Summary: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Although He was rich, for your sakes he became poor, so that you, through his poverty, might become rich. “
I thought it was about time I began a sermon with a joke, and today’s passage did make me think of that story about the world’s leaders at prayer, asking God when their countries would repay their national debts.
As the story goes, President Obama prays to God, asking when the US economy will recover. God says to him, “in 100 years time the US will repay its national debt”. The American President begins to cry, and God asks him “why are you crying, my son.” President Obama says, “because I won’t live to see it“, and God says, “No, my son, but the American people will live to see it.”
Simultaneously, as the story goes, President Mahmoud Admadinejad is also praying to God, asking when Iran will repay her national debt. God says to the Iranian President, “in 1000 years time the Iranian national debt will be repaid”. President Admadinejad begins to cry, and God asks him “why are you crying, my son.” He says, “because I won’t live to see it“, and God says, “No, my son, but the Iranian people will live to see it.”
Meanwhile, Kevin Rudd is also praying, and he prays, “Lord, tell me when Australian will repay her national debt?” And God begins to cry …
As I say, I thought it was about time I started a sermon with a joke for, I must admit, that most Bible passages I prepare for week by week don’t easily lend themselves to jokes, but not so today’s passage, which is all about money, and there are never any shortage of jokes about money, for indeed our society is obsessed with money and we talk all the time about money, and so we joke all the time about money.
And for the same reason, I must confess that when I first hear these wonderful words from St Paul - that “Although [Jesus] was rich, for your sakes he became poor, so that you, through his poverty, might become rich“ - my knee-jerk reaction is to want to say that Paul is surely talking about a lot more here than just money.
Admittedly, the statement is made in the context of St Paul’s appeal to the church at Corinth that they might cough up more coin to support the aid work that was going on in Jerusalem, and yet the statement is about a lot more than just money
I’m not saying that that’s not a part of what is on view - that Jesus gave up his real job as a respectable middle-class tradesman in order to wander the hills as a penniless preacher, but that’s not all that is on view. For the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that makes us rich is something more than His change in career path. That, in itself, doesn’t do a lot for us beyond setting us a great example.
The voluntary poverty of Jesus that makes us rich is something more than economic. It’s a voluntary impoverishment of person, whereby God reaches down to us and comes down to us and dwells alongside side us, and suffers and dies for us in order to lift us up to something better.
It’s a pattern of downward mobility, where the Lord Jesus empties Himself for us so that we might be filled, and it’s a downwards mobility that was illustrated for us beautifully in today’s Gospel reading.