August 4, 2019 Sermon cycle C Eighth Sunday in Pentecost
What is IMPORTANT in life?
We come together on Sunday mornings to be reminded of LIFE’S PRIORITIES from the perspective of Jesus.
A man says, “Jesus tell my brother to give me my fair share of the inheritance.”
What you get from JESUS is a parable.
The man in the parable would APPEAR to be blessed by God.
He has a bountiful harvest.
He has barns galore to store the harvest.
Life is GREAT! He plans to eat and drink!
And then he dies. In a blink of an eye, he’s GONE.
This rich man forgot something important!
He forgot he was MORTAL.
Jesus walked the earth, in the dust and heat, missing meals if he had to, to remind us that we are mortal, we are FINITE. He comes to remind us to take care – of what is IMPORTANT.
Our LIVES are important. They are enormous gifts.
What is NOT important is the material goods. Our wealth.
What IS important? Wealth would appear to be a blessing. Isn’t it?
NOTE: People of Jesus’ time were not accustomed to calling rich people FOOLS.
Wealth was seen as a favor and blessing from God.
Poverty was seen as a LACK of God’s favor.
But let’s reread what this rich fool says:
“And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?”
18Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull 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.”
Can you hear it?
It ALMOST sounds reasonable. What’s wrong is that what he says is all I,I,I,I.
Me me me me.
It’s not so much that he is wealthy, it’s that he is totally focused on himself.
Isn’t there SOMEONE with whom he could share his wealth? Where are his loved ones?
And the irony is that he talks to his soul, “Soul, you have ample goods.”
The soul is not concerned about eating and drinking. The soul belongs to GOD.
In this story, Jesus wants us to know that appearances are deceiving.
What APPEARS to be SOLID is actually very ephemeral.
And what is EPHEMERAL is solid.
The man’s harvest, his crops and barns, just disappear at his death. They are not important.
What he takes with him is whatever he’s packed in his soul.
At death, he COULD have had a soul PACKED with charity, or a soul full of hope.
Or he could take with him a soul that is FULL of LOVE.
We don’t see any of that in the parable. His soul is EMPTY of charity. His soul is FULL of greed.
Jesus says today, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
It’s so easy to be greedy.
From childhood we’re primed and brainwashed to DESIRE all kinds of pink and purple plastic toys that quickly break. Then we want more and more of them.
You know what KUDZU is? Kudzu is that invasive vine from the South that grows everywhere and CHOKES the life out of other green plants and trees.
You get it growing and it just takes over.
GREED is like kudzu, it CHOKES the LIFE out of everything else.
FEEDING that greed becomes the MOST important thing.
A couple of weeks ago, there was a reading from Acts that described the community that is HEARTBROKEN because DORCAS had died.
Dorcas had reached out to the widows of her community and clothed them.
The community summoned Peter to DO SOMETHING! They showed him the tunics she had made for them.
It doesn’t say it in the text, but I have a feeling that she may have been teaching these widows to weave cloth and become self-supporting. That would have made her invaluable to the community of women.
YET, Dorcas could have thought, to only take care of herself.
She could EASILY have become selfish and said ‘I have to look out for myself, me, me me. There’s only enough for me. Me. Me.”
Unlike the man in the parable, she used her time and wealth to reach out those who were in distress. She RECEIVED a bounty of SPIRIT from the COMMUNITY of widows, as she reached out to help THEM. Dorcas had put her wealth to work to assist the community.
When Dorcas died, it was a TRAGEDY, where she was MOURNED.
She had used her money the right way and it became about SHARING and LOVE.
There was a RICHNESS of SPIRIT in the SHARING among the widows. So they told Peter, to COME QUICKLY!
Peter prayed, and Dorcas came back to life. The larger story is that the whole community – all those widows who she had helped, I’ll bet they were praying their too, and that it was the entire PRAYER of the COMMUNITY that brought her back.
In this parable, we don’t see the rich fool as part of a community. No one is crying that he died that night. No one mourns him. No one demands of God to BRING HIM BACK.
No, he lived isolated in his wealth, and died truly alone. And there is a RECKONING for him. There is JUDGMENT.
“But God said to him, ‘You Fool!’ This very night your soul is being demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’
I very recently moved. Before I moved I threw things out and took bags and bags to the Goodwill, and still I look around and think why did I bring so much with me? I look in some of the boxes and wonder, why did I pack this? Why was this stuff so important?
What if – and I don’t have enough courage to live this – what if I threw everything away and just took FOUR things. Take just ONE box of things.
So much stuff collects sentimental meaning. Why not just go without? What would be the FOUR things I would take with me?
Could you look around your homes and find FOUR things you couldn’t live without and toss everything else out?
Some of you may be familiar with Marie Kondo, and her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Her focus is on only keeping those material objects that give us joy. When people hire her to help them throw out things, very often, they end up with only one fifth of the possessions they started out with.
She doesn’t use the word ephemeral, but her focus on JOY over material goods, refocuses people on what is important. A LOT of what they own is ephemeral; it does nothing for them. When they have less, they have more serenity, more joy. Then they are able to make changes in their lives and make decisions that enhance their lives. Couples become closer when they start throwing out together. They share what has meaning and what is valueless.
I’ve seen a film called Happy – and the film goes around the world asking people what makes them happy.
The first story is a man in India. To me, it looks like he’s living in abject poverty. No, he’s happy. He points to his neighbors. They wave and smile to the camera. He says he has wonderful neighbors. He has a son. He HUGS his grown son. He gestures to his house, which looks like a shack. He loves his house. The monsoon goes through one door and out the other.
He is happy with VERY LITTLE. He knows what is important.
When Mother Theresa came to this country, she was struck by the SPIRITUAL unhappiness.
The SPIRITUAL poverty of this wealthy nation.
In that film, Happy, there’s another story from Denmark.
Denmark has a tradition of communal living where people, in order to live much more happily CHOOSE a community, and not the nuclear setting which is what we have mostly in this country. In the film we watch as a single woman moves in with her three young daughters.
They don’t have much space. She tells her daughters that their pet guinea pig has more space in its cage than they do. They have traded space for a richness of community life.
For example, everyone signs up to take a monthly turn to cook for about fifty people.
Once the children turn 14, the 14-year-olds get together to cook for the community.
You see them chopping and sautéing the vegetables; they are in charge, and you KNOW these teens are getting very valuable life experience in what is important in life. This family has exchanged a larger space and alienation for a smaller living space, and a RICHER community life.
Just like the rich fool of the parable, there is a RECKONING for US as well. God will ask US at the end of our life HOW did we use the wealth we have? Did we use it to SHARE like DORCAS – and build a rich community life? Or were we like the RICH FOOL and say mine, me, I,I,I,I – ?
Jesus ends this parable with the words, “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves, but are not RICH toward God.”
Lord, I thank you for the BOUNTY you have given us. Help us to see what is important in our precious lives. Let us not waste time on being greedy. Let us be able to SHARE what you have given us to share. We depend on your mercy, and pray in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, your Son.