Daily Practice: How to be Rich Toward God

Today at St. Matthews we explored the parable of the rich man who decided to build bigger barns to store his bumper crop, only to be confronted by his own mortality and the reality that “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”  (Luke 12:13-21).  ( You can listen to the whole sermon at http://www.stmatthewsmn.org/sermons ).   All of us are confronted, both by our desire for “more” –more money, better grades, a bigger house with bigger closets, more caring, more love—and also by the fact that we also have more than enough in many areas of our lives.  In fact sometimes the enormous amount of energy it takes to maintain our stuff seems crazy—is this really the way we were intended to live?

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus teaches us that where our treasure is, there will our hearts also be.  He teaches us how bankrupt a life can be when we have a surplus of possessions but are not “rich toward God.”  But how do we begin to disrupt our habitual relationship toward the stuff of life, and begin to re-orient ourselves toward the riches of God’s kingdom?

This week, August 4-11, we at St. Matthews are invited to do a short experiment in practicing what we explored together in worship on Sunday.

Every evening, for five minutes, we are invited to do the following:

  • Ask ourselves: where did I spend my life today—my attention, energy, resources?
  • What did I think I needed more of to be at peace?
  • Where in my life was I conscious of already having more than enough? What did I do with that bounty today?
  • The point of these questions is not to judge ourselves, but to be mindful of where our life is, where our energy is going.  Try jotting down the answers – a few words or phrases or bullet points.  You might also try discussing this at the dinner table with your family.

Every morning, for five minutes, we are also invited to do the following:

  • Ask ourselves: what would it look like for me to be rich toward God today?  Given the particular tasks and schedule that I have today, what would it look like for me to experience being rich toward God?  Try jotting down where your imagination goes when you ask that question, what comes to you.  You might also try discussing this at the breakfast table with your family.

Everyone is invited to respond to this blog with what comes to you as you do these practices this week.  What surprises you?  Where do you feel God’s Spirit teaching and guiding you as you engage with this practice?

Lisa Wiens Heinsohn

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2 Responses to Daily Practice: How to be Rich Toward God

  1. Lisa Wiens Heinsohn says:

    This morning I was thinking about being “rich toward God.” The word “rich” is actually not one I aspire to, not one of the top five or ten words I wish would describe my life. When I think of “rich” I tend to think “having many things.” And that just sounds exhausting to me. My gardens and my closets are already full to bursting with stuff I need to give away and weeds I need to pull. But that got me thinking about the whole notion of “possessing” things in the first place. What if being “rich toward God” wasn’t about possessing anything, even in a spiritual or mystical sense? what if being “rich toward God” was more about an inner state that was independent of what one has–even virtues or the sense of satisfaction that comes from doing good?

    What if being “rich toward God” is a complete sense of being loved–exactly as I am? A sense that comes, not from one’s literal or spiritual possessions, but is pure gift? How might I behave today if I lived from the felt experience of being loved?

    Yesterday I was feeling a bit isolated, a bit raw. The day after I preach can be that way, sometimes. What do I think I need more of? More energy, more competence, more public acclamation, more time? Today, for me, being rich toward God is about being met in this place, this place of learning and growing, making mistakes and feeling whatever it is that I feel today, and being loved in the midst of it.

  2. Barrett Fisher says:

    After Lisa’s sermon I picked up a book by Nora Gallagher (“The Sacred Meal”) from the church library and immediately ran across this passage:

    “At the heart of any religion worth its salt, I think, is what a friend calls ‘redemptive wrestling.’ Faith is all about struggle. It’s about getting to what is really REAL in a world that does not always welcome reality….

    “A spiritual practice is a place where the heart and mind and soul are trained in wrestling … with illusion. What is life-giving is often hidden. We live in a world where we mistake riches for sustenance, a new purse (or you fill in your blank) for food, power over others for agency or own empowerment. It is often harder to do good than it is to do evil. We need all the help we can get. Think of a spiritual practice as Pilates for the spirit.”

    Since I go to the gym nearly every day, I was especially challenged by the metaphor of spiritual discipline as “Pilates for the spirit.” At one level, it made me reflect on my topsy-turvy values–I may pay more attention to the condition of my muscles than the well-being of my soul. At another level, it reminded me that the spiritual life is not intended to be easy, This doesn’t mean that it is supposed to be painful in a masochistic way (how frequently the image of “taking up one’s cross” has been abused along these lines), but hard in the same productive way that physical exertion is ultimately good for the body.

    Some forms of physical exercise come fairly easily and I enjoy them (e.g., swimming, biking), it is harder for me to be consistent with others (e.g., stretching, lifting weights)–but I need both. In the same way, I think that some spiritual practices will seem more “natural” than others, but we need to pursue a full range of these spiritual Pilates.

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