July 31, 2022 – Pastor Elizabeth

8 Pentecost Year C / July 31, 2022 / St. Paul’s Random Lake

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 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. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” Luke 12:13-21

You Can’t Take it With You

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, my rock and my redeemer. AMEN.

            Leo Tolstoy once wrote a story about a successful peasant farmer who was not satisfied with his lot. He wanted more of everything. One day he received a novel offer. For 1000 rubles, he could buy all the land he could walk around in a day. The only catch in the deal was that he had to be back at his starting point by sundown. Early the next morning he started out walking at a fast pace. By midday he was very tired, but he kept going, covering more and more ground. Well into the afternoon he realized that his greed had taken him far from the starting point. He quickened his pace and as the sun began to sink low in the sky, he began to run, knowing that if he did not make it back by sundown the opportunity to become an even bigger landholder would be lost. As the sun began to sink below the horizon he came within sight of the finish line. Gasping for breath, his heart pounding, he called upon every bit of strength left in his body and staggered across the line just before the sun disappeared. He immediately collapsed, blood streaming from his mouth. In a few minutes he was dead. Afterwards, his servants dug a grave. It was not much over six feet long and three feet wide. The title of Tolstoy’s story? How Much Land Does a Man Need?

            What killed the farmer in Tolstoy’s story? Why, it was greed of course. in a similiar way, greed plays a part in Jesus’ parable of another farmer who thinks to 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, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’

            Pastor Niveen Sarras of Immanuel Lutheran Church of Wausau writes: “Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool to teach against greed. He emphasizes that secured life does not depend on possessions, but on entrusting one’s life to God. The scenario that Jesus depicts is a vast wealthy landholder who had an abundant harvest and decided to tear down his current storage facilities to make room for larger ones. This rich man is a shrewd businessman, but his shrewdness is very evil. By building colossal storage, the rich fool decides to hoard his harvest and not contribute to the market with his surplus. His intentions affect the food supply and create a sacristy of grain, ultimately driving the price up. This farmer is only interested in his well-being, ignoring the needs of the poor peasants around him who will be affected by his decision. Jesus describes a self-centered farmer who makes an unethical profit and harms the economy. By hoarding his grain, the rich fool “secures his economic power and position of status in the village as others are made more and more dependent on him.” The rich fool wants to control the market at the expense of his neighbors. The wealthy farmer is a fool because he assumes that his security depends on his possessions and wealth, not God, the source of all gifts and security. God summons his soul when the rich farmer invites his soul to be merry and enjoy wealth. In a single moment, all his hopes vanished. God asks him a rhetorical question, “And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”  God’s question means that he cannot take his hoarded grain to the grave, nor does he know whose they will be. His children or his poor peasants, whom he withheld his grain, may take them.”

            Professor David Lose adds: “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.”

             For the most part, in America we love our “stuff.”   To make things more personal, we raised our kids in a parsonage, a house owned by the church I pastored. I have to admit how much I have loved owning a home of our very own here in Random Lake.

            The stark truth is that there is nothing, no possession that belongs to us as human beings, nothing that we really own. God is the Creator and we humans are merely creatures. James 1:17 states: “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift. is from above. coming down from the father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” We are but stewards, caretakers of all that God has entrusted to us. In Genesis when God says, “Let us make humans in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over the cattle and over all the wild animals of the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” God didn’t mean take control, so much as take care.And truth be told, as we look at what is going on with the world, this planet earth today, we could be doing a much better job of doing just that.

            Also in Genesis, when God chooses Abraham and Sarah as the parents of God’s chosen people, God says:  “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”

            This continues to be true for all of us who have been chosen by God in Christ. God blesses us not to hold on to wealth and status and power, not to hoard God’s love and forgiveness and grace, but God has blessed you and blessed me, to be blessings to all the world around us. As we learn from Jesus’ farmer parable and Tolstoy’s fable, we can’t take it with us. God is the Great Giver and we are made in God’s image, intended to give. Some may want to tithe to the church. others may have a passion for helping refugees from Ukraine or Afghanistan or at the southern border, still others may give or volunteer to help find a cancer or Alzheimer’s cure or focusing on fighting poverty, hunger or injustice. There are many different ways that we could want to share our God-given blessings. Our focus should not be on earthly treasures, but in recognizing that our real treasure is in heaven. As St Paul writes  to the Colossians: “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.”

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