Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Luke 12:13-21
July 31, 2016

I think everyone would say that greed is bad.
But like a lot of things, it’s a problem that we can only see in other people.
We’re not greedy. We’re just frugal. We’re just good with our money.
We’re not greedy, but we’ve seen others who are.

Most of us here aren’t rich.
Not in the private jet, gold toilet sense of the word.
We aren’t spending our time accumulating
more and more wealth that we don’t really need.
A lot of us wouldn’t even know how to get more wealth.

I’m guessing the man who asked Jesus to tell his brother
to share would not have considered himself greedy either.
It seems fair that a person would share his inheritance with his siblings.
A person who wouldn’t share it would be the one who was greedy.

But in reaction to that request,
Jesus tells the crowd today to beware of all kinds of greed.

Greed is just the personal desire for something—anything.
To get it, to maintain it, to keep it,
could be food, power, or money.
But those aren’t the only things.

Cassian, was a monk in the 4th and 5th century.
He wrote about how monks,  who had taken vows of poverty
and had renounced all their own possessions
would get angry and possessive over a pen or a book.

Jesus warns all of us to beware of all kinds of greed.
Not because having things is bad,
but the pursuit of them is a waste of our precious time.

Barn in the Provence
Vincent Van Gogh
Jesus tells us a parable of a man who had a lot of crops,
In the agrarian society of Jesus time, successful crops were wealth.
Owning land was status, and successful crops were wealth.
And this guy had more than enough wealth,
So much of it that he didn’t even have a place to put it.
Now a days we have banks, and wealth is just a number on a screen,
but then you needed a place to put your wealth.

So this man spent all his time taking down his smaller barns and
making bigger barns to store all of it.
Still, this is not an illogical thing to do,
people and businesses do it all the time.

If you had a lot of crops, you would need a bigger barn
to put them in because leaving them all
to rot would not be good use of what you had.

If you’ve ever been down to the Mid Ohio Food Bank,
the organization that provides food to all of the
food pantries all of Mid-Ohio,
The warehouse is 176,000 square feet, that place is huge!
And they didn’t start that way, they were somewhere else.
And in 2009, they said, “we need a bigger warehouse”
just like the man in the parable.

So I don’t think it’s necessarily building bigger barns that’s the problem.
But it does point to the obvious problem with
this parable man’s issue as far as Jesus is concerned.

Mid Ohio Food Bank has a huge warehouse,
but their objective is to share what they have with others.
Basil the 4th century Greek bishop said, about this parable:
"If you want storehouses, you have them in stomachs of the poor."
Surely this foolish man could have shared what he had.
Surely he didn’t grow those crops alone,
surely there were people around him
who didn’t have such luck with their crops.
Surely there were people who had nothing at all.
Surely, he couldn’t have used all his crops himself before they went bad.

But this man just wanted to keep what he had for himself.
And not just to keep it, but to be proud of it, Content with it.

He actually talked to his soul about it—
And this is the peculiar part of the story,
which tells me that this is what Jesus was pointing too.—
 “Soul” he said, “Now you have ample goods for many years.”
His soul has ample goods for many years.

And that’s the problem that Jesus is talking about.
This imaginary man has convinced himself that it is
well with his soul because he has a lot of wealth stored up.

Since the beginning of time,
humans have mistaken large quantities of wealth ,
or success, or health, or power, or contentment,
as proof of blessing from the gods, or God.
The rich and happy have been seen as in favor with God.
The poor and sick – out of favor.

Today’s prosperity gospel makes that same mistake.
They say that God gives us wealth and happiness.
If we do some things the right way.

But greed is not just limited to televangelists and politicians.
Since tangible things provide quick and pleasurable rewards,
many of us spend our time pursuing those things
just to get some temporary satisfaction.

Many people in this world have replaced their relationship
with God with a relationship with wealth, power, and security.
We even replace it with achievement and success in other areas:
with being a successful pastor, or parent, or business owner,
or employee, or volunteer.

Many of us have tried to fill our God shaped hole
with all sorts of other pursuits.
And when we feel a sense of accomplishment,
we confuse that with God’s favor and blessing.

We are proud of ourselves for
working our way up that ladder.
We talk to our souls too, “Soul, you’ve done that well.  
Now you can rest.”
Like the foolish man said, to his soul:
now you can eat, drink, and be merry.”

But the truth is, all along our soul could rest.
Because our soul is in God’s hands, not ours.
Whatever we’ve wasted our time grasping for:
money, security, beauty, health, the world’s greatest parent award,
or even our religious achievements –
that is not what defines us in God’s eyes.

The man was a fool because he took all that time
not knowing the joy of sharing his abundance,
and tearing down his barn and building up new ones
pursuing his own personal security
before he could eat, drink and be merry.
Before he could rest in God’s care.
When the truth is he could have joined in the party long ago.

And we’re fools too.
We clutch over and over again at our own lives,
rather than opening our hands to God’s free gifts:
the generosity of others, friendship, fellowship,
grace, love, forgiveness, forgiving, trust…
How can we accept these things if we are so busy
tearing down barns and building new ones up again?
Storing our own goods and accomplishments.

We are fools.
We store up our own treasures and we forget
time and time again that we have full access to God’s barns.
And that’s where our real treasures are.

So for those of us who have nothing, we trust in God.
For those of us who have just enough, we trust in God.
For those of us who have more than enough, we trust in God too.
And we may have the hardest time of that.
But our treasure is in God’s hands.  So now we

can relax, and eat, and drink the abundance that God provides.

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