The following sermon was preached at saint benedict’s table on Sunday, August 11, 2019.  You can also listen to the live recording or subscribe to our podcast. Just click here.


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable and pleasing in your sight O God, for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

When I was reading tonight’s passages in preparation for this sermon my first thought was OK… so my choices are money or sex. Money or sex. Hmmm…. I’m going with money.  Little did I know at that time that in addition to money I was also going to need to say something about guns.

Tonight’s gospel reading contains a conversation and a parable.

Someone in the crowd calls out to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”

Jesus’ response makes it clear that this person has misunderstood Jesus’ mission. Jesus did not come in order to be a legal expert who would settle disputes between people through his wise analysis of legal code.

And Jesus doesn’t see this conflict as a conflict simply about who is right and who is wrong according to the law of the land.  Rather, he sees it as a conflict about greed and scarcity.

So rather than a clever legal analysis, Jesus gives a warning: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (15)

If both brothers were willing to let go of the belief that there was never enough, then the one would be more inclined to share and the other less inclined to believe that he was being cheated.

Jesus’ warning should be seen as good news by both brothers, because if they heed his warning, no one loses. They both win.

The parable that follows this conversation illustrates the point.

This parable is one that always jumps out at me because it is tied to a specific memory.  Several times while I was in university I had the opportunity to see Bruce Kuhn perform his one man show “The Gospel of Luke,” in which he acts out the entire King James’ Version of the Gospel of Luke word for word.

And in his portrayal of this story, this rich man is Scottish.  And oh, how I wish I could do a half decent Scottish accent for you right now so you could get a sense of just what that does to this story.

But even without the accent, it’s just a wonderfully crafted little story.

“The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.”

It’s theatrical.  That lovely line, “And I will say to my soul, Soul…” Fantastic.

It’s lovely, but we are meant to see this man as a fool. At no point does he credit or thank God for his abundant harvest.  He assumes that everything his fields have produced belongs to him and him alone and his only responsibility is to store his wealth, not to share it.

Which takes me to the news of latest mass shootings in the United States.

While I am largely at a loss for what to say about the tsunami of gun violence overtaking the United States, I do have a few thoughts to share with you today.

First, in the first 219 days of 2019, there were 250 mass shootings in the United States. That is 250 too many.

Second, we need to be very careful about any sense of superiority we might feel about the fact that this is happening in a foreign country, not only because that superiority doesn’t help anyone, but also because the attitudes and beliefs that lead to that sort of unimaginable horror are very present in our own country and in our own lives.  Don’t let a sense of false superiority drown out that reality.

Third, while I do not have all of the answers, or any answers really, I do believe that the attitudes and beliefs we see reflected in this parable are also at the root of why so many people are buying guns and killing people.

Sadly, it doesn’t require too much of an imagination to add a few lines to this parable that would read,  “I will build barns to store all of my possessions, and I will buy guns to protect those possessions, and I will live in fear that at any moment a person – most likely a person whose skin colour is different from my own – will try to take those possessions so I will place all of my sense of safety and security in my ability to shoot them if they try.”

Lord have mercy.

This rich man believes that his ability to lead a good life is bound up in his ability to obtain and securely store a vast amount of goods for his own personal use, and, as a result, he winds up being a total loser.

Because he will not, in fact, simply “eat, drink, and be merry,” because God says to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (20-21)

What does it mean to be rich towards God? What are we supposed to do with our fruits and goods?

Our fruits and goods are not just reflected in our bank balances, but today I do want to spend some time focusing on money.

Talking about money can be a tricky thing, which doesn’t mean we should avoid doing it, it just means that we tend to avoid doing it, and as a result we’re often not really good at talking about money so we need to be prepared to feel awkward, and to make mistakes, and to apologize when we do.

One of the trickiest things about talking about money is that, in our culture, money is one of those things that it’s very difficult to generalize about and as such, especially in a context like this where I am speaking to a large room full of individuals and then also to our podcast audience something that hits one of you as good news may feel like condemnation to someone else.


