“What is enough?”
Sermon for The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 21 Year C)
Transcribed from corrupted audio on a video recorded at
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro NC
September 30, 2019
By The Rev. Dr. William Carl Thomas
I think I am like most people, I really enjoy ice cream. And if you look at me you’d probably wonder what what type of ice cream floats my boat. I do not fall into the chocolate realm per say, although my wife does bigtime. I like vanilla as a base. I’m more into esoteric things and then finally find my heart’s desire which is a cherries jubilee kind of ice cream, you know that’s what would really make me most happy
Now one of the things it makes me happy about ice cream is that Edna Marie, my wife, and I met at a Friendly Ice Cream Shoppe in Brookline Massachusetts. I love telling this part of the story, this is like not germane to the Gospel at all, or even the Passion of Jesus. But she was just still sixteen, and I was a freshman in college. She had month before she turned seventeen. I love the idea that I’ve known her since she was sixteen. And we worked together. I had worked in one in high school myself so I came with a skill set. I needed some money so I got a job at the Friendly’s in Boston, you may not remember that chain unless you’re from northeast. But part of what they would sell is a really fine ice cream. And we learned how to scoop it with Zeroll scoops. Now they have little bit of coolant in them that it makes them so it scoops along the sharp edge. And there’s a difference, if you’ve gone to a Baskin-Robbins to get your ice cream, they basically use a chunk and plop method. The go in there and they take the scoop, they ram it down. They pull it up, and they plop it on the cone. Nothing wrong with that because you get a really dense pile of ice cream.
Friendly’s had a different methodology. You would take the scoop, it had sharp edge, you’d learn how to put it down in the bin, and scoop it is such a way that if you undid it, it would be long ribbon. But when it got put on the cone, it looked pretty big. And as you ate it, what happened? It would melt into itself and you would never have had any idea of what was going on.
I had an early ethical challenge at Friendly’s. Because I’m a bit of salesman, come on, you’ve been hanging out with me a little bit, I get excited about things. I was having fun on one of those hot summer nights when everybody was coming for their ice cream on a cone. And somebody came up and said, “I’d like a small cone, please.” And I looked at them and said, “I’m sorry, sir, We’re all out of small cones. Would you like at large or double dip? Then I rather quickly followed that comment by saying, “I’m only kidding. Of course you can a have small cone.” What size cones do you think most people then bought. Yes, what they really wanted, large or double dip!
So I have this great affection for ice cream and the scoop. What is it like when you got more in your dish when you ordered it in a store and you think, “That’s a single scoop!” You get all excited and think, “I’m not supposed to get that much!” “I’m only supposed to have this little bit.” I got all that! WOW, that was really kind of cool!
How does this play into the scripture we heard today? Think about it. We’ve had a number of sermons over the last month based on the scriptures about money, and to some degree, talents. And we’re back with that core one that shows up in today letter from Paul to Timothy which starts off with “If you have enough, you’re content” is basically what he says. And he says the root of evil, all right, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” And you know how some people don’t hear “For the love of money” part and they just say the “root of all evil is money.” It’s the love of money, the acquisition, then Paul goes on and does a pretty good thesis of that happens when all you want to do is be acquisitive. You’re not going to take it with you. It’s going to stay here.
Over the weeks that I have been with you, the scripture has been very pointed about stewardship. I told the story of the Pearl of Great Price which is all about our relationship with everything we have as it all belongs to God and we are God’s steward. Last week we heard Jesus say “You cannot serve God and wealth.” The teaching became if you have the right relationship with God you can have wealth and serve God. Did you know that word wealth in last week’s Gospel is actually money. So you cannot serve God and money. But it turns out we use the word “wealth” more in that sense, too. We have wealth managers out there trying to do things. Frankly, we would like to have enough for retirement. Wouldn’t that be grand. Just have enough to be able to get bye.
A key question then is “What is enough?” Or more to the point, “What is enough for you?” That makes this an even harder question.
So how does this all apply to ice cream. A lifelong friend of Edna Marie’s was in town. We decided to introduce him to a wonderful shop in New Bern called the Cow Café where they make great homemade ice cream. And one of the things they will do if you ask them properly is they will take a single dish scoop but pretend it’s two different flavors and supposedly deliver you a single scoops worth of ice cream with two different flavors. Which is really lovely. And we’ve it one or two of the people who work there that do that quite well. It looked like they overshot the mark and there was a little bit more there than for the single scoop price. That was like Wow, that was kind of fun. And so, we thought, the other night, we had ordered that approach. Well, when the ice cream was presented, and we’re all excited, “Look at how much ice cream is on that!” It’s getting really high. It turns out they did a two-scooper on us. I got kind of hung in my own, what is it, petard, from my own days when I was doing the joke about “I’m sorry. We’re all out of single scoop ice cream cones. You’ll have to buy a large or double-dip.” So I realized, of course, I was going to have to pay for it. I wasn’t about to get on their case because, frankly, I’m going back again. I don’t want them mad at me.
So here we are. We’ve got these wonderful dishes of far more ice cream than we thought we we’re going to get. Even far more than we thought we were going to get if they had given us a little bit too much on the two-scoop basis. Now we were struggling with should we eat all of this. Should we get a lid and take it home. We sat outside. Do you think we got a lid to take it home? Noooo! It was really good. Even at two o’clock in the morning. And four o’clock in the morning.
When I realized that I had had too much ice cream I came to understand that I didn’t ask the essential question: “What was enough for me.” I allowed the world to intrude and give me something that is so wonderful and so beautiful I lost sight of an essential discipline. And that’s what we’re called to be thinking about when we talk about wealth or money. It’s really “What is enough if you have all that God wants to give you…which is everything.” Live abundantly in that enough. And then be surprised that you have enough to give to somebody else who is struggling with the question, “What is enough.”
All these words I offer in the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen