If ever there was a fabulous opportunity to begin a sermon with a stand-up routine, it was last Sunday. 

            And you wouldn’t even have had to come up with a new one!  The great late George Carlin would well-provide; all the preacher need do was bring his/her gifts of oral interp.

            Here is the original routine, (which of course you’d want to excerpt as the Spirit so leads….).  As a meditation on Luke 12:13-21 -- “A Place for My Stuff.” 

            I know, tickle it for next time….

            Isn’t this perfect for introducing Jesus’ “Parable of the Rich Fool”?!  The guy who has a lot of stuff, then has a harvest that brings him even more stuff so he tears down his house to build a bigger one?

            I don’t mean to be presumptuous here, but I don’t think any preacher (besides yours truly) has made the connection yet (at least from the pulpit) with the hilarious “Stuff” routine and Luke 12. 

            Once again may I reiterate “Too bad!”, since Mr. Carlin (from this preacher’s experience) proves SO popular with congregations! 

            It indeed is helpful for us to have such a chance to laugh at our ridiculous behavior, especially when it comes to the grossly materialistic consumptive tendencies of our current culture. 

            As I mentioned in my sermon Sunday, even as all political candidates today harp on how bad our economy is in this nation, chances are we all of us have plenty of stuff.  Even if it’s not the stuff we want or think we deserve, we all have more stuff than we need.

            And this, our parable tells us, is actually something God has no sense of humor about.  In fact, he firmly condemns the rich fool for hanging on to all of his stuff because his sudden death exposes most-sinful greed.

            In fact, as I suggest on Sunday, this parable tells us that at the end of our lives God judges us not so much about what good we do or how much faith we have, but how much extra stuff we leave behind. 

            Yikes!  That’s pretty serious stuff!  (Pun only sort of intended.)  If that’s the ultimate Divine coup de grace we’re all in for it.


            For one thing, having way more stuff than others in the world is considered, in the biblical imagination, incredibly greedy, shameful and sinful.  It existentially and experientially distances us from our many impoverished brothers and sisters and makes it very very difficult for us to seek justice and find true compassion with them.

            Secondly, so often hidden in the midst of our stuff is evidence of dark soul struggles about which we may be in denial.  If we were to suddenly die tonight and anyone and everyone had access all our possessions, what would they learn about us?  What would we so not want them to know?  What in our excessive “outer stuff” tells us there is work we need to do right now on our “inner stuff” if we’re to live the full life we’ve been created and gifted by God to have?  It’s time to get honest and confront that.

            Thirdly, and this is the real biggie imho – when our hearts, minds and souls are so stuffed with preoccupations with our stuff, we have precious little space and time for the Spirit.  When we clear out, let go and simplify, we let God truly fill us, and that in more ways than words can say is what we truly crave, what we truly need for the living of these days.

            Here is the excerpt of a wonderful book by Sr. Jose Hobday, “Simple Living,” where she talks poignantly about “The Hungry Spirit.

It’s not strange that our culture promotes wanting so much. That’s what the Spirit yearns for, too. More. We love abundance. The question is, more of what? More things? More stuff? More clutter? More junk? Of course not. The Spirit, our Spirit, yearns for more quality. Quality requires that we be more present to what we do and who we are. Quality requires we pay more attention to where we turn. It requires more love in our actions. We are required by the Spirit to have more love even in our looks, our sighs, our waiting. Our wanting more is not foreign. The Spirit is always straining and stretching us. Jesus says, “Give, and it will be given to you. IN good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.” He knows we want more.

Our Spirit wants more time for reflection and less time for dallying and finding ourselves short-circuited and bored. We do want to wait, to admire, to be in communion. We want to think about things. We want to loll about and read poetry. We want to swim buoyantly. We like to stop and take time with a little child.

In my life I have learned, on some deep level, that I must not dissipate spiritual energy. Simplicity can be understood in one way as the refusal to dissipate. It is holding out against fragmentation. It is focused. Where our treasure is, there our heart is. Our heart is where we live and love and discover the magnificence of revealed inner treasure. It won’t tolerate the clutter that keeps us from understanding. I clarifies the center, the real meaning of life.

            I can’t help but think that making a commitment to simplifying our outer lives will make a world of difference in helping us think through how we want to be, who we want to be, and whose we want to be in the chaos of the present events of the day.  It’s one of the most important ways we can be Christian for such a time as this.

            And of course, it is absolutely appropriate – needed! – to find good humor in our efforts to declutter, disencumber and create space.

           Here's a couple of suggestions I'll share, just off the top of my noggin.  

1 - Remember, as Mr. Carlin does and often, that all of our stuff is, well, just stuff!  Nothing really but filler.  At the end of the day, it's on the same plane as strips of old newspaper and styrofoam peanuts.  How helpful to remember everything you put in your hand, wondering if you should keep or toss, is just stuff.  And let God help you take it from there.

2 - Instead of mourning your loss of stuff, why not celebrate your gaining of space!  Why not put up a picture like this one? 

...and/or play music like this?

or rewrite a delightful song like "My Favorite Things" and have it go something like this....

Stained unused postcards
And clogged cute pepper shakers
Albums, that, scratched,
Have no resale takers
Silver that’s tarnished and an old boyfriend’s ring,
These are a few of my favorite things…to give away or throw out.

(Feel free to use some free verse at the end for extra emphasis.)

I feel this blog about simplicity is getting cluttered, so while I'm still in a creative frame of mind, I'm going to do the truly imaginative, cutting-edge thing now and sign off.  Into some silence....