Homily: July 3, 2016
July 3, 2016, YEAR C; Rev. Phil Boelter In the year 1776
the year our nation was born,
240 years ago tomorrow,
Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith wrote a small book
An essay really.
These few words were to shape all our futures
Down to Sunday morning, July 3rd, 2016.
That book was called “the Wealth of Nations”
And it took its name directly from a verse in our first reading this morning.
Smith took over the optimistic forecast from Isaiah the prophet,
written for Israel.
He took it and fashioned an economic blueprint for national prosperity
for the newly independent colonies in America,
his own United Kingdom and all of western Europe.He called it the invisible hand of self interest
That would drive nvestors to invest,
And buyers to buy,
And laborers to labor
And make the whole thing work out in the end.
Those who take the risk-
Invest their lives-
Their money, their capital their sweat, and succeed
reap the rewards of that brave leap of faith.
Boy, has that economic system taken on a life of its own-
This system has generated great wealth for millions of people.
This blueprint of capitalism
has shaped our nation’s fortunes,
for better AND for worse.
It has fueled our country’s economic prosperity,
And the worlds-
But in turn
It has also caused greater economic disparity
than has existed since the Ancient Roman Empire
ruled the then known world two millennia ago.
But what about spiritual economics?
Is there a spiritual leap of faith for us?
On the face of it,
the prophecy in our first reading is stunning.
It foretells a bright future for Israel-
Salvation, wealth, destiny.
“I will extend prosperity to her like a river,
And the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream.”
It sounds like Jerusalem and the Israelites have won the lottery.
Good news, of course.
It only becomes more so when we understand the immediate background.
As Isaiah the prophet speaks these words in Chapter 66,
Zion , the beloved city, lay in ruins.
Its residents have already been carried off to captivity.
The center of Israel’s religious life, has been burned to the ground.
The local economy is in a total shambles.
No jobs, no food, no money.
The holy city of God,
the place of God’s own choosing,
the concrete, geographical location of divine promise,
has “become a wilderness … a desolation”
thanks to invading, conquering armies.
In the midst of that destruction,
God called the Israleites,
God calls us
Pushes us with an invisible hand to make a leap of faith
From a miserable past to a bright future.
This is spiritual economics.
This is faith.
It’s the same faith Jesus demanded of the disciples
In today’s Gospel reading
When he sent the seventy out two by two-
With very little in the way of provisions.
There’s not much re-assurance here in Luke’s gospel-
Lambs into the midst of wolves?
No purse, no bag, no sandals,
totally dependent on GOD to provide whatever was needed
In the way of food, shelter, protection and success-
Through other people-
Strangers the disciples haven’t even met yet, really.
How is this good news?
How does this make economic or any other kind of sense?
Our minds and our experience tell us to prepare,
Make sure we have enough,
But like Adam Smith’s capitalist system-
The reward goes to those who make the leap
Who invest all they have and are in the new idea,
The grand vision,
The unforeseeable and not too guaranteed future.
It is that grand leap of faith which gets rewarded-
To which the wealth of the nations,
And the help of others comes.
I remember a time like that in my life….
It was 1996-
I was in the middle of post graduate studies at Notre Dame
And I knew my marriage was crumbling.
Matthew was 3, Eric was 5
And one night I went in to check on them in their beds-
I felt like I was on the edge of a cliff-
Ahead of me was the rocky road of divorce-
Along the way I had no certainty of a career in ministry or finance or anything else….
No idea where I would live,
What my family would look like-
And that was the hardest part-
Literally feeling like I was being asked to risk my two sons
my future with them,
It was like I was standing on the edge of a big cliff.
I couldn’t see what was below and ahead-
but from behind me I felt a push-
Was it the divine hand?
Urging-Take this step-
Go out in faith-
I’ll be with you.
The truth is-
God was in that cliff standing moment-
And God was going to provide for me
As God had done for Israel in the return from captivity
And the rebuilding of Jerusalem which Isaiah the prophet foresaw.
God was in that cliff standing moment of mine
As much as God was active
When Christ pushed the seventy out of the nest
And sent them forth-
Like lambs in the midst of wolves.
In my darkest moments
When I couldn’t see the way through to the future,
I couldn’t begin to imagine the resources God would bring to bear
From other people
To help me make a career shift-
begin a new life with a changed family,
To move on-
And here we are today together-
Twenty years later-
God has led me to more helpful people,
Through more tight scrapes
And out into a larger world
Than ever I could’ve imagined
On That night when I stood at my sons’ bedroom door
And wept and worried.
That night I felt that gentle push-
The invisible hand-
Not like Adam’s Smith’s invisible hand of self interest-
Which drives economic markets and investment and reward,
But God’s invisible hand
Pushing us forward to a leap of faith into a future we cannot see.
And it all began with the leap of faith.
So that is spiritual economics in a nut shell-
Come jump with me,
Take the leap of faith.