WORSHIP THIS WEEK: This Sunday, October 29, in addition to our annual Reformation Sunday celebration of God’s good work in the origins of the Lutheran church, we look forward to celebrating confirmation for five of our young people. You are invited to wear red in honor of the day, the color that reminds us of the many powerful things the Holy Spirit can do. Join us at 10:00 in our physical sanctuary at 300 Shunpike Road or in our digital sanctuary here: https://www.youtube.com/live/1Eu6jOdVZDI?si=IFoIICnnD6pXv1Z6
by Dana Stokes, July 31, 2022
I remember reading a memoir once where two sisters are fighting after their mother passes away, constantly bickering, about inheritance, about a multitude of decisions. They even argue about what to do with their mom’s ashes. Ultimately, the author is at her home and the doorbell rings. It’s a package. She opens up the box pulls out a small but heavy, sooty bag with a note that says – “Mom, one half.”
Conflicts. A conflict between two brothers about inheritance is what starts the conversation in the Gospel of Luke and leads Jesus to tell the parable of the rich fool. Conflicts surrounding inheritance – or one’s ashes – are not new. It’s not a modern problem.
If you look at today’s gospel, Jesus says in verse 15: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Guarding against greed… An abundance of possessions… Sounds like even in the first century keeping up with the Joneses was an issue. Assigning value to possessions, maybe even hording, was an issue. It’s human.
This parable of the rich fool is found in the Gospel of Luke. The four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are four accounts that share a great deal of overlap in their stories. But each gospel also has a uniqueness of its own. For example, Matthew spends a lot of time on lineage. Jesus has come from the line of Abraham and King David. He is the Promised Messiah. There’s a lot of focus on Jesus teaching in Matthew. Of the four Gospels, it’s Luke that seems to emphasize Jesus’ role as the Savior for All people. Luke’s gospel is filled with parables. While it shares many parables with the other Gospels – having the faith of a mustard seed, the widow’s mite, the woman who washes Jesus’ feet – there are some that are unique only to Luke. The Good Samaritan. The Prodigal Son. And this one, the Parable of the Rich Fool. Luke likes to remind us that it’s not about who you are or where you’ve been, where you grew up or what you’ve done. It’s about whose you are. We are worthy to Jesus because He has come to be in relationship with us.
At the beginning of today’s gospel, Jesus is surrounded by a huge crowd of people when someone calls to him to help with a dispute and attempts to embroil him in a family squabble regarding inheritance. But Jesus declines this man and then warns all in the crowd to be on guard against greed. He recognizes this universal human problem. Then he tells them the parable of the rich fool.
“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 all my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”
He’s giving himself a very self-satisfied pep talk. There are a lot of I’s and me’s and my’s in this speech. In his mind he’s done this all by himself and for himself. Planting, tearing down barns, building barns. Maybe he needs to think about this again? How might he think about it instead?
He’s pretty proud of himself. And that’s human. He’s worked hard. It doesn’t appear that he was dishonest. It doesn’t say that he cheated anyone or mistreated anyone. No shady ventures. He’s worked. He’s fortunate and now he’s ready to take it easy. He believes that he has secured his future. We can all be that way. We think, “When I have more possessions or more power or more success,…when the house is finally paid off, or I get that promotion, that new job, or when the kids are finally out of college,… then I will have what I need to be secure.” We assume we have things handled because we measure with certain traditional markers of success. But we can still come up feeling empty. Like the farmer whose barns are no longer big enough to hold all his grain. And we also know that wealth doesn’t keep the bad things from happening. This farmer believes his wealth has secured his future. He believes his possessions define how well he is doing, but Jesus relates that he is a foolish man. For this very night his life will end. And the things he has prepared, whose will they be? What is truly ours?
Those who lay up treasures for themselves but forget about God are not rich. God doesn’t look at the possessions one has. God looks at our hearts. We are both broken and beloved. Jesus is reminding us not to identify our worth with the value of our possessions. We are worthy because Jesus has come to be in relationship with us. All of us. Everyone listening right now can think of a reason that they might not feel worthy of God’s love and grace. That’s not how Jesus sees it. How Jesus sees us should shape our worth, how we believe and ultimately act.
In telling this parable of the rich fool, Jesus is inviting us to see this abundant life differently. What can we do differently? How can we live differently?
First of all, God is the source of our blessings. God has been rich toward us. Let’s acknowledge God’s generosity. Thank you, God.
How do we live in response to that generosity? We can choose to be grateful. We can live generously toward other people. We can do good works – not to receive God’s love – but as a response to God’s love. The work we do is not our effort but our thanks for God’s unending love, grace and mercy.
Let’s expand what being rich toward God that looks like. There’s a quote from a book by Rachel Held Evans titled Searching for Sunday. She writes,“Christianity isn’t simply meant to be believed. It is meant to be shared, eaten, spoken and enacted in the presence of other people.” We can be present for someone. Because sometimes showing up and sitting with someone can be more important than having all the right answers. We are rich when we spend time together. We are rich when we show compassion. We are rich when we read to our children. We are rich toward God when we share meals; when we offer even mustard seed-sized actions: I see you. I hear you.
Some may see faith as an insurance policy for later. Car insurance for a car accident. Faith as some sort of death insurance? Our faith is for now. It’s for every day. It’s for this moment.
In the book Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund, he talks about us clinging to Christ with the grip of a two-year-old. He tells this story: “When my two-year-old Benjamin begins to wade into the gentle slope of the zero-entry swimming pool near our home, he instinctively grabs hold of my hand. He holds on tight as the water gradually gets deeper. But a two-year-old’s grip is not very strong. Before long it is not he holding on to me but me holding on to him. Left to his own strength he’ll certainly slip out of my hand. But if I have determined that he will not fall out of my grasp, he is secure. He can’t get away from me if he tried. So with Christ. We cling to him, to be sure. But our grip is that of a two-year-old amid the stormy waves of life. God’s sure grasp never falters.” God is holding us too. God’s grasp never falters.
We depend on the love and grace of God. When we live richly we reflect that love and grace to others. Christianity is connection. It’s community. It’s reflecting God’s love toward others. God has been so generous. Let us live richly towards God.
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Join the fun this summer as we experience the ride of a lifetime with God!
Rafters will explore how to serve God and God’s mission for their lives. Rolling River Rampage VBS is for children who will be 4 years old by October 1, 2018 with the oldest completing Grade 5 in June.
Monday through Thursday, July 16-19, 9:30 am – 12:15 pm
Click here for registration form: