A certain congregation was about to erect a new church edifice. The building committee, in consecutive meetings passed the following resolutions:
1. We shall build a new church
2. The new building is to be located on the site of the old one.
3. The material in the old building is to be used in the new one.
4. We shall continue to use the old building until the new one is completed.
What is a church building? It's a holy place. It's a place where people gather to worship. It's a place where people encounter God. It's a place where God's people enjoy one another's company. It's a place where people get married, where babies are baptized, where funerals are held, where memories are made and lives remembered. It's a place where the stories of faith are told and retold. It's a place we teach and it's a place where we learn.
Our reading from Genesis this morning is a small part of the story of Jacob, the son of Isaac who will later be called "Israel." Jacob is the least likely of patriarchs. Of all the biblical patriarchs, he is the most enigmatic. He never
exhibits either the awesome faith of Abraham or the level-headedness of Isaac. He is, in fact, a scoundrel. He's tricked his father and cheated his brother out of the blessing of the first-born; his character emerges through a series of deceptions .• intrigues, and conflicts. He will wrestle with God and be given the name "Israel," the name that will identify his descendants for the rest of time. He must be taught by God; he has some learning to do.
In the story we heard today, (Gen 28 10-17) he is on the run. He is afraid of his brother, whom he has cheated, so he has taken off. His father has told him to flee to Haran (his grandfather Abraham's original home) and there find a wife. Along the way, he camps near a town called Luz and has this dream that we have all heard of before, the vision of a ladder on which angels are traveling back and forth between heaven and Earth. He learns that, like Moses before him, he is standing on holy ground. He says, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven," and so he renames it, Bethel, "House of God." A lot of sermons have been preached about Jacob and his character flaws, or about this vision and what the angels coming and going might mean.
But, today, what I want to call to our attention is what God says to Jacob:
"Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring."
The descendants of Jacob would go forth from that place to spread blessing to all the corners of the earth - to west, to east, to north, to south. They would go out from that place to change the world.
There's an Orthodox Jewish translation of this text that goes: If Your seed shall be as the dust of the earth; and you shall burst forth to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south; and in you and in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." That's a great image: Jacob and his descendants would not, could not stay in that awesome place; they could not stay in the house of God or at the gate of heaven. They had to leave, to spread from the Holy land, to "burst forth" bringing a transformation to the world that would be explosive and dramatic.
Now, we are not gathered in a desert wilderness. We have not gone to sleep on holy stones. We have not seen angels climbing to rocks to heaven ... but we have, and do, gather in a church building, a place that for many is an
awesome place, a house of God, and a gate of heaven, a place where children have been blessed, where children have been told the stories of God, the stories of Jesus, where hymns of joy have been sung. We are gathered in this place to reaffirm our commitment that heritage and that ministry, to renew this place and to renew the ministry done here.
But like Bethel where Jacob camped for the night, this is not a place to stay; it is a place to leave. It's a place from which the people of God are sent into the world.
Church buildings are centers of ministry, places of assembly, where God's people gather to worship, to hear the good news, and to be transformed, not for themselves but in order to be sent back out into the world, to "burst forth" and change the world. Jesus' fast words to his followers were, "Go ... and make disciples!" (Matt. 28:19)
And, in our gospel lesson today, Jesus gives his followers their marching orders. "The Lord appointed seventy and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go." Some commentators suggest that seventy disciples were chosen because in rabbinic tradition, seventy represents the total number of nations in the world. Just as the children of Jacob were to spread to every corner of the earth, the disciples of Jesus are to go to every nation in the world. As the descendants of Israel are to be a blessing to others, the disciples of Jesus are to go into the world and announce that "the kingdom of God has come near."
Church buildings, worship spaces and fellowship halls, are the bases from which the church is sent out to do that, as the disciples in today's reading from Luke were sent out by Jesus.
Church buildings don't change the world. They may be awesome; they may be houses of God; they may be gates of heaven. A sign of the faith of our fathers, of the communities of our ancestors. But by themselves, these edifices don't win people to Jesus, nurture sours to maturity, or change the world. Church buildings are meant to be the bases from which the people of God do that. Church buildings are meant to be places of life, living, breathing, growing, exciting places of life.
