homily preached at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Bellingham, WA
by the Rev. Josh Hosler
September 24, 2014
When my daughter Sarah was three years old, we took her trick-or-treating for the first time. Dressed up as a fairy princess, she took in the Halloween scene with wonder. We emptied a plastic bucket of blocks, and she carried it from door to door, dutifully collecting lots of yummy-looking candy.
After just two or three blocks, Sarah’s bucket was about three-quarters full, and I saw that it was getting heavy for her. I decided I would offer to carry it for a while. I said, “Wow, Sarah—you sure have lots of candy.”
Before I could make my offer, though, Sarah looked at the bucket, looked back at me, and said, “I have enough now. Let’s go home.”
Enoughness—this isn’t a real word, but it should be. I believe that, because we have so much, “enoughness” is the unique challenge for the United States in the 21st century. Did you know that we use 25 times our share of the earth’s resources? So if we were to bring the whole world up to our level of consumption, we would need 25 Planet Earths. How many different kinds of breakfast cereal are representative of a well-stocked grocery store? How fast does your internet connection need to be? How big your hard drive? How many bells and whistles on your phone? How big a salary is enough of a salary? How big a house? How much savings will be enough for retirement? How do you know when you’ve “got it made”?
On an episode of the children’s TV show Veggie Tales, Larry the Cucumber is bragging about all the toys he’s been collecting and how many more he wants. Bob the Tomato asks him, “Larry, how much stuff do you need to make you happy?”
Larry stops, thinks, and replies, “I don’t know, Bob. How much stuff is there?”
And so we hear from the Book of Proverbs today: “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.”
Once we have enough that we don’t need to steal in order to survive, how much more can we want? Perhaps an infinite amount. But how much more do we really need?
Jesus sends out the disciples, saying, “Take nothing for your journey.” In other words, he says, “You have everything you need.” God goes with you. What more could we need? But how much can we trust this to be the case? To what extent do we trust God to provide? And what do we make of the situations in which many don’t seem to have been provided even with that much? Is that due to human fault rather than God’s?
The psalmist asks who is fit to stand in the LORD’s holy place. The answer: “Those who have clean hands and pure hearts.” This doesn’t mean that only the sinless have God’s love and attention, but rather, those “who do not lift up their souls to what is false.” It’s a matter of allegiance. When we trust that God is with us, God will be with us. When we trust ourselves over God, we find that what we have is never enough, and we begin to feel that we must continue always to shore up defenses around us.
I flew out to Bellingham ahead of my family in May to find us a house, so Christy and Sarah had not seen it when we all arrived in July. My biggest worry—and it really did keep me up at night—was that the master bedroom would be too small. Certainly it’s the smallest one we’ve ever had. And, lo and behold, we can fit a bed and two dressers and a bookshelf, and the closet is plentifully large. What more do we need? It is enough. Amen.