St. John's Episcopal Church

Sermon given Sunday, August 4, 2019

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

The Rev. Carol Hancock


St. John's, Centreville
August 4, 2019
Luke 12:13-21
Proper 12 C
     God of new beginnings, meet us were we are on our journey, imperfect as we are, and use us in ways we cannot imagine to make a difference in the world for you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
     In our gospel lesson this morning, Jesus tells the crowd to be on their guard against all kinds of greed, for their lives do not consist in the abundance of possessions. Then Jesus tells them a parable about a rich man who has been very successful and raised so many crops that he has nowhere to store them. He decides he build bigger barns to store all that he has. The he can sit back, relax, and have no worries for the rest of his life. But he dies that night and all that he has worked for goes to someone else. He is considered a fool for storing up treasures for himself on earth and making no provision for eternal life with God. He is not rich toward God.
     Now this parable does NOT mean that we should not plan for the future. We need to plan for our children's education and for our retirement. In the Old Testament, God tells Joseph to convince the Pharaoh to store food during the seven years of abundance in order to be able to feed people during the seven years of famine. That was a good thing - storing up enough for the community to survive during the famine.
     But in today's parable, the rich man does not seem to be concerned with anyone but himself. Everything is "I, me, mine". There is nothing in this story to suggest that he will share his abundance with the poor or to help out the community. It's all for him, so he won't have to worry about the future. There is no indication that he realizes that his land and his great abundance has come from God and that he should be thankful for his many blessings. He is not being a good steward of God's creation by hoarding everything for himself.
     Possessions in and of themselves are not bad. God wants us to have an abundant and joyful life. But its what we do with our possessions that is important. Do we hoard everything for ourselves, like the rich fool, or do we share what we have with others, particularly those who are poor or in need? Do we own our posessions or do they own us?
     The rich fool not only does not thank God for giving him such an abundant harvest, but he does not seem to trust God. He trusts only himself. When he has stored enough crops for himself, then he feels he can relax, eat, drink and be merry. He has not recognized God's grace and abundant love. He does not seem to realize that he does not have total control over his life. He can die at any time.
   In the parable, he dies that night. He has made all these provisions for preparing for his earthly life, but he has not made any preparations for his eternal life, for his spiritual life, for his relationship with God. And that is what is important, not barns full of crops, not lots of possessions, not greed and the focus on oneself. Our earthly possessions last only the short time that we are here. Our eternal life with God will last forever. So doesn't it make sense to spend time preparing for eternal life, for deepening our relationship with God, for strengthening our spiritual life?
     Possessions will not help us get closer to God. Our checkbooks and our calendars give us a good sense of how we are using the gifts God has given us. What do we spend our money on? How do we spend our time? Our time on this earth is short and we need to use all that God has given us well, and in service to others.
     The rich fool did not trust God with his future, so he stored up his own provisions. How much do we trust God with our future? The story is told of a climber was climbing in the mountains when night fell and he could not see a thing. The moon and stars were covered by clouds, all was black and there was zero visibility. He became lost, but he continued climbing, thinking he was near the top of the mountain. Suddenly he slipped and fell, falling down the mountain at great speed. He kept falling and in moments of great fear, good and bad episodes of his life flashed before his eyes. He was thinking about how close to death he was getting, when all of a sudden, he felt the rope tied to his waist pull him very hard and his fall was stopped. His body was hanging in the air.
     Only the rope was holding him, and in that moment of stillness, he cried out, "Help me, God!" All of a sudden, a deep voice from heaven replied, "What do you want me to do?" The climber replied, "Save me, God" And God replied, "Do you really think that I can save you?" "Of course I believe you can," said the climber. "Then cut the rope tied to your waist." There was a moment of silence and the man decided to hold onto the rope with all his strength.
     The next morning, the rescue team reported that a climber was found dead and frozen, his body hanging from a rope....his hands holding tight to it.....only one foot from the ground.**
     The rich fool in our gospel story did not trust in God, only in himself. He did not see God's abundance and love and grace in his life. He did not see the needs of others. He did not see that trusting in himself and his possessions got in the way of his trusting in God. And he died, not being able to use his possessions or putting his faith in God.
     Nothing that we attain on this earth - money, possessions, educational degrees - will go with us to eternal life. We came into this world with nothing and we will leave this world with nothing. What God wants us to do while we are on this earth for a short time is to know and love God, to deepen our relationship with God, to know of God's unending love for us, to work for the furthering of God's kingdom on earth by sharing God's love with others, to do the work that God has given us to do.
     The things that we attain on earth don't matter in the long run. It is our relationships that matter - our relationship with God and love for family and friends. When we meet God face to face, I don't think God will ask for a copy of our resume, or a list of our earthly possessions. Instead, God will ask of if we helped other people, how we used the gifts and resources that God has given us, how we were Christ to one another. That is what is important - not what possessions we had. Our love of God and our desire to worship and serve God is what matters. And that is when we will achieve our greatest reward - eternal life with God. Amen. 

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