(Peter 2:4-8) There's another way that we might interpret what constitutes a Church Building: In today's epistle, Peter talks about growing into loving
unity. But in his imagery, he uses some terms that might not be very familiar to us ... Peter says that we are living stones being built up as a spiritual house. Sounds rather odd, doesn't it? But when you think about it, it is the perfect analogy. The first time the Bible uses the word "church," it is described as something that is built. Jesus said, Matt. 16:18 " ... upon this rock I will build My church ... " When we consider this, the church is indeed a building; but the building material isn't the steel, wood and stone which surrounds us. The building material is us. We are the living stones that make up the church of the living God (lTim. 3:15).
And so the spiritual house is not this structure where we're seated this morning. It is US, as we are fastened and fitted together, and united in one purpose - to be the house of God. Peter says that we are all bricks in the same wall. And this analogy helps to understand why we need to practice loving unity. Can you imagine if the bricks that form the walls in your own house began to fight and disagree? "I'm not sitting next to him "I don't want to be in that group!" "She's making me uncomfortable!"
As Jesus said in Matthew 12, "Any house divided against itself will not stand." How can we keep (or stop) this from happening in the house of God? Peter says here that in coming to Him, we will be built up. You can't construct a building without a good foundation. And, of course, you recall that Jesus spoke of the man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. It is all-important that a house be built on a good, solid foundation.
And what foundation is the living church built upon? Jesus told Peter, "Upon this rock I will build My church."
What rock was that? Many people say that Jesus meant Peter was going to be the foundation of the church. Can you imagine the pressure he must have felt? Any church built with me as the foundation might as well be made of straw, 'cause it's coming down soonl Fortunately, that is not the case. Instead, when speaking with the Pharisees, Jesus had asked the disciples,
" ••• who do you say that' am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ,
the Son of the living God."
That proclamation is the foundation upon which Jesus builds the church: He is the Christ, the Son of God. And so the way we wilt be built up is by coming
to Him. This helps us to understand the words that Peter uses next ... He is the cornerstone: Not only is Jesus our foundation, but also the cornerstone that we build upon. Peter is quoting Isaiah 28, in which God says: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level..." This is His elaboration on this analogy of the cornerstone.
In the days before laser levels, rangefinders, CAD systems, Global Position System survey equipment, and other high-tech gadgetry, there were more rudimentary methods of getting a building built right. Back then, the cornerstone was the starting point for all building above the foundation. It was perfectly leveled and precisely aligned. Throughout the rest of the building project, the cornerstone became the basis for determining every measurement, uniformity, and alignment.
Jesus is the cornerstone of this building that we're forming. And that means HE should be OUR standard of measure and alignment. And so, all of us living stones really should be asking ourselves, "What standard has Jesus set? How can I align myself to His teaching in this situation?"
Unfortunately, not everybody is - or was - on board with this plan. Remember, He is also lithe stone which the builders rejected."
In Psalm 118, we hear that "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone. In Isaiah, chapter 8: " ••• He shall become a sanctuary; But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, and a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Many will stumble over them, then they will fall and be broken ... " The builders rejected this cornerstone. Instead of accepting it, they stumbled over it. This is picturesque speech for the fact that the Jewish leaders of the day failed to receive Jesus Christ as their Messiah. He was the cornerstone, but the builders rejected Him. They were offended by Him, and stumbled over Him. Why did they reject Him to their own stumbling? Peter says it's because they were disobedient to the Word of God.
Ultimately, that is what anyone's rejection of Jesus Christ comes down to: they refuse to obey God's Word. Peter had used these words before, in a very public setting. In the book of Acts we read that he and John had miraculously healed a lame man, and drawn a crowd. They used the opportunity to preach the resurrection of Jesus. But the leaders of the Jews threw Peter and John in jail for this (Acts 4:3).
Instead of keeping quiet, Peter and John simply turned around and preached the same message to them: The Jewish leaders who had rejected salvation, the builders who had rejected the very cornerstone of the temple, and who had stumbled over the rock. Ultimately, they would be crushed by that same rock, for Jesus had said, Matt. 21:44 " ••• he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust." It's better to fall on the rock than to have it fall on us!
