Pentecost 8, July 31, 2022(full size gallery)
2022 Sun July 31
July 31, 11:00am – Eucharist
We had Youth Sunday on July 31, 2022 in part of a common activity and to provide a celebration on going back to school. We had 10 youth participating during the church service on July 31 in bell ringing, the sermon, communion distribution and communion prep. They also helped to write the Prayers of the People.
The lectionary, particularly the Gospel Luke 12:13-21 on the Parable of the Rich Food, was particularly apropos dealing with greed, excess possessions, and ultimately fate. The youth came to the altar during communion. Using popcorn kernels each youth received a different number of kernels. This prompted interesting discussions. How to handle friends who were given much less ? In Luke’s scripture there is no thought to using the abundance to help others, no expression of gratitude for his good fortune, no recognition of God at all who is responsible for all possessions. The man in the Gospel is not evil. Wealth is not evil in itself – only how you use it. Some real world lessons in church today about building justice and how we lead our lives toward that end. Great to see smiles during the sermon!
I. Theme – Finding True Riches to Enjoy a Happy Life
“St. Lawrence Delivering the Riches of the Church” – Master of the Osservanza (1440)
The lectionary readings are here or individually:
Today’s readings encourage us to discover true riches in order to live a happy life. In Ecclesiastes (Track 2), 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.
God suffers or celebrates, depending on how we live our lives. Injustice is an affront to God; it literally pains God and leaves in its wake divine sorrow and anger. God is not an amoral force, but God’s energy encompasses us all – believer and atheist, pacifist and terrorist, humankind and the non-human world.
To live for earthly things “is vanity and a striving after wind,” and work that is driven by such vanity “is an unhappy business” (Eccl. 1:13–14). The man who lives like that has nothing to show for “all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun … all his days are full of sorrow” (Eccl. 2:22–23). We can’t take it with us. So why do we worry so much about it?
The foolish live their lives solely for their own pleasures on earth and ignore the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized. The Wisdom Tradition of the Bible tells us this is vanity, a chasing after wind, something that will never be fully realized or satisfied. Life is empty. On the other hand, the foolish also live their lives focused solely on heaven and not caring about this life or the people in this world.
So, too, your “covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5), makes a god out of that which cannot give you life or happiness. For “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15)
The wise look to living their lives for God, which means living for others. But “Christ who is your life” (Col. 3:4), in giving you Himself, gives you all the wealth of heaven. Instead of striving to lay up treasures for yourself, be “rich toward God” in Him (Luke 12:21). We are called to love and care for others, but especially the ones in need. With that, we live with the hope of resurrection, knowing that life continues after death, though we may not know what that looks like, we hold on to that hope. We live our lives on earth with the same hope for eternity—to live into God’s ways of love and justice that restores and heals and brings wholeness.
So how is your barn ? Parable of the Rich Fool
The second part of this scripture is the reframing of the man’s question and the parable -“Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Since there is stuff to be divided there could be “abundance of possessions” and the next step beyond that – greed
The Greek word used here for greed means “yearning for more”. It is a form of idolatry. If greed is a desire to get more — then there is never a point where a greedy person has enough. Greed can never be satisfied. It is always looking to get more. In other places, there are writings against greed. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Ephesians 5:3-5. The greedy will not inherit the kingdom of God. It brings god’s wrath. greed can take many forms: the greed for attention, the greed for control, the greed for security.
Luke, by situating the parable of the rich fool right in the middle of Jesus’ predictions of his own death and the plots to kill him, connects this universal human desire for more with universal human insecurity and fear of death.
The parable is about a farmer who does well – he has produced abundantly and has no place to store his crops so he will build larger barns. So what’s wrong with this ? David Lose causes us to assess the situation “He is not portrayed as wicked – that is, he has not gained his wealth illegally or by taking advantage of others. Further, he is not portrayed as particularly greedy. Indeed, he seems to be somewhat surprised by his good fortune as he makes what appears to be reasonable plans to reap the abundance of the harvest. What is wrong, we might therefore ask, about building larger barns to store away some of today’s bounty for a potentially leaner tomorrow?
Lose goes on. “Except for two things. First, notice the farmer’s consistent focus throughout the conversation he has with himself: “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then 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. And I will say to my soul….”
