates available by phone; everything to lure the first-time home buyer into the web of so-called ‘creative’ financing.
After I pumped gas into my truck at $4.57 cents per gallon the other day, I turned on the
truck’s radio to relax as I headed home, only to hear some disturbing news about Freddie Mack. Good grief! Institutional collapses, housing slumps and foreclosures, bankruptcies, rising gas and food prices. Enough with the bad news already!!!

You certainly didn’t come to church this morning to hear all that, or any more, bad news. In fact, you came here hoping to hear good news. And the Good News is that ALL OF YOUR DEBT has been CANCELLED! Cancelled, not by a surprise knock at your door from Publishers Clearing House, informing you of a monetary windfall elimating all your financial debt and assuring your financial future.

But more importantly, and of eternal significance to you, cancelled because Jesus Christ, by his death for us on the Cross, has completely CANCELLED ALL of our spiritual debt! He paid for it ALL with his life, by his death for us. By his stripes we are healed! Were you wondering whether you’d ever get out from under your spiritual debt? Had you forgotten that you have already been relieved of it? By God’s generosity!

Many people today are slowly coming to the realization that they are spiritually bankrupt. They’ve expended almost all of their energy, and time, and talent and hard-earned cash, and have even accumulated mounds of additional financial indebtedness on credit, in their personal quest to find happiness. As if happiness is to be found in material things. As if happiness is something one can buy one’s way into. Of course, they haven’t found it that way. Few have found it at all!

And so they will resort to other means, if not to find happiness through the accumulation of wealth, then at least to numb themselves from the harsh reality of the world by escaping from the world through ‘recreational’ or addictive use of drugs or alcohol, or by the abandonment of self to the over-consumption of food, or through clandestine sexual encounters or extra marital affairs, or through a combination of any or all of the above.

As a result, instead of their narrowing world becoming a happier place for them, it becomes more unfulfilled, more unsatisfying, and eventually emptier, lonelier, more sad. And they end up spiritually bankrupt, and not surprisingly some become psychotic and suicidal. Not knowing that the answer to their yearning for happiness is to be found in a spiritual encounter with Jesus Christ. In him alone is to be found the happiness they yearn for.

Some will discover that happiness is not to be found in fame, nor is it to be found in fortune. There is a song in the musical, Cabaret, which speaks to the present condition of our world. The song is entitled, Money Makes The World Go Round. You know, that ‘clinking, clanking sound.’ It needn’t take a clever lyricist to show us where the love of money, and the irresponsible and sometimes downright illegal acquisition of wealth, can potentially lead us.

My mother used to say, ‘If something sounds too good to be true; it usually is!’ Jesus warned, ‘Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.’ In the end those wolves will devour the sheep. Indeed it was the many false prophets of the financial world, who promised unbelievably big profits to the naive (and sometimes greedy) investor. And after they got them into their clutches, they fleeced and devoured the sheep that had fallen for these get-rich-quick schemes.

GREED will eventually show its true colors for what it is, and the death it can bring with it. ‘Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?’ asked Jesus. Every good tree brings forth good fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. Whereas a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. Neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Put simply, evil actions beget evil results! ‘Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.’

And look where greed has taken this world, at the hand of the many who are ‘of ’ this world. But there is Divine justice! There is a day of reckoning! The bad tree is brought down, ‘hewn down,’ and ‘cast into the fire!’ Many corrupt institutions and corrupt executives have fallen in recent times have they not?

But of course, Jesus was not speaking specifically of greed, but of man’s deeds in general. A tree that is ‘good,’ that is to say a person that is of God, can be expected to produce good deeds, godly actions that will benefit the many. And he will serve others. A tree that is ‘bad,’ that is to say a person that is without God, can be expected to be unfruitful and selfish in his deeds and potentially harmful to others. For he will use others to serve himself! By their fruits, in time, you will know which is which!

It was not ‘debt’ of a financial nature that St. Paul spoke about to the Romans. But the many ways we conduct our lives. He warns us not to live ‘after the flesh’ or ‘of the world.’ For those who live simply to satisfy their fleshly urges are in the very grip of death. ‘For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die,’ (ye shall perish) said St. Paul. But those who ‘mortify’ (have under control) their bodily appetites shall live. These live their lives in check for they are ‘led by the Spirit of God.’ Hence they are the obedient children of God. They are not in bondage to their appetites or to anyone; save for being the servants of God. But they are more than servants; they are His children, by adoption and by grace. If children then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.

Christ who has CANCELLED ALL our spiritual debt; who paid the price in full for our former disobedience. So live your life in the knowledge you are ‘debt free,’ because of the grace of God, which is yours in Jesus Christ our Lord.

If in fact, you came here this morning hoping to hear Good News, then hear it! The Good News is that ALL our debt has been CANCELLED through Jesus our Lord. And that, my friends, is that which makes for true happiness!