Summary: First Sermon of Purpose Driven Life series.

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March 7, 2004

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church

The Rev. M. Anthony Seel , Jr.

1 Peter 2:4-9

“Planned for God’s Pleasure”

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, we bow in your presence. May your Word be our rule, Your Spirit our teacher, and your greater glory our supreme concern, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Carl Hurly, a professional humorist from Kentucky, tells a story about an elderly deacon at a Baptist church who wore the same suit to church week in and week out, year after year. When the suit became so threadbare as to be almost unwearable, some of the church’s wealthier members took up a collection to buy him a new suit.

The deacon took the money quietly and humbly. Being from a small town, they soon learned that he had gone to the best men’s store in town and purchased a fine suit with new shoes, a new shirt and a new tie.

The Baptists were waiting for him on Sunday, but the deacon never arrived. Afraid that they had offended him, some of the other deacons visited him to see if he was all right.

When they asked him about his new suit, he admitted he had bought one. He also admitted it looked good on him. In fact, he confessed that as he was dressing one Sunday morning, he looked at himself in his new clothes in the mirror. He said, "I just looked at myself and that new suit -- and it was so fashionable and good-looking -- that I just decided to go to the Episcopal church instead."

That’s the kind of story that people like to tell about us. We’re supposedly the church for the upwardly mobile and those who have long ago arrived, and if money bought happiness, then Episcopalians would be the happiest people on earth. Some how, I don’t think that this is how it really is.

In 1995, the Roper polling organization asked Americans how much money thought that they would need to fulfill their dreams. The medium sum mentioned was $102,000 a year. But the number responding $1 million or more a year doubled from the previous year. In 2002, Roper asked “How would you rate your own financial situation? 55% said fair or poor. That includes 26% of those who earn $75,000 or more a year. The majority of Americans are not a contented lot.

Christian psychologist David G. Meyers studied this issue and come to this conclusion: The things which enable you to be happy are not how much money you make, or how many possessions you own, or whether you are highly educated, or whether you are old or young. Meyers has discovered that while per capita income in America more than doubled in real terms between 1957 and 1990, the number of Americans who reported being “very happy” remained the same – at one third.

The American Dream, defined in terms of material things, has become the American Nightmare, or at least a bad dream. Meyers concludes,

Never have we been so self-reliant, or so lonely.

Never have we been so free, and our prisons so overstuffed.

Never have we had so much education, or such high rates of

teen delinquency, despair and suicide.

Never have we been so sophisticated about pleasure, or so

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