Aloha Friday Message – August 26, 2011 – Pass it around!

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Read it online here. This is from this Sunday’s Gospel reading.

Matthew 16:26What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life, or what can one give in exchange for his life?

Somewhere, sometime, I know you have sung 99 bottles of beer on the wall, and you know all about “you take one down and pass it around: 98 bottles of beer on the wall.” Today I am thinking about what Jesus said about having everything the World can offer right within your grasp, in fact even right within your possession, and then WHAM!! It’s all gone. Beloved, Jesus has challenged us to be generous with our gifts from God. If we are selfish with those gifts, no one will derive the benefit from them – not even us … especially not us! Why? Because when we invest God’s gifts in our own lives instead of in the lives of others, we essentially throw those gifts away. They become useless – and so do we – and eventually we end up losing the most important thing we have: Eternity in the presence of God.

In this ditty there are a finite number of beers on the wall. When we take one down and pass it around, the finite number diminishes. Eventually we get to the verse, “No more bottles of beer on the wall. No more bottles of beer! We’ll go to the store and buy us some more, 99 bottles of beer on the wall!” So, earthlings, where’s the store, and who’s got the money, and after several rounds of 99 beers … well I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d feel so good. And for sure and certain, had I not taken them down and passed them around, I definitely would not feel well, probably for days on end.

Sometimes we treat God’s gifts like those 99 bottles. We don’t know for sure where they came from, we don’t know (or care) who paid for them, we have no concern for the consequences once they are consumed, and if we keep them all for ourselves without passing them around, we end up feeling very unwell! So the question could be asked, “Is it better to go several rounds of 99 beers all by yourself, or is it better to pass them around?” Well, if it’s that many beers, it’s probably better not to get more than three or four down and passed around (or downed) today, and then maybe the same tomorrow and the next day and so on. No need to polish of the whole 99 in one sitting, right? I mean, if you tried to do that – drink like there’s no tomorrow – there just might not be a tomorrow, or tomorrow might not be at all pleasant. There has to be life after the party or else the party is the end of life. That also applies to Eternal Life.

When we don’t know Christ, our choices exclude an afterlife. In reality, our lives as earthlings are just the introduction to Eternity. Our comportment here affects our demeanor there. Whatever we suck up or suck down on earth has no effect on transitioning to eternal life. No great fame, or honor, or wealth, or notoriety, or skill, or genius, or anything of the World can earn any of us a place heaven. When you look at your life and the gifts God has put into you and see it all through your Father’s eyes, the perspective and perception is quite a bit different. Check out these Cross References: Psalm 49:7-9; Matthew 4:8-9 See also Luke 9:25 and Mark 8:35 (with notes). We’ve seen it so often among The Golden Ones in Hollywood, D.C., or pop music. The World sits down to a feast with them and then devours the feasters. The “had everything” and lost it all – taken away by drugs, or booze, or sex, or shame in a thousand different colors. They become trash, castaways, washouts, has-beens, and some even become dead. What kills them? What brings them down? It is a severe Spiritual damage that destroys this present life and imperils or even destroys Eternal Life. You can get back on the wagon and stay sober, but you cannot get a “Get Out of Hell Free” card and go to heaven.

Jesus put this parable in terms a sensible businessman could understand. He was talking profit and loss, investment and divestment, like richness against fabulous wealth.

There’s nothing in this world that can buy you a ticket to heaven, regardless of what some televangelists have said in the past. If you are willing to give up your soul and the eternal happiness that goes with it, then that is the price the Devil sets to buy your soul – next to nothing so that you yourself forfeit all God created you to be so that you can be all that you can be without him. Beloved, that’s not much. Even if you owned 20% of the whole world’s economy all to yourself alone, that’s exactly what you have: yourself alone, because the 20% of the world isn’t worth a puff of cloud in heaven. I want you to click on this link and read a Bible passage in very colloquial English. Please now, after you’ve read that passage, think about Luke 21:19: By standing firm you will gain life.

God is generous. Therefore, since you are created in his image, you are to be generous. Your generosity must not arise from a sense of duty – “I owe it all to God” – but from your deeply felt desire, even compulsion, to live your life in, for, and with Jesus; to emulate and imitate his every thought and move. Right up and through Calvary – your very own Calvary: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20). You know, it isn’t just you who gets crucified on your cross; so do all your sins, all your failings, all your troubles, and all the pain you bring to yourself and others by living only for you.

When I am willing to sacrifice the life of my body and to threaten it with illness or death just to revel in some short-lived pleasure induced by whatever addiction is strongest in me, am I not all the more willing to discount and sacrifice my very soul – the real God-given essence of me – for something I cannot experience with my bodily senses or even clearly imagine? Yet if someone else were to threaten or demand the sacrifice of my body for their pleasure, wouldn’t I fight against that? How much more so then should I fight for the life of my eternal soul? How many millions of lives are demolished and souls lost over the most pitiful pleasures, or the most worthless over-indulgence, sometimes for no greater reason that just being too lazy to say, “No?”

“Oh, it is only a soul which I cannot see and it is only eternity which I don’t understand. I don’t believe in either, so NBD.” Well, as I’ve said before, you’re in for one hell of a good time. We may find celebrating life a comforting way to remember the past, but to Celebrate Life, we have to focus toward the future with enthusiastic generosity, and extravagant sharing of every God-given gift. That is what keeps Life-as-God-made-it going. The other way is what makes life as we know it – worldly, but possibly comfortable, profitable, and even sharable. You can succeed in this life and the next, but you cannot be a success unto yourself and be yourself in Heaven. Here’s the story of a man who did so well, he made plans for doing better (where have I heard that before?) Luke 12:16-21

And what if you do succeed? What if everything you do is returned thirty, or sixty, or a hundred times over? IF you decide you are “too blessed to be stressed” and choose to keep it all for yourself, you lose! God blesses you so you can bless him by blessing others. Remember “bless the Lord” means to give God praise as an act of great gratitude – something which surely pleases God – makes him happy. You’re created in the image of God. All of God’s gifts are given with the intention that you will share them with others just as he has shared his generosity with you. If you short-circuit that and “the bucks stop here,” then you are not being true to God’s plan for his creation – to give each of us an infinite store of blessings, for he sings to us:

“Infinite Blessings of Joy unto all.
Infinite Blessings of Joy!
I’ll send one down. You pass it around.
[and you’ll still have]
Infinite Blessings of Joy unto all.”

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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