Although it’s hard to generalize about money, here is one thing I believe is true of all of us. For each one of us there is some area of our relationship with our money and with our stuff that can be challenged. Some area where there is room for growth.  It won’t be the same for everyone, but it’s there.

So what I want to do now is tell you a series of stories of places that I have seen people push into the growth edge of their relationship with money and with stuff, in the hopes that it might spark your own imagination.

When we moved into our house, the former owner left a ladder in the back yard. The kind that is perfect for cleaning out eavestroughs.  I suppose it is our ladder now, but it doesn’t really feel that way because all of our neighbours use it too. It just sits in our back yard and they come and get it whenever they need it. And better yet, sometimes groups of neighbours come by and go from house to house cleaning out each other’s eavestroughs together.  And we borrow other things from each other as well because it just seems silly that everyone on the block would have their own ladder – a tool we all only need about twice a year – when we can share.


There is someone in this congregation – and don’t worry I’m not going to out you – who pays careful attention to the times when I need to be at church for extended periods of time – Holy Week or Sundays when we have both a 4 and 7 o’clock service or when Jamie’s away and they’ll text me to see if I need help and they’ll often slip me a Power Bar because they know perfectly well I haven’t had supper. It’s a generous and thoughtful act.  The kind that easily goes unnoticed. The kind that makes all the difference.


I have a friend who spent most of his life on social assistance. He spent a decent portion of his life living on the streets and in homeless shelters as well. When he turned 65 he moved off of social assistance and began collecting Canada Pension.

Suddenly he felt like his was rich because although Canada Pension is not a lot of money, it’s still higher than what a person receives on social assistance.

And not long after that, I noticed two things. One, he began going to Tim Horton’s almost every morning for a coffee, and two, every time we invited him to do things like go to a movie, his automatic response was “I can’t afford to.”  He didn’t pause, he didn’t think, he just said, “I can’t afford to.”

And after a while we had a conversation, the kind I wouldn’t recommend you have with just anyone, but the kind that made sense within the context of the trust we’d built in our relationship.

I pointed out that I noticed he always turned down our offers to go out by saying, “I can’t afford it,” and yet, it seemed to me, that he probably could afford it because he was spending at least the same amount as a movie ticket each week on coffee at Tim Hortons and if he chose to make coffee at home instead he could come with us.

Well, to summarize a fairly long conversation, we uncovered a few things that day.  The first, was that he didn’t really like going to movies but he did love the ritual of getting up, going for a walk, and chatting with people at Tim Horton’s.  It wasn’t just about the coffee, it was about community, it was about an experience. An experience he couldn’t simply replicate by making coffee at home.

The second was, that it was a choice.  And this was revolutionary. For the first time in a very long time he had a small amount of disposable income and he could choose how to spend it. He realized that he whenever we had asked him to go to the movies he had become so used to not being able to afford things like that that his response “I can’t afford it” was an automatic one. He never stopped to think if he wanted to go to a movie or if he could in fact afford it.

The realization that he had the power to choose was incredibly important and life giving even though his choices weren’t that expansive. Even though there would always be many things he actually could not afford. But he could choose what he did with what he had.



Since I graduated from university I have never worked in the for-profit sector. I have always worked for not-for-profits – charities and churches – and this has taught me an awful lot about money.  I could talk for a loooong time about scarcity and abundance and control in the finances of non-profits, but I’ll save that for another time and just share a few things I’ve learned with you today.

At the first church I worked at, the church’s bookkeeper taught me a lot about church finances and one of the key lessons I learned from her was this, “Everyone tends to think that churches like ours exist because a few very rich people give a large amount of money, but that’s just not true.  Our church exists because a lot of people with modest incomes each give a small amount of money. Our average donation is about $20 not $20 000.”