We all live through tribulations and tragedy: Our hearts have been broken over loss and sin and enmity with God. But we are the living stones that make up the church - those stones aligned to the chief Cornerstone - and Peter has some encouraging words for us ... He tells us that "you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a a people for you possession, that you may proclaim the eexcellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. He goes on to day that "Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy"
We were not a holy nation before, but we are now.
We did not belong to God before, but we do now.
We were in darkness before, but are in light now.
Our Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished all of these things for us - for all of us. So let's remember that we're an living stones in the same wall, the same temple. To be structurally sound, we must live in unity, being aligned to our Cornerstone.
So, again, what is a church building? I would suggest two answers: The living, breathing stones bound around the cornerstone that create the foundation of Church and faith, and these creations of brick, mortar, wood, steel and stone where we come to celebrate, but also from which we venture forth. From these places, these improved places, these living, breathing and growing places, we will leave. We will "burst forth" to tell in story and in song, in words and in deeds, in actions and in ministries, of the love of God. We will tell of God to laughing children, to strong children, to hungry children, to mourning children, to children in need, to all of God's children; we will tell them of desert midnights and blazing stars; we will tell them that the kingdom of God has come near!
Awaiting Sermon text !
CALL & RESPONSE :
One: In order for You to move in us, O Lord, we need to open the door.
All: In some ways, that's the hardest step. We can be that mountain
which seems impossible to move.
One: Through our joys and our fears, our laughter as well as our tears,
move us this morning, God.
All: The door is open. Welcome. In the name of the One who said,
"nothing is impossible," we pray. Amen.
O God, we trust in Your power to create, to sustain, to enable. But we could not trust if we did not know that You are always near. Be with us, Lord, as we are gathered here to worship You. Help us not to check our minds or our hearts at the door, but enable us to bring all that we are to You, so that we might experience Your touch upon all aspects of our life. We pray this because of, and in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen
Shall we now join together and pray in unison the prayer you taught us to pray……Our Father
Everywhere in North America, many people do not feel the need to attend a religious service. Everywhere we hear:
"No, I don't go to Church, but I am very spiritual."
"No, I don't believe in God, but I am a spiritual person."
Philip Gulley, a Quaker pastor and public speaker from Indiana is trying to figure out the meaning in "but I am spiritual". He is preparing a book entitles "Qualities of the Spiritually Alive", and has noticed these eight themes :
As Introduction to the topic, he writes "Gratefulness is the identifier of deep spirituality"
1. A sense of the rhythm of life. Remember your "peak" experiences. Such memories will be a tonic when rough is the path. Build a storehouse of them.
2. The things we notice---or don't notice. espacially our response to the jokes....some may not ba wholesome
3.The recognition of the fluidity of life .
"Sometimes life itself changes ... can we adjust? Moses was an Israelite doomed baby, then son of Pharaoh's daughter, then a quiet shepherd, then a leader of Israel."
4. People who are spiritually alive are careful of the way they speak about God. As with a dear friend, or loving parent, respect is always in order.
S. The spiritually alive understand how things should fit together.
"Integrity is wholeness." For instance, if you are a member of AA, sell your Branfman shares. Otherwise, there is a major contradiction
6. Know who you are.
Sometimes we have to say, "No thanks" " "No" can be as holy as a "yes'
In these rapidly changing times, what should we adapt to, and what should we not adapt to.
8. Reconciliation and Forgiveness
Our relationship with each other affects our relationship with God.
We must forgive without being asked. For example, sometimes because
1) some people will never ask for forgiveness, and
2)sometimes a person never realizes he caused you pain.
QUESTIONS AND SHARING
Additional notes (by the webmaster) : http://www.philipgulley.com/
It was Palm Sunday but because of a sore throat, 5 year old Craig stayed home from church with a babysitter. When the family returned home, they were carrying several palm fronds.
Craig inquired as to what they were for. 'People held them over Jesus' head as he walked by,' his father responded. 'Wouldn't you just know it?' Craig complained, 'the one Sunday I don't go and he shows up.'
Every day we are confronted with a wide variety of choices. Some have to deal with money, some about the plans for the evening and some choices that will have a large impact on your future path.
There are numerous factors that go into each and every decision we make on a daily basis. And there are times where we go through a lengthy checklist based on the decisions we need to make. How will this make someone feel? How do I feel about it? Are there any other options? And of course does this shirt make me look fat? In fact, the 4 questions I just mentioned do a good job of capturing all possible genres of choices one would have to make.
