Proper 18C’22
4 September 2022
I Corinthians 3.10-14
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Amen. – Ephesians 2.10

I’d like to tell you a story about a wealthy man that I know whom I’ll simply call “Charlie.” Charlie made his first million and several millions after that, in the construction business. He was a morally good man, who attended church regularly. He was blessed with a wonderful wife and a great family – and his children all have done remarkably well in their chosen fields.

Shortly after entering the tranquility of his retirement, Charlie began to be troubled. Sermons and gospel readings started to get under his skin, passages like today’s reading that talks about not just storing up treasures on earth but treasures in heaven. After some serious soul searching, he was starting to realize that, although he had done well in his career and with his family, he had not done much else for God.

Every Sunday at Church while kneeling at the altar Charlie offered a simple but powerful prayer to God, “O God, I want to be of service, show me where and show me how.” After about a month, his prayers we’re answered. He happened to run into James, an old college friend at a coffeeshop, and they had a great visit catching up.

When Charlie asked James what he had been up to lately, James became more animated as he started to talk about a feeding program he had started out of the basement of his church across town. James invited parishioners to bring sacks of food to the basement and he promised to match the total of their food contributions with money. The money would then be used to buy more food. This program mushroomed with lots of parishioners both donating food and their time every Thursday from 8am until noon.

As Charlie listened to James, he grew excited and asked if he could get involved. James told him how to set up a similar program in his church. Charlie made the same offer to his congregation. They found a room for food storage and they were off and running. Eventually they outgrew the room and had to free up an additional room. Charlie was grateful to help in this way but felt he could do more. Every Sunday Charlie resumed his prayers at the altar on Sunday mornings, this time praying, “O God, I want to do even more, show me where and how?”

After several weeks his wife had a dream and she told him about it over breakfast, “You and another man were attempting to stuff boxes of cereal into a cramped closet. Then in the next scene you were in front of a grocery store shaking hands.” And that was the dream. Charlie believed the dream was somehow a message from the Spirit. Later that week at coffee James was telling him about a run-down building setting on some property a block from his church, that someone had donated. Charlie asked to take a look. He decided the building just wasn’t useable for a food pantry. He told James that he was running home to talk with his wife.

He told his wife that he and James had found the perfect property for a food pantry, but the building on it was just too far gone. Suddenly he said, “What if we could build a new one, and both churches could work together to stock it with food and staff it with volunteers?!” Excited he went back to James’ house and the rest is history. Charlie was able to reach out to his contacts in the construction business and located building materials at a fraction of the cost, he hired a crew – and voila! The Calvary Food Pantry was born! Charlie’s actions have increased and his Sunday prayer has shortened a bit, now when he kneels at the altar he prays, “Thank You!”

Now when he hears the passage from First Corinthians, he breathes much easier:

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward.”

One of my privileges as a priest is to minister to the sick and the dying. Over the years I have observed something that was not what I had expected with the dying. I figured there might be a lot of folks that on their deathbed would want to confess any sins they had committed recently or in their past. And, though I have heard those kinds of confessions, I must say the vast majority of confessions have centered not on what they did do, but on what they didn’t do. Not the sins of commission but the sins of omission. This is why in our prayer of general confession each Sunday covers both bases:

“Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone…” BCP p.360

I wonder where God is nudging us to use what he has given us for his greater glory, before our time is up?

As Mark Twain put it: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do that by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.”

Charlie in his later years kept on exploring, kept on dreaming, and kept on discovering what this life is truly about – Love!

“O God, I want to be of service, show me where, and show me how.”

“O God, I want to do even more, show me where, and show me how.

“Thank You!” Amen!