Weekly Sermon Illustration: Righteousness
In our blog post every Monday we select a reading from the Revised Common Lectionary for the upcoming Sunday, and pair it with a Frederick Buechner reading on the same topic.
On September 25, 2016 we will celebrate the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost. Here is this week's reading from the book of 1 Timothy:
1 Timothy 6:6-12
Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Here is Buechner's note "Righteousness" originally published in Wishful Thinking and later again in Beyond Words:
"You haven't got it right!" says the exasperated piano teacher. Junior is holding his hands the way he's been told. His fingering is unexceptionable. He has memorized the piece perfectly. He has hit all the proper notes with deadly accuracy. But his heart's not in it, only his fingers. What he's playing is a sort of music but nothing that will start voices singing or feet tapping. He has succeeded in boring everybody to death including himself.
Jesus said to his disciples, "Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 5:20) The scribes and Pharisees were playing it by the Book. They didn't slip up on a single do or don't. But they were getting it all wrong.
Righteousness is getting it all right. If you play it the way it's supposed to be played, there shouldn't be a still foot in the house.