It is important to stress that the text for this week is not advocating a financial plan for followers of Christ. On the one hand, this is about priorities; on the other, it is about paying attention to the details. For the former, there is the call to approach the economic structures of this world not as end in itself, but as a means to create community – “make friends with dishonest wealth.” And for the latter, there is the reminder that one must be faithful in small things as a prelude to faithfulness in all things.
Worship could begin with a call to walk in the light of the Lord, to pay attention to the choices we make each day. We could call for confession of the little compromises we make, almost without thinking, and ask God’s forgiveness for straying from the path. That forgiveness is freeing, a release from debts we didn’t even know we had, as well as the ones that have become burdens on our souls. The words of assurance that follow our prayer of confession promise the power of the Spirit to work in us and through us so that we can live a life of holiness.
It is this partnership that we can celebrate as well. We speak first of the friend we call Jesus who is the one who redeems us. “What a friend we have in Jesus,” we sing. But also, of the Spirit who sustains and then connects us into a fellowship of love. We are one in the Spirit, bound together in the body of the church. What a fellowship, what a joy divine! We celebrate the church today. We acknowledge that our faith is worked out not in solitude but in relationship. We are blessed to have companions in Christ.
However, if we simply embrace the friends we have in the church, we will miss the sharp edge of the text for today. We are called to develop and nurture friendships with the neighbors all around us, not simply to fill our pews and sustain our church, but to engage in building the kingdom through radical hospitality. We, like the Christ we follow, are to love all God’s children, especially those who have no idea that they are indeed children of God.
Worship needs a vision that looks first to God and then to community within and then to the world beyond the walls. We are driven by the question, “How do we share this gift of faith?” We are constantly seeking ways to be a witness to the treasure we have found, to the joy we live.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.