Unfortunately, many of the choices and decisions we are asked to make, or rather we decide we need are not necessarily the most important decisions we need to make. Often times our decisions revolve around money and how we spend our time. Now, that is not to say that everyone has a choice in this matter. There are those who are less fortunate and do not have the luxury of being able to divert their attention to numerous tasks and having a cushion per se.
What I mean to say is that there are times in many lives, and even in mine where the main focus of our decisions revolves around its cost and the intrinsic benefit it gives us. Perhaps it is buying a new TV, upgrading a car, or getting that new I-phone. Why are we focused on material objects? Why have physical and purely pleasure based objects become a focal point in our lives? I myself often fall victim to this whether it a new video game or Nike shorts or what have you. The fact of the matter is, it has potentially become an issue in North America.
Sometimes our society is interpreted as being invested too much in what we own. And with the possible infatuation with material objects we can look back onto the decisions we make and how we focus our energies…
Maybe, if we are working overtime to get a brand new boat, or filling out spare time with goals that are oriented towards achieving maximum pleasure. Now I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t treat ourselves and buy things and life the life of John the Baptist. That is far from what I intend on saying.
But rather, I wished to set this up in order to highlight the choices and decisions we do not hesitate making from day to day. It is the holding the door open for another or maybe giving a coffee to an individual who is less fortunate. These genre of decisions are what defines us as Christians and the ones we need increase their frequency.
Because in reality, how often do we think about these small acts of kindness? We don’t. It is second nature to us. It is just what we do. What I mean to suggest is that we expand on these. And perhaps instead of focusing on having the top of the line TV or simply living life to enjoy every possible pleasure with no regard for the world around, then in my opinion that needs to change.
Let us now look at the Bible passages we heard today. In my opinion the scripture lesson today was that we need to re-examine and then refocus our energies and from that discovering the courage to follow a new path or take the road less traveled.
In the reading from Amos we hear how God has grown tired of those who “trample the needy” among other negative actions and how these will lead to man wandering from sea to sea in search of water and life. This text has an apocalyptic feel to it, but I believe that is because the focus of the people during that period in time was focused solely on material goods and profiting of your fellow man whether it was from slavery, minimal wages or even luxury taxes that could rival the ones my dad institutes when we play Monopoly. Sometimes it is possible that we too get sidetracked by all the bells, whistles and privileges that come from living in Canada.
The second reading from Colossians offers a more optimistic and enlightening message from the fire and brimstone from the Book of Amos. In verse 20 the author reiterates that Jesus died for our sins and now we are free from accusation. Furthermore, from verses 27-30 we read that the mystery of the world has been given to us, God’s chosen people, which is the hope of glory. That is of course the glory of God that comes from steadfast faith and love towards God and Jesus Christ. And it is His name that we proclaim and present ourselves as being fully mature in Christ. And being fully mature in Christ means following his teachings and loving others as he loved us.
Furthermore, in Paul’s letter to the Colossians he mentions that he has given both his body and soul in service of the Church. He chose to be a travelling Christian and spread the Word. Surely, this was not easy but he chose to do that and literally put his life on the line.
Now, I would like to share a personal story. I am still pretty young at 22 years old so my life experience may be a bit lacking but I believe that I have experienced several instances where a re-examining of priorities and starting on a new path was necessary.
A few years ago I was sure I was going to be a history teacher. It had been a childhood dream of mine to one day teach children. But one day I had an amazing experience in church that convinced me to scratch this new itch I had. And so I began to become more involved in the church. Even as my friends grew up and no one really my age remained in the church I stayed true and kept pursing this feeling I had.
Then one day I realized that maybe, this was God calling out to me. And so I decided to test this out by performing a few sermons and go through the discernment process. And through this I realized that ordained ministry is what I need to do, and what I should do. In the perceived face of adversity and being a little different from my friends I made the decision to become even closer to the church and to God. To me, this is and was a big deal. It was certainly something I thought about for countless nights.
