The Gospel: Luke 12:13-21
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." But he said to him, "Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" 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." Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought 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.' 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?' So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: To begin this morning I want to say a couple of things, which you may already know, or already be aware of. They may even seem obvious, but I feel it is important to clarify a couple of thoughts.
The first is that as we gather each Sunday and we read scripture we draw these from The Lectionary Page which is a resource found online. This is a Liturgical Calendar, for each year, with links to the lessons from the Revised Common Lectionary, as modified for use in Episcopal worship. These readings are compiled by the creators of the Lectionary Page and are grouped around what they understand to be common themes and ideas.
This is different from the readings as they are set out in the BCP and also from the Forward Day by Day. Sometimes these various guides will intersect and sometimes they don't. I just want to be sure we are not confusing anyone about which reading schedule we are following. At the moment we are following track 1. We publish the Gospel and note the other lessons in the Weekly Update each week so that you have a chance to read and reflect on them for yourself before you come to worship on Sunday.
Then the second point is that these selections of scripture are not always sequential. In other words, what we read this week does not necessarily follow on directly from what we read last week.
Today is a good example of that. Our Gospel reading is from Luke chapter 12 verses 13 -21. Last week we read Luke 11: 1 -13. So we skip over Luke 11: 14 - 53 and Luke 12: 1 - 12. That is a total of 51 verses filled with all kinds of information about the life and ministry of Jesus.
The reason I mention it is that I sometimes think that some folks think that we are following through the Gospels chapter by chapter, or perhaps verse by verse. This makes a difference in how we approach what we hear in the message or sermon at worship each Sunday.
Why is it important you might ask? Well, I want to suggest that it is similar to watching movie trailers or movie previews. You know, that short collection of clips that movie promoters put together to catch your interest in their movie? Have you ever had the experience where you watch a trailer or preview and think hmm I think I want to see that movie? You go along and the movie is amazing or, maybe sometimes, it is nothing like what you expect it to be. You have to see the whole movie before you can grasp what it is actually about.
To some degree that is what reading the set readings for a particular Sunday is like. You read the readings, or you hear them read on Sunday morning, and you get a glimpse into those particular passages. You might begin to think and meditate on those scriptures, asking the Holy Spirit to guide and direct you.
Of course, that glimpse is just that, a glimpse. If you want to get context and some potential thoughts on the application of that scripture for yourself you should read what comes before and after the text.
Today's story from Luke is a great example of catching a glimpse into an event or incident. I believe it should trigger us to want to know more about what is behind this teaching and what Jesus is saying to his disciples. Or what he is saying to the person who asks him to intercede in the matter of dividing up the inheritance.
The story central to our Gospel reading this morning is often referred to as the parable of the Rich Fool. One of the commentators I referred to this week called this parable "one of the most dangerous parables in Scripture." He went on to say that the problem with this scripture is that "we are tempted to read this parable and think well that is easy to understand." He suggested that if we do that we will then probably dismiss the parable "as having very little to do with us." After all, most of us will probably never be faced with the issue of having so much, so many possessions that will struggle to know what to do with them. We will not, like the landowner in the parable, have to start a construction project so that we will be able to store all our possessions.
He said that if we understand the parable this way we will miss the heart of the message of Jesus' challenge to the person who requested him to intercede for him with his brother about the inheritance. We will also miss the challenge for ourselves.
In fact, the heart is the focus of Jesus' message in this parable. The Rich landowner has a heart condition and is totally unaware of it. His heart is focused on himself and his possessions.
We have to remember that for society at that time wealth and possessions were often interpreted as, or associated with, a sign of God's blessing. The people listening to Jesus would have considered this man a blessed individual. I might suggest that things haven't changed all that much. I believe it is easy for us to look at those who have great wealth and possessions and to consider that they are indeed blessed by the Lord. That may well be the case.
But, and this is where we have to be careful not to be caught up in the glimpse that we get here in this Scripture. The movie trailer/preview so to speak. There is a promise of blessing in the Old Testament Scripture. It is to be considered evidence of God's participation and relationship with his people. This comes from the words of the Lord to Abram ( who later would be Abraham) in Genesis chapter 12.
Genesis 12: 1-2 NRSV
Now the Lord said to Abram, “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."
The challenge the people of Israel had and the challenge we often have is that we neglect the very last sentence of this passage: "so that you will be a blessing." We can sometimes look at the blessing of the Lord in same the way that the rich landowner did. He was so caught up in his wealth that he focused on himself. He had no concern for anyone but himself. His actions are solely concerned with what his riches will do for him.
The commentator challenged, us as we prepared to read and speak about this scripture, to consider how we could get people to look past the simple example and find the heart of the message. To look past the message that because we don't have great riches then we don't have to consider the central message - the heart message - of this passage.
Jesus answered the person who asked him to intercede about his inheritance with this parable. He was challenging the person to consider why he wanted the inheritance. What was his goal in obtaining that wealth, that blessing?
Perhaps we need to consider some other scriptures. That might help us understand why the rich landowner had been blessed - gifted with the resources that he had. Perhaps it will help us understand why we are blessed - gifted with the resources that we have. And let's not forget we are certainly a blessed people.
Proverbs 19:17 – He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, And He will pay back what he has given.
Proverbs 22:9 – He who has a generous eye will be blessed, For he gives of his bread to the poor.
Proverbs 11:25-26 – The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.
We have seen the heart of generosity that exists in this place. In the last few years, we have been richly blessed by the Lord in all we have been able to do in through the Planting for Tomorrow II program.
People have given in abundance to this project. They are continuing to give and the community here at Christ Christ has been richly blessed.
I want to remind us of the heart of that program and the projects associated with it. When we began to consider the Five Year Plan several years ago, We talked about it being to prepare this place for those who the Lord would draw into the community here. Then when we launched the Planting for Tomorrow Program phase II we promoted it: "to provide facilities that would enable the mission and the ministry of Christ Church to effectively continue and grow."
We believed that new ministry opportunities would be developed. That there would be new opportunities for individuals and families to be planted and blossom and grow in this place.
How have we been blessed to be a blessing in this place? How do we participate in the Mission Statement and the Vision Statement of Christ Church?
How are we fulfilling the vision expressed in the words of the Collect For the Mission of the Church from The Book of Common Prayer:
O God of all the nations of the earth: Remember the multitudes who have been created in your image but have not known the redeeming work of our Savior Jesus Christ; and grant that, by the prayers and labors of your holy Church, they may be brought to know and worship you as you have been revealed in your Son; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Bishops & Father Mike