Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Home About Worship Music and Arts Parish Life Learning Outreach News Contact
Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sermon from August 1, 2010

What is Deserved? What is Given?
Luke 12:13-21, Colossians 3:1-11

Prayer: God of All, you have blessed us richly with all things material and spiritual and yet these are not our own, but a gift of your grace. Give us the wisdom to use these gifts as instruments of your compassion and to your glory. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen.

Throughout the centuries, dividing an inheritance has been a sensitive issue. If you have even watched one of these events unfold you know what I mean. The subject of inheritance and who deserves what, or think they deserve, can truly bring out the worst in people. Quiet, gentle, loving people can be turned in to outspoken, harsh, and cruel people. It can be a time where people work out their long suppressed emotions or feelings.

In Jesus’ day it was not uncommon to take legal disputes to a Rabbi. So it is that in today’s gospel reading Jesus finds himself in a People’s Court like setting. Which might be called, “The Battle of the Brothers: Inheritance.” Plaintiff - younger brother, who says his older brother should divide the family inheritance with him. Defendant - older brother, who says he is the oldest and by rights he gets the inheritance. The younger brother wants Jesus to be Judge Marilyn Milian, and he wants Jesus to give him what he wants.

But Jesus did not come to divide but to reconcile. Jesus wants to bring people together. This young brother must learn that there is greater gain than getting an inheritance, and a greater loss than losing an inheritance. So instead getting in the middle of this dispute, Jesus gives him a warning about greed, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15).

Then Jesus tells 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?’” (Luke 12:16-17) He debates within himself. He doesn’t conclude he is rich enough and this is all extra. He does not thank God for the bountiful harvest, his only concern is how to preserve this all for himself. This does not really strike us as odd given our society. Once I was having a conversation with confirmation students. We were discussing how EVERYTHING we have is a gift from God and how in the Old Testament people gave back to God a tithe of everything - 10%, and it was given to God before doing anything else with it. The youth understood that everything we have is from God, but when I tried to move them to understand our response is to give back to God they had a fit, “it's MY money!” “I earned it!” “I deserve it!”

Unfortunately I think that is the basic understanding of our culture. It's mine, I earned it, and I deserve it. The truth is everything we have is a gift from God - even our money. However, we are use to people doing for themselves, taking all they can for themselves, this sounds normal to us. But in Jesus’ day, life was more communal in nature so for someone to have this attitude would have been shocking.

Having a communal understanding, that we are in this together, listen to the thought process of the rich man in Jesus’ parable: 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.’” (Luke 12:18-19) I, I, I, my, my, my, this is all self centered talk. A young student was ask in school what parts of speech my and mine are. The child answered, “Aggressive pronouns.” The rich man in this parable was aggressively self-centered. He doesn’t need the community, “he can do it himself.” He thinks all his needs are met by this material surplus.

But quickly we learn not all his needs are met. “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?’” (Luke 12:20) The man lived alone and died alone. There was no one with whom to share his wealth. His security gave him no security. That which God gave him, his life, is now being taken away and he cannot do a thing about it.

The parable concludes with another warning: “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21) God’s gifts are meant to be shared with others not kept only for one’s self.

Let us take a moment and emphasis what Jesus is NOT saying. Jesus is not saying that rich people should feel guilty about the fact that they have lots of money and property (assuming it is acquired honestly). Jesus is not saying that poor people or poverty guarantees greater spirituality. Jesus is speaking about greed and possessions. You see poor people can be greedy and possessive. It has been said, “When what you possess begins to possess you, then you are possessed.”

Is money good or evil? Some say money is the root of all evils, but is it not good or evil of itself. Money is neutral. It is neither good or evil, in and of itself. Obviously, if the dominant quest in life is to acquire more money to the exclusion of all else, it can be evil because it can close down your vision to other people/things that are really important to your life.

When I was growing up my family would make an annual trek to the Sherburne County Fair. One time when I was about eleven or twelve, I was walking around the fair grounds and happened to look down and find a five dollar bill. I was so excited I spent the rest of my time looking down on the ground for money and I missed fair.

The rich farmer was greedy, he got “caught up” in his possessions. He became possessed by his possessions. Possessions became the dominant quest of his life. He needed to learn that life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. Sometimes this may happen to us too, we are so busy making a living that we forget to live.

Although we need some goods to sustain our life, more goods do not mean more life. Life comes to us from God, it is a gift which is given not earned or deserved.

Have you noticed that it is difficult to be a Christian in the world? There are difficult choices, challenging questions, and so much more than knowing the “right” answers. Our second reading from Colossians states the difficulty for us: “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” (Colossians 3:1-4). What does it mean to be “hidden with Christ?” I take it to mean that when we were baptized, Christ Jesus washes away our old sinful nature and give us a new self, so that when God looks at us to condemn our sin, he only sees that Jesus has covered our sins with his life, death and love, we are hid in Christ Jesus love and grace.

The passage continue to talk about putting to death what is earthly (Colossians 3:5), getting rid of the life you once lived (Colossians 3:8), stripping off old practices (Colossians 3:9), and being clothed with a new self (Colossians 3:10). Who clothes us, it is Christ Jesus, who give us new life for death, and new way of living in the world. In our baptism something happens to us, we are changed, we are clothed with goodness. Even though we live in a sinful world and there is a lot “out there” and around us that would lead us astray. The One who gives us new life will continue to do so.

A great missionary doctor once told a group of young people, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but I do know that the only ones among you who will truly be happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” Jesus lived a life of a servant to give you life out of death. Jesus loves you and welcomes you, even though you are a sinner.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, God has blessed you richly with all things material and spiritual and yet these are not your own, but a gift of grace.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Reconciling in ChristRIC

Copyright 2014 Mount Olive Lutheran Church