The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 16, 2009
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
St. Francis, Norris
I pulled this information from the internet:
How many people are killed and injured by lightning each year?
When people say the chances are the same as being struck by lightning to describe a low probability event, they had better go check their figures. Over 7000 Americans have been killed by lightning in a recent 34 year period. Your chances of being struck by lightning in the U.S. are about 1 in 250,000 and 400,000 in a given year. You can increase your odds, if you would like, by golfing, swimming, boating and just being outside during a thunderstorm. In the U.S. alone each year, between 75 and 150 people are reported killed by lightning with 5 to 30 times that being injured. And these statistics are thought to be underestimates of lightning casualties. It is possible that many lightning victims’ cause of death is listed as burns or cardiac problems.
The Powerball lottery jackpot is up to $213,000,000 as of last night. It will be even higher if nobody won. I bought a ticket but I have not checked to see if I was a winner. However, I do know that I was not struck by lightning last night and since the odds of that occurrence are much more likely, I guess I would have to consider myself a winner.
Why would anyone even waste their time buying a lottery ticket? I can’t speak for anyone else but for me, it is worth a dollar just for the dreaming of what I would do with all that money. I think about things that I could do to help others. I think about St. Francis, Norris and how there would be no more financial worries. I think about how I would continue to work here…for free.
I must admit that my thoughts also drift to the things that I could have too. Like that estate on the lake and the ability to travel and all the other stuff I might get. I’m gonna keep my truck though.
After I check my ticket, (I almost always never even have one number right) I will toss it into the trash and go on about living my life in the real world. I must admit the disappointment I feel is miniscule, just as the relief from not being struck by lightning is also not an issue that I even consider.
We hear in our first reading, today, God came to Solomon and offered him anything he wished for…anything. David had a tumultuous reign and now Solomon is experiencing a time of peace and tranquility. A time of abundance if you will. God asks; What do you want?
Now if God were to come and make an offer like that, to most people, we couldn’t think fast enough to come up with all that we might want. As hard as it is, try to imagine this scenario in the realities of your own life. It’s probably impossible to imagine such a thing, isn’t it? But Solomon has no difficulty.
The reason Solomon reacts so quickly is that the thing he wants most in his life is to please God. He knows that if he shows loving kindness and fair judgments to all his people that God will be pleased. He realizes that he does not have the ability to do those things at this point in his kingship. So he asks for wisdom. Wisdom to make the right decisions that will please God. Wow!
In this day of me-ism and greed we seldom, if ever, hear a story like this one. We hear the stories of wealthy corporate executives stealing the retirement monies of their own employees. We hear of super rich athletes getting caught up in criminal activities and after their sporting careers end they wind up penniless and in debt up to their ears. We read about religious leaders stealing the money they pleaded for to support their ministries. Often the stolen money is used for immoral purposes. We hear of politicians immoral and unethical behaviors at all levels of our government. Physical enhancement drugs seem to have permeated every venue of sports. (In other words cheating.) The list goes on and on.
The Wisdom we hear of in this case is not the same thing as intellect. This wisdom that Solomon desires is the same wisdom we hear of in proverbs. The kind of wisdom that hates “pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech.” This wisdom asked for is concerned with relations, ethics and emotions.
Solomon is a very wealthy King. Perhaps that had something to do with his request for wisdom. After this point he became even more wealthy and his honor was renowned. Alas, he too will fall from grace.
When a man, who is already king is asked by the Lord what it is that he wants, I guess there is room to be more philanthropic in his request. However, as I think on what it must have been like to be King in this time period, I wonder how great it really was, compared to the life we commoners live today. We can get on a plane and enjoy a tropical vacation tomorrow. We have conditioned air all year long. We have plumbing. We have pest control. We have foods that can be shipped from anywhere in the world and get to us before it spoils. We have television and internet. Let’s face it, the average American has a better situation than the royalty of Israel in the years before Christ and well beyond that time. So what?
The so what is; what if God came and told you that you could have whatever you wish? What would you wish? Would you wish for something for yourself? Would you give some Miss America answer; like wishing for world peace and that everyone would just get along and be happy?
If you really get down to it, the comparison between us and Solomon is not so far fetched. We are all given everything we need from God. The truth of the matter is that we are given much, much more than just our needs. So if the question were asked of you, “what is it that you want?” how would you answer it? If you won 213 million dollars, what would you do with it?
Now, let’s get to a more practical point. What do you want to do with what you already have? I can all but promise you that you will never win a 213 million dollar lottery. Like I said, I love to dream about what I would do with all that money. It is really easy for me to be overwhelmingly generous with my pretend money. But what do I do with the real money? I’m willing to give you hundreds of thousands of my Powerball winnings but what do I do when I see a beggar coming towards me? I’m happy to share my imaginary winnings but what about my real ten dollar bill? It’s something to think about.
The thing that I have found to be true is that my generosity toward others tends to correspond with my blessings from God. My blessings from God are not predominately of the monetary kind. Solomon realizes this I think. When I ponder what it is that he is really asking for I find his request to be quite profound. He is asking that God allow him to become a better person. A better person. Not only is that better than winning the lottery, the odds of it happening is actually quite good. In fact God is already waiting for your answer. What can I give you?