The Rich man in Luke, Pentecost 8, July 31, 2022

The Sermon in 2019 using Luke, Ecclesiastes and Colossians. The rich man in Luke only knew life in the horizontal feeding his own wishes but not the vertical leading to God. “What the rich man has forgotten in his grasping focus on this horizontal line of his life is the vertical line that reaches up toward God.”

Catherine showed how the early Christians prayed – “The early Christians prayed like this—by reaching up and out with their palms up. As they prayed in this way, they remembered this vertical line of their lives, their feet rooted in the goodness of God’s creation, while they reached up to God with open hands…”This prayer posture with open hands stretched out and up reminds us that God is the one that fills our open hands when we ask. Open hands are open to all that God wants to give us, and all that God intends for us to share. Open hands reach beyond the finite into the infinite. Open hands reach up into God’s light.

“In the Colossians reading for today, the writer shows us that reaching up into the infinite helps us become rich toward God and generous toward our neighbors…In the light of God’s love, then, our lives are not meaningless, but full of meaning, full of light and God’s goodness that we shine into the world.

Finally Catherine used a story Rabbi Daniel Cohen writes in his book What will they say about you when you are gone? Creating a Life of Legacy

“And then he tells a story about a man who wanted to decide which of his three sons would inherit his estate. So the man came up with the idea of giving his inheritance to the son who could best fill an empty room. The third son won with a candle, lit a flame which filled the room with light.

Cohen says, “When we lighten a dark world, we emulate God, and our souls will be on fire. When we make small differences in the world for even one person, we align ourselves with life’s purpose,” and, I would add, we align ourselves with God’s purpose for us.

“When we live with open hands full of God’s light, everything that we do in this life, on this horizontal line, is full of meaning that will stretch far beyond the day when our hearts stop beating because we have become conduits for God’s infinite light to flow into the world through our us long after our hearts have stopped beating.

“Stand up again. Reach up into God’s light in prayer, open your arms in love, open your hands, and go be God’s light in this world. ”

Today’s readings encourage us to discover true riches in order to live a happy life. In Ecclesiastes, a Jewish wisdom teacher ponders the vanity of human life. The psalmist invites us to bow in worship and praise before God our Maker. The second reading encourages followers of Christ to focus on the things that are above. In the gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool. 

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23

The Book of Ecclesiastes recounts a wisdom teacher’s exploration of the meaning of life. The author is described in 12:9-10 as a teacher and writer. The name of the book, derived from the Greek word ecclesia, is a translation of the Hebrew, Qoheleth, which probably identifies the one who gathers an assembly.

Today’s reading centers on the supreme futility of life, which like a cloud or a mist is a vanity–not substantial and stable but ephemeral and passing. Life passes by and the endless grind of work changes nothing. What good is all that effort when the fruit of one’s work and efforts are simply turned over to someone else. 

Psalm 49:1-11

This psalm encourages confidence in God’s justice, especially when it seems that evildoers prosper. The psalmist urges his audience to remember that the ungodly and those who rely on their wealth are deluded for they cannot protect themselves from death. 

Colossians 3:1-11

Paul now turns to discuss the practical consequences of the believer’s acceptance of Christ as Lord. He uses a form of teaching probably developed as a part of baptismal instruction (Ephesians 4:22-5:5). In living out the reality of having been “raised with Christ” (v. 1) the Christian is to exhibit a transcendent quality of life here and now. In baptism those to be baptized put off their old clothes and put on the new white baptismal robe as a token of their having put off the old nature and put on the new.

This fact must now be lived out in putting to death the old way of life and putting on the new life in Christ (Romans 13:14). They are to show forth the characteristics proclaimed and exhibited in Jesus’ ministry. Being clothed with this “new self,” they experience a continual process of renewal, the goal of which is the knowledge of God. Barriers are broken and all live in Christ as a community of believers. 

Luke 12:13-21

Today’s reading comes from a section of the travel narrative (12:1–13:21) that stresses readiness for the coming crisis when a decision for the kingdom must not be delayed. The man who approaches Jesus is presumably a younger brother who wishes his elder brother to divide the inheritance that he was likely given as the oldest son. Jesus rejects the request for arbitration and tells a parable that challenges the greed in us all.

The parable of the rich fool has many parallels, both in classical literature and in Old Testament Wisdom writing (Sirach 11:18-19; Ecclesiastes 8:15; Wisdom 15:8). The rich man is “a fool,” that is, one who in practice acts as if God does not exist (Psalm 14:1). He has made provision for his own comfort but not for his ultimate destiny because without warning, his “soul” (Greek, psyche), meaning his life or self, is required of him. He illustrates the fate of all who confuse their priorities and rely too confidently on their own power.

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