Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Greed - "Havesycke" the sickness of having - do you mean me?

The WCC's general secretary preached an interesting homily on sharing at St Mary's Episcopalian Cathedral on Sunday morning, the full text is here.
Ever since I've been thinking about how easy it is to not feel personally challenged by what we hear from the pulpit, perhaps I should change that first person plural to a first person singular - how easy it is for me to not feel challenged by what I hear ...
Yet as a rich woman with a very a large waistline and even larger hips any sermon on greed and sharing ought surely to strike a note with me somewhere. Yet it's so easy to think it must be about someone else, but it is also about me, very much also about me. Because I simply take, eat, stock, buy, pile up, want, "need", have more and more - not only does my body expand, but sometimes I am also less and less able to see and name my own greed and what drives it. Interestingly I only began to have these thoughts as I reflected on the sermon while getting into a taxi outside the church to get back to the press room - and realised quite what I had managed to both eat and drink in the space since listening to words about sharing rather than accumulating. So much for the spirituality of resistance - only the mind and not the body Rev. Ms. Stranz? Hmmm ...

Olav Fykse Tveit was preaching on Luke 12: 13-21 - the landowner who decides to tear down all his barns because the harvest is so good he can then stockpile even more:

There is a saying in my country that you do not know your family until you have to divide the family inheritance with them. The sharp analysis in this saying corresponds very well to the parable of Jesus, told to people who were not able to divide their inheritance fairly. The deep need and desire to accumulate, to make the barns bigger, to acquire more and more, much more than you need, is in the end so very - human. We see it everywhere, in all places in the world. You have a good word for this in English: Greed. In Norwegian we have another word: “Havesyke” – literally: the sickness of having ever more. And we see more and more ugly examples of this, the more money and riches that we see.

As I reflected on my own personal participation in society's "sickness of having" - with my usual guilt around food and eating I realised that the first food I had eaten in response to the sermon had been the bread and wine of the eucharist - symbols and realities speaking of liberation, forgiveness, love and the transformed values of God's reign. So can the bread and wine of Christ's supper give me a taste for overcoming my guilt about food and teach me to go on sharing and do it better? Of course, of course communion should simply "be" and not be instrumentalised in this way, but any thinking about greed and food has to think about the ritual meal of the church too.
Towards the end of his sermon Tveit said this, which offers some succour to the greedy, yet reiterrates the challenge to share and to be rich towards God:

To witness to Christ is to preach the Gospel of forgiveness of sins, even of greed, and, therefore also to address greed as an obstacle to justice, to peace and therefore an obstacle to being one. There are differences in this world that God does not want. There are more and bigger barns – literally speaking – than are needed, and can ever be needed.