And from this decision I realized that some things that I used to do such as drinking, partying and playing extensive amounts of video games would have decrease. Now I’m not saying that I abolished all these activities because it is nice sometimes to relax but, at the time I made this decision I was in college and that was unheard of among my friends. Giving up a Budweiser for a shot of Welches? Absolutely bonkers.
Now, I still do have shortcomings. No one is perfect. We should still enjoy ourselves and should still enjoy the pleasures and gifts that we are able to have. It is just there are times when I believe that there people, myself being one of them can look inward and reflect to truly see if all our energies and focuses are on the correct things.
Try and find that itch, and see if it can be satisfied. Whether it is spending some more time with your kids, volunteering at church, picking up at a park or maybe paying for a coffee for someone behind you in line there are countless things we can do to make this world a better place. My dad always said the choices we make dictate the consequences. And that is true. Let us all make a conscious choice to be Christians 24/7, to spread the word of God and truly live and love as Jesus did.
The world is a phenomenal place. Brothers and sisters, let us make the decision here today to be a part of its present and future as not only family, but as Christians.
As J.K Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series once said “It is our choices... that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
The Message (MSG)
Israel Played at Religion with Toy Gods
I called out, ‘My son!’—called him out of Egypt.
But when others called him,
he ran off and left me.
He worshiped the popular sex gods,
he played at religion with toy gods.
Still, I stuck with him. I led Ephraim.
I rescued him from human bondage,
But he never acknowledged my help,
never admitted that I was the one pulling his wagon,
That I lifted him, like a baby, to my cheek,
that I bent down to feed him.
Now he wants to go back to Egypt or go over to Assyria--
anything but return to me!
That’s why his cities are unsafe—the murder rate skyrockets
and every plan to improve things falls to pieces.
My people are hell-bent on leaving me.
They pray to god Baal for help.
He doesn’t lift a finger to help them.
But how can I give up on you, Ephraim?
How can I turn you loose, Israel?
How can I leave you to be ruined like Admah,
devastated like luckless Zeboim?
I can’t bear to even think such thoughts.
My insides churn in protest.
And so I’m not going to act on my anger.
I’m not going to destroy Ephraim.
And why? Because I am God and not a human.
I’m The Holy One and I’m here—in your very midst.
The Message (MSG)
The Story of the Greedy Farmer13 Someone out of the crowd said, “Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.”
14 He replied, “Mister, what makes you think it’s any of my business to be a judge or mediator for you?”
15 Speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.”
16-19 Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’
20 “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’
21 “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.”
Sermon : WHO WANTS TO BE A FOOL?
Crowds amble along following Jesus, trying to catch his every last word. Today’s crowd consisted of peasant farmers, the unemployed and poor of society; there were no rich- no pharisees nor tax collectors, just plain folk.
Suddenly a voice cries out from the crowd, “Rabbi, Rabbi, I need your advice—I want my brother to give me half of our inheritance!” All the crowd booed the young man—he should know the regulations—The oldest son gets all or 2/3 while the remaining 1/3 of the inheritance is divided amongst the remaining sons. Jesus is asked to referee and he refuses; after all, who can judge which greed is right?
It’s interesting how this dispute; haggling over furniture, dishes, silverware, house, land and savings account left by the deceased; is still all too familiar today.
Rather than act as a judge, Jesus replies, “ Be careful, against all kinds of GREED, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” He avoids the trap of JUDGING the situation by telling them a parable. Why a parable? Maybe it Jesus’ way of having us judge ourselves.
Once there was a rich man A RICH MAN whose LAND produced an abundant harvest. —now, this was the attention getter—with no rich people in the crowd they loved it when Jesus picked on the rich. What will I do with all this grain—MY barns are too small— he decides to tear them down and build bigger barns large enough to store all MY land has produced.
We can hear him talking to himself, “Now I have enough for MY future—now I can eat-drink-and be merry!
YET God speaks up, ‘YOU FOOL’ says God, “All this stored possessions mean nothing for tonight you will die!” and “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward GOD.”
How should we interpret this parable? Does it concern being rich or of having too many possessions or even saving for the future. I don’t think so, Jesus never says anything negative concerning riches, possessions or saving for the future.
This man was not bad, there is no mention of graft or theft, nor is there any mistreatment of workers or criminal act. So what is Jesus getting at?
