Foundry United Methodist Church

Elizabeth McKee Gore, Guest Preacher

Laity Sunday, 2008




 “Are You Wealthy?”

Sunday, October 19, 2008



Proverbs 10:22

EM Gore
Elizabeth McKee Gore


It is an honor to speak with all of you today. Foundry has been my home since 2001. My husband and I got married here a year ago so now it is not just my home but ours. Reverend Snyder even let us walk our dog right down that isle during the ceremony.


This place – our house of worship – is much more than just a church.  Foundry’s history of leadership of movements towards reconciliation, the support of the Latino work force in Washington, DC and most of all – the fact that Foundry and its ministries are open to all people is what truly makes this home special.


Some of you might feel like you end your week here, others might feel like you start your week here. I come here for wisdom, for answers, for heeling and inspiration. I can think back on Reverend Snyder’s sermons and how they moved us. My husband and I often talk about one example of the Reverend’s words helping us when Jimmy and I returned from the Peace Corps to DC three years ago.  We were an anxious mess trying to re-adjust to being in the States.  We were broke, had no jobs, and were completely overwhelmed by life. Reverend Snyder did a series on anxiety that we will never forget! Let me put it this way, he saved us a lot of money in therapy bills. This gift of wisdom provided by Foundry and our pastors makes us truly blessed, truly rich.


When Reverend Snyder asked me to do the lay sermon this year, I was honored and scared. What could I talk about that could do this great hall of wisdom justice. He asked me about four months ago, so with so much time I did the smart thing and wrote my thoughts – oh, this past Sunday…. But, I have had an idea rolling around in my head for the last year I have wanted to share. And it just became a lot more relevant this month.  It is the idea of wealth, the concept of being rich. How do we define being wealthy, when do we take a deep breath and say, man, I am Rich. I am loaded. Is wealth comfort, is it salary, or is it happiness? I wish I could poll the audience, but I did talk to some friends about what they think of. I got varied answers: The first and probably most common public answer was a dollar figure – $250,000.  My husband said it is security and lack of fear – my friend Josh said, I am holding my wealth as he hugged his baby boy Lincoln; I heard good health, family. I am actually pretty proud that my friends answered this way.


What do you think Wall Street’s definition of wealth was when the Dow dropped 700 points? Money has been the definition of wealth on that street.  In the current presidential race the number one issue is the economy. In the debates I was sorely disappointed that other issues didn’t have more focus – New Orleans? Anyone? How about that my brother in Houston just got power at his house? How about that we have children dying every thirty seconds of malaria in Africa. To me that is telling that the definition of wealth to the masses equals a 700 billion dollar bailout, not health, not family, not providing basic needs to all people.


I work for the United Nations Foundation.  With my job I have the opportunity to travel all over the world – but most of my work takes me to the most impoverished parts of Africa, an amazing continent that is plagued by poverty and disease. There people die because of where they were born not because of how they lived. It bothers me that your chances of living are less because of geography. All this said, I learned the meaning of wealth and the definition of riches from the poorest people in the world. If you get a raise, you smile go out for drinks, celebrate – in Mali, West Africa – if a child lives to their first birthday, they celebrate by giving him/her a name. They don’t name their children before then because mortality rates are so high under the age of one. Families that have children over five years old are thought of as wealthy or rich. Between malaria, HIV AIDS, pneumonia, and high food prices – the chances of having multiple children over five are slim. But isn’t it interesting, that here you can find the true meaning of wealth.


I work with a campaign called Nothing But Nets. It is a global grassroots campaign to prevent the largest killer of children in Africa, malaria. In fact YOU the People of the United Methodist Church are a founding partner with the UN Foundation. For only $10 dollars anyone can send a mosquito net and save a life. When we go to Africa to distribute these nets that you provide through your donations – all I ever see are smiles. All I ever hear is singing. These are people that from our standpoint are “poor” are not “wealthy” and are anything but “rich.” But the smiles, the singing, the joy is contagious – the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Angola – I saw smiles. These folks are supposed to be like those old Sally Struthers or Christian Network commercials. Remember those with flies – crying. You know that guy that looks like Santa Clause and asks you to support a child for the cost of a cup a coffee. I hate to break it to you, but most folks are beautiful. Yes, there is sadness and loss of life. But I wonder why the smiles, why the dignity, why the singing. Because these people know the meaning of wealth – as my friends said – family, health, having children live past their first birthday – these are riches. The friends I have made in Nigeria laugh at small things. Joy comes to them from one another. Can you imagine telling them you’re sad because your stocks dropped a few points? Really?


So this is my point. Everyone in this room is wealthy. If you have your health, someone that loves you, a home and a friend – you are wealthy. If you live without fear, if you are secure, if you are fed – you are rich. Our verse today was Proverbs 10:22, “The Blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” We will win and lose. Our economy will rise and fall – but if we truly understand that wealth comes from within and riches come from the love of others – there will be little sorrow.


Now here is where I am going to feel the pulpit, get on my soap box and preach. If we are all wealthy, then the lord tells us to tithe 10%, right? Let’s talk through that. I think it is pretty cut and dry, if you make money – you tithe, X amount. But to completely contradict myself – what if you are by the public standards not financially wealthy – what if you are struggling just to put gas in the car. WELL - You still have health, still have love, and friends.  How do we tithe that? Because if wealth is not necessarily money – if giving of your self is a commodity – think about how much more we can even give. Is it possible to tithe friendship, care, or time? If true wealth is a hug or smile – we can all be philanthropists like Bill Gates.  If we can pass on riches by using our voice for the weak, for the silent – you could be Bono.


Whether you are giving your 10% or your voice, let me tell you why it is important.  As long as we have a child dying every 30 seconds of malaria, as long as there are millions of people with AIDS, as long as your neighbor is struggling with cancer. Then we all have all have malaria, AIDS and cancer. To put it in another way – the body of Christ has malaria, aids and cancer. So, if you agree with me and feel that we are all wealthy, we are all rich – then let’s all share the wealth and make a donation, give back, share your voice or love your neighbor.