The relentless use of the first person pronouns “I” and “my” betray a preoccupation with self. There is no thought to using the abundance to help others, no expression of gratitude for his good fortune, no recognition of God at all. The farmer has fallen prey to worshiping the most popular of gods: the Unholy Trinity of “me, myself, and I.” This leads to, and is most likely caused by, a second mistake. He is not foolish because he makes provision for the future; he is foolish because he believes that by his wealth he can secure his future: “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”
Wealth is not the problem but how we use it – wealth for its own enjoyment or own end. It’s thinking that possessions lead to a satisfied life. Bigger barns do not necessarily bring happiness and contentment. They rob us of the person who builds the barns. People retire and set them up to separate themselves from a world they help to build. The man in this story does not have the vision and/or imagination to see beyond his own walls. He is his own prisoner.
The text says that the man decided to gather in these new barns not just the grain from the harvest but “my goods” (v. 18). He is thinking of barns not just for the grain but also for his “goods.” He can kill two birds with one stone, but in Jesus’ parable, it is as if he is killing his soul by the expansion project. Then he has thoughts that he has made it and can kick back. Idea of celebrate goes back to the parable of the prodigal son to describe the festive atmosphere at the return of the prodigal.” In the end the grim reaper may be coming for him.
The story ends:” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
The parable tells us about two different kinds of riches–those toward oneself and those toward God
That is, the question to put to our hearers (and also ourselves) is not, “Is material abundance bad?” but rather, “Is our material abundance sufficient to meet the weight of meaning, significance, and joy that we seek?” Can our wealth secure a relative degree of comfort? Certainly. Can it grant to us confidence that we are worthy of love and honor and in right relationship with God and neighbor? Certainly not. Only as we recognize that the gifts of ultimate worth, dignity, meaning, and relationship are just that – gifts offered freely by God – can we hope to place our relative wealth in perspective and be generous with it toward others.
How does one become “rich towards God”? There is a parallel with the Good Samaritan. There the question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?
1. Faith in God. Worship is where we are reoriented toward a way of life that seeks the peace and justice of God’s kingdom. Worship is where we find the inner resources to follow the example of Christ in our daily lives. Worship is where we become “heavenly minded” in the words of St. Paul enough to be able to do some earthly good in this world. It’s our starting point.
2. Approaching God as hungry, needy, people — letting God give us what we need rather than trying to secure it on our own. The gift is not making money for its own sake but gifts of ultimate worth, dignity, meaning, and relationship are just that – gifts offered freely by God. We have people that done this is history and they are called saints.
3. Using our wealth to be generous with it toward others, sharing God’s life. Using wealth responsibility to see that it all comes from God and should be used to further God’s kingdom. Paul in Colossians has a concern with how you live your life here and now—including purity, respect, honesty, and compassio
On another level, this parable is about security. We try to build in our own security and control when we know life is insecure and uncertain. The farmer is called “fool” because of neither his wealth nor ambition but rather because he accords finite things infinite value. He doesn’t see his own life as on loan from God. He has tried to insulate himself from fate and fortune through productive farming and adequate finances, and he has come up empty. Since 9/11 we have inundated with super hero movies – over 30 movies within 6 years after the event. This is another way to promote security.
Lee Koontz in article on his passage quotes Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Niebuhr “in an article of this passage. went so far as to say that human nature was paradoxical. On the one hand, we are immersed in nature and subject to all of its perils, including death. But on the other hand, human beings have the ability to transcend nature and ponder not only our finitude and the reality of death but also how we might respond to it. (Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man (New York 1941), p. 182.) We are bound by our limited human nature, our finitude, but at the same time we are free to respond to the perils of life on earth in any way we choose. That, I believe, is what Jesus’ parable of the rich fool is really about. It’s about how to respond to insecurity, finitude, and death.”
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.
Sunday Focus on “attitudes toward stuff” in the Kingdom
The four lectionary texts assigned for this Sunday have a common theme: “wealth”. More specifically, the texts are concerned with attitudes toward wealth. The theme is considered in a variety of literary types: a parable, a piece of wisdom literature, a letter, and a psalm.
