Catherine A. Caimano: This very day, our lives are being demanded
An Episcopal priest starts pastoral ministry with a reminder that the only ‘real’ world is the kingdom of God, says Catherine A. Caimano.
June 9, 2009 | Editor’s note: Faith & Leadership offers sermons that shed light on issues of Christian leadership. This sermon originally was delivered by the Rev. Catherine A. Caimano on August 5, 2007, her first Sunday as rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Wichita, Kan.
Do you ever have those dreams where you are signed up for a class but you have forgotten to go all semester, and today is the final exam? For whatever reason, it’s always a math class for me. I hate that sinking feeling, when I realize that they are handing out the test and I am unprepared, the panic sets in.
I have to admit I have had dreams like that in these past weeks as I have been preparing to come here and be your rector -- dreams where the service was starting but I couldn’t find the door into the sanctuary, or I couldn’t find my sermon, or my prayer book was suddenly in Swahili. Well, so far so good on that front, I guess.
But this parable from Jesus always reminds me of those dreams: “This very night, your life is being demanded of you.” Uh-oh. The big final exam. Have I studied? Have I even remembered what I signed up for in the first place?
It is not a comforting thought. In fact, I love the feeling of relief that I get when I wake up from those particular kinds of dreams: “Thank God it wasn’t real, everything is back to the way I expect it.” And yet, Jesus promises us, someday it will be real. Someday, our life will be demanded of us. In fact, Paul goes so far in Colossians as to say that right now we are actually dead, that we won’t truly be alive until that day when we meet Jesus in the resurrection.
Yet I find it interesting that when we hear this, we often tend to go to the place of our anxiety. What if I have done it wrong? What if I have been looking at the wrong things, valuing the wrong things? And, of course, the tone of this parable is exactly that -- be on guard.
So it seems natural that we would approach our lives with God checking and double-checking, living in a perpetual waking anxiety dream. Will God catch us doing what we shouldn’t, like storing up treasures? But wait, who among us does not have a bank account? In fact, aren’t we constantly bombarded with messages that we should be storing up our wealth, so that we will have enough to get by, so that we won’t be caught unprepared in our earthly life?
So then our anxiety becomes: Are we doing right by God or are we doing right by the so-called real world? No wonder we have nightmares.
And yet, I get the feeling, given how this whole story comes up in the Bible -- someone is asking Jesus to be the wise king, the arbiter of disputes, and he turns the tables, as he often does, and tells them a story instead -- that Jesus isn’t trying to add to our fears, but to alleviate them.
In fact, just after this parable, he goes on to the more familiar passage where he exhorts us not to worry about what we will eat, what we will wear -- to “consider the lilies.”
In all of this I think that Jesus is telling us that our life with God is not just another realm where we have to wonder if we are getting it right; instead, he is saying that most of our anxieties are unfounded because the only real world in which we actually live is the kingdom of God.
And what makes us Christians different from everybody else is not that we don’t have savings accounts; it’s that the true saving in our lives is the salvation of a God who died for the love of us. And so our life consists of something more than what we can store up on earth. And our true life is still being revealed to us, every day.
“This very night, your life is being demanded of you,” says Jesus, who knows in saying this that our lives really belong to him, and he wants us to know this, too. And so he exhorts us not to get too caught up in our earthly anxieties because there is so much more to what we are here for.