This inspired me because I realized that I thought my offering, which was rather small at the time, couldn’t possibly matter to the church. It didn’t inspire me to give more than I was already giving – I couldn’t afford to give more – but it did encourage me to think differently as I dropped my envelope in the collection plate. Since then, as I have continued to give to causes I care about, I have come to see just how important giving it, not simply because of how that money can be used by the charities I support to help other people, but how it changes me.  How it helps me to feel like I am part of making the world a better place, how it helps me to trust that I can live on less than I earn.

Later when I found myself running a small charity I saw that this principle was true there as well – we sometimes got bigger donations, but we relied on the faithful people who gave $10 or $20 a month to keep the lights on. I suspect it’s true of most churches and charities actually.  I wanted to highlight this reality and so I began to talk about our donors by describing a fictious donor who was a reflection of our actual donors. “Oma Schmidt from Plum Collee.” Oma who prayed for us regularly and faithfully sent $10 or $20 a month from her modest pension.

When we’d purchase something we needed we’d say, “Thanks Oma,” and when I asked people if they wanted to go for coffee with me they’d often ask cagily, “That depends, is Oma paying?”  Sometimes she did, sometimes we split the cheque.


Oftentimes, when people donate money to charity they try and control what the charity does with that money by designating what the charity can do with that money and usually by saying that they can’t use that money for their operating budget or salaries or admin costs.  It’s difficult, because a charity’s operating budget generally describes the things they need in order to do the work they were created to do. And paper for the photocopier might not seem like the most exciting thing to spend money on, but if you don’t give your people the tools they need to do the work, how can you expect them to do the work?

One time, however, I received a donation that came with a lovely note of encouragement and this line, “Use this money however you see fit.”

I had just discovered that we needed to treat a house that seven people lived in for bedbugs.  Now I just said the word “bedbugs” and at least about half of you shuddered, imagine living through it.

And so I used that donation to hire an exterminator but the tremendous freedom I felt I had been given by the line “use this money however you see fit” also allowed me to use that money to buy slurpees.

Now I feel reasonably certain that if I had sent out a fundraising letter requesting money for slurpees that I wouldn’t have had donors beating down my door to meet that request – even here in the Slurpee capital of Canada. But I can tell you that beyond a shadow of a doubt, when you are working with people who are living through one of the most stressful things a person can live through, that sometimes a break from the chaos and a little bit of sugar water are exactly what is needed.

I never met that donor, I’m not sure I ever will, but I will always be grateful for their choice to both be generous with their resources, and to release control of them as well.


Clearly, we are entering a new phase in this life of this particular church building, but for years, All Saints has operated under the belief that the things they have are not simply for their own personal use and as a result, this church was, until recently, the home of 3 church congregations and multiple charities like Agape Table. These buildings were used so regularly and so well that the church hall became so tired it literally needed to be torn down.

And I think it would have been so much easier for All Saints to simply tear it down and build a parking lot for the benefit of its members, or to generate some rental income but they had a much bigger and more expansive imagination than that – a 12 story apartment building sized imagination.

So what about us? What about saint benedict’s table?  What can we do with the fruits and goods we have?

What could happen if we each – in a way that makes sense to our particular situation – chose to release control of some of our own personal resources. Choose to believe that we, as a community, could do more with those resources by working together than each of us could do individually?

Well, currently, it looks like being able to meet together regularly for worship, to explore fringe theater or big ideas and then have meaningful conversations.

It means that last year, as in year’s past, we also gave away almost $18 000 to groups like Agape Table, Hand in Hand with Haiti, the Good Food Club, Bell Tower Community Café, and Art City to name just a few. We gave also money to help a hospital in Mali and migrant caravans in Mexico.   We told them all “use this money however you see fit.”

What are your “fruits and goods” and what are you going to do with them?   What are our “fruits and goods” and what are we going to do with them? How can we continue to lean into abundance and resist the myth of scarcity?

I can’t wait to find out.

In the name of our God who abundantly creates, sustains, and redeems. Amen.