St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Seventh Sunday after Trinity, 2013

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“Taine, happiness and the Gospel...”
I speak in the name of Jesus the Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Towards the end of last year I received an invitation to a 50th birthday party to be held in a restaurant in Blouberg. The invitation came from an old friend, Taine, whom I had lost touch with, and I felt that it would be good to reconnect with him and his family again. I met Taine back in 1990 when his spouse was working with a mutual friend. Taine and I shared a passion for vehicles and although he was a few years older than me, a friendship struck up. Taine was born in Johannesburg and joined the bank soon after leaving school. He started out his career as a bank teller and eventually had the opportunity to work with computer coding and programming. This was to be his break through into the world of Information Systems. He soon became a specialist in selling and providing technical back-up for complicated network hardware and software monitoring systems for networks run by multi-national companies. He could essentially write his own pay check... and so Taine began to build his personal wealth... from new cars, to overseas holidays, beautiful large houses and plenty of toys that would be the envy of many men around Cape Town.

In today’s Gospel reading we read the well known passage known as the Prodigal Son. Here in Luke 15:11 we are told how a beloved son took his half of his inheritance and left the family to seek his fame and fortune... and happiness. This is the crucial point that I wish to focus on this morning...
What makes you happy?

This is a big question...
A recent article in Time Magazine suggested a few very interesting statistics regarding happiness. We all seek it. Few find it.
Time Magazine writes that all human beings may come equipped with the pursuit-of-happiness impulse and one of the ways that humankind has attempted to find happiness is through the accumulation of wealth. However, a well known economist, Easterlin, stated that once your basic needs like food, clothing and shelter are met, we reach a satiation point where accumulating more money does not increase our happiness...

Remember Taine? As the years slipped by I noticed that while Taine was becoming more and more wealthy, he was also becoming more and more unhappy. His marriage was taking strain, as was his health. He was struggling to sleep and relax. His computer stayed on all weekend and he would answer emails from all over the world through the night... here was a wealthy man who admitted to me, “Darron, I lie in bed at night and sweat that I do not yet have enough money in the bank...”

Taine had reached his satiation point, accumulating more money was not making him any happier, in fact it was making him more miserable...

Time magazine concludes their article by suggesting some of the factors that MAY contribute to out happiness. Interestingly the following was mentioned:
 Yoga and physical exercise
 Acts of kindness
 Volunteer work
In other words, not being estranged from God!
What a wonderful, wonderful message to receive this morning from our all loving God of forgiveness and grace. For in the same way that the Prodigal Son took his inheritance early and squandered it in the pursuit of happiness, only to find the opposite and yet his loving father received him back into the family home. This Gospel story reminds us that we too can be like the Prodigal Son. Too many of us have spent too much time seeking happiness in the world around us in the form of possessions and wealth, when in fact true happiness is found when we are in communion with God.

In the same way that the father receives his son back with love and forgiveness, so too does our Father receive us back from our journeys of wonderlust and seeking wealth... only to find all too often that the gold at the end of the rainbow brings us loneliness and despair. Yet it is during this time that our loving and forgiving God does not forsake us or condemn us, but rather extend his loving arms towards us with forgiveness and grace.

God our Father loves us enough to let us go and even to waste our spiritual gifts and graces entrusted to us, and to restore these to us again once we are reconciled with him.

The challenge to us as Christians this morning is to find the balance in our lives between being responsible in our accumulation of our wealth and earnings and being grounded in the spirit. What drives us? Why do we get up every morning? Is it to serve the great and glorious God or is it only to add a few more pennies to our bank account to the exclusion of all else?

If it has been the latter for you, it is not too late to re-evaluate your lifestyle and priorities when it comes to money and your personal values. God is a God of love and forgiveness. He will always welcome you back into the fold if you feel that you have put money first in your pursuit of happiness, instead of communion with God.

Be yourself.
Do not allow society to dictate to your values.
Seek God.

I am reminded of an excerpt from the poem Prayer before birth by Louis MacNeice...
“I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my
Humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,
would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with
 one face, a thing, and against all those
who would dissipate my entirety, would
blow me like thistledown hither and
thither or hither and thither
like water held in the
hands would spill me.”

Where would you have been categorized in the statistics on the pursuit of happiness, published by Time magazine, if Time magazine had interviewed you?

May God bless you this week as you realign your focus on Him as the source and regeneration of your personal happiness.



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