Project Description

25C Amos 8:4-7; 1 Tim 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-3

It was just a few months after
I had finished my OB/GYN residency at UK.
I was settling into private practice and really enjoying it.
Delivering a lot of babies.
Doing all kinds of surgeries.

And I was really settling into the fact
that I was making a lot of money;
at least it was a lot of money for me.

One weekend, I decided to take a trip to Chicago.

I had heard about all the fancy
stores that lined Michigan Avenue.

That would be the place where
I could spend some of that money I was making.

So I drove up to Chicago in my brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee.
On the way, I talked to all my friends
with my new hands-free car cell phone,
which, if you can believe it,
was a luxury at that time.

When I got to Chicago, I checked into
the most expensive hotel I could find;
and then set out for Michigan Avenue to spend some money.

I went into store after store
and anything that struck my fancy, I bought.

Now mind you, I really didn’t need anything,
I already had anything that I could ever need.

And I really didn’t want anything,
I already had anything that I could ever want.

But it made me feel so good that I could go to Chicago,
walk into their nicest stores
and buy whatever I decided to buy.

Not bad for a boy from Eastern Kentucky I thought.

I was feeling so good about myself.

As I left one store, ready to
spend some more money at another,
I was so caught up in myself
that I wasn’t really paying any
attention where I was going.

So I ended up bumping into somebody.

And when I looked up to see who it was so I could apologize
I realized that I had bumped into a Catholic priest.

Bumping into this priest did something to me.

I stood there, not saying a word,
Just staring at his collar.
I know he thought I was crazy

Now I wasn’t even a Catholic at the time,
but seeing his collar, temporarily at least,
brought me out of my insanity
of spending money just because I had it.

There was a different set of values to live by.

It was a little surprise message from God,
you know there are no coincidences with God,
a little message to remind me that there was something
so much more to life than money and things.

It was a message that a human being’s deepest desire,
that my deepest desire,
is to be in relationship with God.

So when I prayed the Gospel week,
When I got to the phrase,
“You cannot serve both God and mammon,”
this story of me in Chicago is all I could think of.

I was on the mammon side of the God /mammon equation.

And when I read the Prophet Amos—
and the great passion that God has for the poor—
and our responsibility to take of them.

I was on the mammon side of the God/mammon equation.

Now I wish that after this experience in Chicago
I could tell you that I went home, sold everything that I had,
gave it to the poor, and started reading scripture and praying everyday.

Well, I didn’t.

But at least God had given me a reminder.

A gentle nudge to get me on the right track.

A gentle nudge to start my journey.

A gentle nudge to start an intimate relationship with Christ.

And I still have such a very long way to go.

But I’ve started—
I’m trying.

“To live is to change,
and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

This is my favorite line of Cardinal Newman,
who will be canonized a saint in just a couple of weeks.

“To live is to change,
and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

That’s what that incidence in Chicago did for me.
It made me want to change.

It’s not just any change though.

When Newman wrote these words,
he was primarily talking about
the realm of ideas and of Christian doctrine,
and he wrote page after page
on how to distinguish authentic change from inauthentic change.

And so it is with personal change,
it’s not just any change that we are looking for,
it’s change that conforms us to Christ.

And we are confirmed to Christ
by being in a close, intimate relationship with Christ.
By walking with Him every day of our lives.

Now as I said, I am nowhere near
as conformed to Christ as I want to be.
I am nowhere near as close to Christ as I want to be.

I’ve still got such a long way to go.

But I know of some who are.

They are the saints who walk among us every day.

And they’re here,
because I know them—
I see what they do—
I see how conformed to Christ they are—
They inspire me.

They amaze me.

You know, it’s interesting to examine
who we want to imitate—
who we want to be like.

When I was younger,
the people I admired the most were good doctors.

That’s what I wanted to be.

Later, the people I admired the most
were those who had a lot of money, and a lot of things.

That’s what I wanted too.

Then, the people I admired the most were the great thinkers.
Because I wanted to be a great thinker.

But now, now that I’ve started
on this Christian journey to be conformed to Christ,
the people I admire the most
are ones who are the most like Jesus.

I want to be like them.

And you’ve probably met such people too.

Because they walk with Jesus every day,
they have that peace which is beyond all understanding.

Because they walk with Jesus every day,
they are the ones who love the stranger—
and their enemy.

Because they walk with Jesus every day,
they are the ones who will always walk
the extra mile with someone hurting or in need—

I have often found that those who have the least—
Give the most.

Because they walk with Jesus every day,
they are the merciful ones—
they are the peacemakers.

They are always building up—
Not tearing down.

There’s just something about these people.
They just radiate with God’s love.

That’s what I want to be.

But nobody starts out that way, do they?

“To live is to change,
and to be perfect is to change often.”

And the way we change,
the way we are able to conform ourselves to Jesus
is to walk with Jesus, is to be with Jesus.

And the good news is that Jesus
is always ready to take that walk with us.

We just have to invite him.
We just have to make the effort
to spend that time with Him.

Jesus forces himself on no one.
Be ready for that nudge—

That something that happens in life to
shake us out of our set ways and complacency.

And take that daily walk with Jesus,
and be changed.

As soon to be saint John Henry Newman said,
“To live is to change,
and to be perfect is to change often.”

Holy Spirit 09/21-22/19