Background- Parable of the Rich Fool -Luke 12:13-21
Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem. People seek him out – the Centurion that wants him who servant was on the road to death; in other cases with the widow of Nain he wonders into situations. Some might come to challenge him or justify themselves, like the lawyer who provided the context for the parable of the Good Samaritan (10:25-37). Others came to Jesus with a complaint. We saw this in a previous exposition of the Mary/Martha story (10:38-42). Actually for this story we don’t know the motivation but it leads to another teaching moment. The gospel reading is here.
Jesus is in the middle of encouraging his disciples to confess even when they are under duress, when he is interrupted by one of the crowd who wants Jesus to settle a financial dispute between siblings. Jesus, however, refuses to enter into the family squabble and instead uses the situation as an opportunity to teach about the seduction of wealth.
The problem the man faced was a common and significant one–how to divide the property between siblings. At that time the older son received twice the inheritance of youngers ones – maybe this is a younger. It may be natural to come to Jesus – Rabbi’s were expected to arbitrate on matters of law, but Jesus is unwilling to play this role.
If Jesus had taken up the man’s challenge and entered into his life, he faced two problems: the first is that his intervention might provide the occasion for the brothers both to turn on Jesus; the second is that Jesus’ intervention would just open a Pandora’s box of more questions until Jesus had actually become the man’s attorney. Jesus may be a healer or teacher or proclaimer of the message of the kingdom, but he isn’t a judge in domestic disputes. . He knows his task and his limitations. Thus, Jesus really isn’t a “problem solver.”
Do you have a clear sense of what you are about it in life? Jesus has an instinctive sense of what he ought to be doing; of when he ought to enter in and when he ought to keep his distance. Jesus’ explanation is “who made me a judge or arbitrator over you? Jesus doesn’t give an explanation for why he doesn’t want to intervene but finds the heart of the matter (abundance, greed) and throws it back to the questioner. Jesus reframes the question and it becomes a parable.
The rock-like faith of Peter is at the heart of William Wilberforce’s crusade against the slave trade. England was exporting 50,000 Africans to America a year in his life time. Wilberforce’s life is the subject of the movie “Amazing Grace” (2006). You can see the trailer here. There is also a short 3 minute introduction to Wilberforce here.
Wilberforce was an English politician, philanthropist, and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. He was a political activist and a man of strong faith.
By the late 1700s, the economics of slavery were so entrenched that only a handful of people thought anything could be done about it.
Physically he wasn’t imposing – he was less than 5 1/2 feet tall and was sickly for most of his life. He enjoyed the plush lifestyle of his early life. However, after leaving religion he came back to Christianity through the evangelical faith of John Newton, who penned the hymn “Amazing Grace”. He urged him to use his parliamentary position to advance his causes. He attracted a number of friends, including future prime minister William Pitt. Helping him were his oratorical skills though he wasn’t the best strategist.
He won seat in Parliament in 1780. Under the influence of Thomas Clarkson, he became absorbed with the issue of slavery. Later he wrote, “So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would: I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.” Although opposed to slavery itself, the abolitionists wisely thought that it would be easier to abolish the trade before tackling slavery itself.
Wilberforce was initially optimistic, even naively so. He expressed “no doubt” about his chances of quick success. However, bills introduced were defeated in 1791, 1792, 1793, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1804, and 1805.
When it became clear that Wilberforce was not going to let the issue die, pro-slavery forces targeted him. He was vilified; opponents spoke of “the damnable doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies.” The opposition became so fierce, one friend feared that one day he would read about Wilberforce’s being “carbonated [broiled] by Indian planters, barbecued by African merchants, and eaten by Guinea captains.”
It would take twenty years of pleading, educating, demonstrating, and maneuvering before William Wilberforce would emerge victorious—in 1807. Helping him was the news of a slave uprising in Haiti. A year after Wilberforce’s death (in 1833) all the slaves of the Empire were declared to be free, almost 30 years before they would be set free in the United States, and over fifty years in Brazil.
At one point in the early 1790s Wilberforce actually had enough votes to pass his bill of abolition, but on the night of the vote (Parliament’s business sessions often did not begin until early evening) many of his supporters were attending a comedy at the theater, and thereby the bill failed for lack of votes.