Saturday, August 3, 2019

8 Pentecost Yr C Proper 13 August 4 2019

Audio  8 Pentecost Yr C Proper 13 August 4 2019
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23, Psalm 49:1-11, Colossians 3:1-11, Luke 12:13-21

It was a bumper crop, a good year. What does a farmer do with a bumper crop? This farmer, in the parable today, decides that he'll pull down the perfectly good barns that he has, and build new ones to hold this bumper crop. So then he can relax and rely on his wealth. He has earned his contentment. He is happy and then he dies. Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be? Isn’t this good news? And yet, in this parable, this farmer is called a fool, what is so foolish about what he has done?

What does the Kingdom of God look like? Remember, that is what we hear about in a parable. Often, the Kingdom of God looks very different from the kingdom of this world. And in the kingdom of this world, this rich man saw fit to store up his riches, and sit on his hay bales, and relax, eat, drink, be merry. Not a bad life, one that most of us long for. One that most of us work for. So why is he foolish. Just because he’s got money?

I don’t think so. Parables are usually not quite that simple to crack. Let’s take a quick look at what immediately follows this parable, because we know that all the stories are related. Continuing in verse 22, Jesus said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Verse 32 and following, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We may briefly possess things, money, the stuff of our lives, but we merely rent all that for the duration of this life, and we really have no claim on tomorrow. It is foolish to think that we do, that is what this rich man was doing. But we are not to be afraid about tomorrow either - be not afraid, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom - God’s kingdom that is already begun here, on this fragile earth our island home, begun with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, begun in our hearts and our souls.

It is so very hard to live without fear isn’t it? No fear, no fear about tomorrow, only trust in today. Is it out of fear, or out of responsibility that we store up our possessions, and our money? We sure hear that message loud and clear in every aspect of our lives. Save, invest, build, buy, have, and if you don’t, be afraid of what may happen to you. But there is a narrow line between having enough and being preoccupied with having more and being greedy. On which side of that line do you think this rich man stood? I think this parable Luke reports tells us about the perennial distraction of greed; it is about the perennial distraction of idolatry.

It’s not the purchase of the vehicle, or the latest gadget, or the big house, or the shares of stock, that is problematic. It’s the misplaced priority about that. It’s turning the object into the idol, it’s turning one’s attention into oneself and away from others. And it’s about the distraction, away from the common good, away from the Creator, which all of that need causes.

The Colossians passage demands that our attention be turned away from greed and toward Christ, who is all and in all. Greed is a way of worshipping wrong gods. The Colossians passage instruct us to put aside, let go of, all that which is distracting us, all that which pulls us away from good and healthy relationships with others and with things. The by-product of greed and idol worship is the bitterness that builds up in our hearts and our souls, little by little, bit by bit. Greed is self-destructive. Colossians commends a new-self, the one baptized into Christ, who centers life not on self, but on mercy, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and forgiveness. There is a genuine alternative to the seduction of greed and idols. We need to know where we stand and to whom we belong.

What do you worship? What is your idol? What is killing you? What foolish treasures do you store up? These questions also need to be addressed to us as a church, and us as society. What is it that holds us hostage, that keeps us in bondage, that we need to set aside, so that we may be free to be a merciful and compassionate society, a society of neighbors, like the compassionate Samaritan, rather than a society of mean-spirited people? What is it that we must let go so that we may be in relationship with one another and with God? What are our idols? How do we counter the foolishness of storing up treasures?

I don’t have the solution for you or for us, just some suggestions for adjusting our attitude toward wealth. First, we may need to realize that wealth is not happiness, that money and possessions do not bring peace of mind. Second, we may need to decide to share rather than hoard. Sharing is a biblical imperative, even if some call it by another name. Our society most definitely have lost sight of that in recent years. Third, we may need to make a commitment to serve God instead of money. While it is important to be responsible about money, to plan for our retirement and our needs, we should also plan for what someone has called our "expirement" – for the death that came unexpectedly to the rich fool in this parable told by Jesus. We need to ask if our lives, in all their multi-faceted and multi-tasking glory, reflect the priorities God would like us to have.

Whenever we worship the created rather than the Creator, we have lowered our sights and limited our vision – we have "missed the mark," which is the definition of sin. It doesn't mean that material things are bad in themselves. Not at all. God's creation is good. It is the "Who" that is at the center of our lives that matters. And it is how we regard the things that we have that is central to our well-being in God's eyes. And it is well-being in God's eyes that constitutes the good life.

Everything we have is a gift from God. We may work hard, but what we have is a gift, not a reward. Wealth is a means, not an end. We see the distraction and greed all around us. It is useful to keep us occupied on what doesn’t matter, so that we don’t have the energy and fortitude for what does matter. And what does matter? Justice, mercy, and compassion. Loving our neighbor. Everything we have is a gift from God. We deserve none of it, the Love that wins our hearts and minds and souls, is what satisfies.
Thanks be to God.

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