Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Passing Things - August 4, 2013 - Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13) - Text: Luke 12:13-21
This Sunday, today, we continue in the Pentecost Season. For the last ten Sundays and for the next sixteen or seventeen Sundays, with a couple of exceptions, the color on the altar, the pulpit, the lectern and the banners will continue to be green. Green, you might remember, is the color of growth. The Pentecost Season is the time of the church year that we “grow” in our Christian faith and life. So, if you have been diligently following along each week you may have noticed the progression of events as the Holy Spirit, working through these words of Holy Scripture, works to strengthen and keep us in faith.
As I have done the past couple of Sundays, so this morning I begin with a little review to catch us up. Three weeks ago we were reminded, through the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan, that there is nothing we can do to gain or earn our salvation, eternal life, but that eternal life is a free gift, earned for us by Jesus death on the cross. Two weeks ago we were reminded, again through another familiar bit of Biblical history, through the account of Mary and Martha that there is one thing that is needful and that is immersing ourselves in the Word of God. It is this Word of God through which the Holy Spirit comes to give, strengthen and keep us in faith so that we have forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. Last week we were encouraged in our response to all that God does for us by being in conversation with the Lord, that is that He speaks to us through His Word and we speak to Him in prayer. This morning, again by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the very Word of God, through our text, we have another familiar Biblical account in which we are encouraged in our response of faith, this time our response of faith being in the giving of ourselves to the Lord. And yes, this is a text on stewardship. Recently I read a statement that suggested that we are to give our LIFE to the Lord, that is that we give our Labor, Influence, Finances, and Expertise to the Lord. That is a nice way to think about our stewardship and especially as we would say our stewardship of our time, talents, and treasure and I would add, and tissue, that is taking care of our bodies as well. When we realize that everything we have is first and foremost a gift from God, how can we not be moved to acknowledge such gifts by a response of returning our first fruits to the Lord in thanksgiving.
But, let us get to our text. Our text begins with someone from the crowd asking Jesus a question. He asked, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Now, that may not sound like a question, but the heart of his words are that he is asking Jesus to be a judge between him and his brother. Jesus’ response is that this is a social matter, and that he should take it to the civil courts to be resolved.
But Jesus does not drop the issue. Instead, He uses this as an opportunity for teaching. Jesus says to “Take care!” The issue of money, and of all the gifts which come from Him, our time, our talents, our vocation; is not an issue to take lightly. “Be on your guard against all covetousness” or as some translations say, “kinds of greed;” for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Boy, do we not have a problem with that statement in our world today. In our world we learn from early on that you are nothing and your life is meaningless unless you have a career and are making a lot of money. Our lives consists in accumulating more and more, bigger and better, finer and costlier things. And that is exactly what we are accumulating, “things.” Please, do not misunderstand, the sin is not in the fact that we have things. The sin is in our greed and covetousness for more and more things. And to drive home His point, Jesus tells us the parable of the rich man.
Jesus tells the parable, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16b-21).
In this parable we are reminded that it is God who provides for all our needs and even more. It is God who provided for a good crop for the rich man. God gave him the right amount of rain and sunshine, the good earth and good seed to plant. God gave for him to have an abundance of a good crop. God blessed this man and provided for him so that he might in turn provide for his family, his workers, their families and even for others.
Now think about your own life. Certainly you do not have to look hard to see how God has provided for us and for our families. God has given us certain abilities and talents in order to be able to perform certain tasks and works. He has provided us with a job or with work in order to earn a living. Through our work, job or career, that is through our various vocations God provides us with a wage so that we might be able to purchase food, clothing, shelter, even “all the comforts of home.” And, for most of us, God has so well provided for us that we have even more than we need and often more than we could want.
And we have not yet mentioned that God has also provided for us the one thing that everyone needs, that is, He has provided for our eternal inheritance. Left to ourselves and our own devices, we know that we are unable to save ourselves, we are unable to earn our eternal inheritance. Our eternal inheritance has been earned for us by Jesus suffering and death on the cross. Our eternal inheritance has been made ours by the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace to create, strengthen and keep us in faith. It is by God’s grace, through faith, given to us, that we have the gift and promise of eternal life. And it is the Holy Spirit, again, working through the means of grace who works in us a response to this gift from God. What is that response? Let us continue and see.
In our text, the man’s response was one of selfishness. In his mind he was thinking, “this is my crop to do with as I please.” He was not thinking that this was a gift from God. He had no thought of God’s providing him with good soil, good seed, rain and sunshine, and an abundance of the crop. No, he simply thought that this was something he himself had accomplished. The man’s response, then, was one of covetousness and greed. He was not content with what he had, instead he wanted more. “I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones.”
What we can also see in this man’s response is a false security. He thought he could depend on himself and all that he had accumulated. His statement that he would, “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry,” tells us that he had no thought or concern about his eternal life or his spiritual life. Perhaps in the future, when he was old, then he would begin to think about an afterlife and where he might spend it.
What about you and me? What is our response? Is our goal in life to accumulate as much as we can so that we might “take life easy; eat, drink and be merry?” And please do not misunderstand, do not confuse planning for ones retirement and taking care of, as it might be expressed today, not being a burden as we get older, as what this text is speaking against. This text is not speaking against using our knowledge to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, rather this text is speaking against looking out for ourselves to the exclusion of taking care of the gifts that God has given and using them for the purpose in which He has given them, extending His kingdom and caring for others. If our only goal in life is ourselves, then we are in the same house with the rich man in the parable.
God’s response to the rich man and His response to those in our world who are only looking out for themselves is a call to judgement. Yes, we will be held accountable for our accounting, for our stewarding, for our taking care of all the good gifts and blessings our Lord has seen to put into our care. For the rich man and for too many in our world who refuse to offer a response of faith, God’s call is a call to eternal spiritual death. Again, verse twenty-one, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Through all three of our readings for today, Jesus gives us an understanding concerning the gifts He gives us while we are in this world and how we are to use them. In our Old Testament reading we are reminded that there are treasures on earth but too often, we “gather and store up wealth [only] to hand it over to the one who pleases God.” How true it is that there are many who accumulate a large estate, only to die and have someone else spend it, because we know we cannot take it with us.
In the Epistle lesson, Paul reminds us that there are treasures in heaven and that is what should be our goal in life, gaining eternal life and those treasures waiting for us in heaven. Here we are reminded that our earthly treasures will last but a lifetime, twenty, thirty, sixty, eighty, maybe a hundred years, but our heavenly treasure, eternal life is forever.
In college, going through the teacher education courses and especially during student teaching, I was always reminded to “teach and re-teach.” It is this process of hearing the same lesson over and over again that we finally get it, that is why it is so important in our own lives to hear God’s Word, over and over again, not just once a week, but daily. It is through His Word that our Lord teaches us and re-teaches us. And the message He continues to drive home, to teach us, is the importance of immersing ourselves in His Word through which the Holy Spirit works to create, strengthen and keep us in faith; through which the Holy Spirit works to show us our Savior, Jesus Christ Himself and His life, suffering, death and resurrection, along with His gift of forgiveness and eternal life; and it is through His Word that the Holy Spirit works in order to motivate us to respond to all God’s good gifts and blessings. And we do respond. We respond in prayer and we respond in giving our LIFE, again, our Labor, Influences, Finances and Expertise, or as we often hear today, our time, talents and treasure. And we do this to His glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.