God only knows we all must strive for some wealth to buy the possessions we need to live and to enjoy life. God knows wise people will plan for their future security.
During our holidays, I read a novel about the lives of the wealthy a question was asked “Why is she so lonely and unhappy? She has a rich husband and all the possessions a woman could want..what’s missing? It gave me food for thought for today’s message.
It seems to me this parable is all about having THE RIGHT ATTITUDE towards how we spend our money—our possessions—being right with God.
The story tells of a rich man who had three major faults. He was SELF-CENTERED, He was lacking in GENEROUSITY and he was overly CONCERNED about his FUTURE. Jesus calls him “A FOOL!”
***In the parable the rich man is so SELF-CENTERED- he lives completely for himself- he talks to himself-he plans to himself and he congratulates himself.
He does not even recognize the LAND provided his bountiful harvest, it just didn’t happen. God had a hand in it by providing the fertile soil, the sun and rain that made him wealthy. Things he can’t provide but he credits to his good fortune and right living.
What about the faithful labourers? Who worked out in the scorching sun planting the seeds, the back breaking weeding getting rid of competition and insure an abundant crop.
He never thanks them or God but gives all the credit to himself
He never saw beyond himself, there is no other parable so full of I, ME, MY and MINE.
This begs the question “Does this attitude sometimes creep into our lives?”
*** The rich fellow lacks GENEROSITY towards others. He does not recognize he is part of a community whose welfare depends on helping each other. Why did he not send some of his excess grain to the community food-bank? Why not share some excess grain with the workers or rent some barn space from his neighbours which would give them financial assistance.
The rich fool was SELFISH. When this man had an abundance of food it never enters his mind to give any of it to the needy.
His attitude was the very reverse of Christianity. Instead of denying himself-- he kept it all for himself---instead of finding his happiness in giving, he tried to find it by keeping it.
John Wesley founder of the Methodist Church had a rule of life “to save all he could and to give all he could.” When he was at Oxford he had an income of 30 pounds a year-- he lived on 28 and gave 2 pounds away. When his income increased to 60, 90, and 120 pounds a year, he still lived on 28 pounds and gave the balance away.
Do we sometimes find ourselves hoarding rather than sharing with those in need?
*** We also discover this man thinks only of his own future.- My Possessions are my security-or so he thought.
Notice how having much right away leads to getting more land, more barns-- The Romans had a proverb that said, “money was like sea water, the more you drink, the thirstier you become.”
As long as our attitude is that of the rich fool, our desire will always be to get more. The scripture says “he talked to himself --marveling at how much more he has for the coming year--with all MY abundance I can eat, drink and be merry.” But we all notice he left out for “tomorrow we die!”
While on vacation last week, I went into the drugstore, in Tupperlake, to buy some toothpaste while Sharon went next door to get some groceries. When I got to the cashier there was a women, I guess her age, at least 85, with a fist full of Power-Ball tickets being checked for a winner ticket. I could see Sharon waiting impatiently outside but I had to wait. After about 4-5 minutes we got into a conversation, she told me she spend $15 a week buying tickets—it was her pleasure. I ask her what would she do with all the millions of $$$ if she won. The cashier, just a few years younger say “ I have enough now, it would only complicate my life so I would give most of it away.” The 85 year old ticket buyer piped up, “after taxes it would only be 150 million, and I would keep it all to myself making sure I had a secure future.”
Can this happen to us? Does God want us to depend on loto and Casino winnings to secure our future?
God said, “You fool--what self-centered thinking!” Not your money nor possessions made you a fool, but your attitude towards life. This is what happens to those who store up treasures on earth, but are not RICH TOWARDS GOD.
*** We often have difficulty relating Jesus’ stories to our live in today’s society, it’s not so obvious as to how we can apply it to ourselves.— we with our nice homes-one or two vehicles—vacations down south—we all have many possessions that make life easier, so what is Jesus saying to you through this parable?
Jesus realized that the crowd listening to him would never have abundant wealth or buy a house or new donkey or wagon. He knew how JEALOUS they were of the rich—He knew it could lead anxiety-- so he proclaimed BEING RICH TOWARD GOD would give them a far better life than all the riches.
Could Jesus be telling us not to be JEALOUS,- or to use a milder word ENVIOUS, of other peoples’ possessions? It happens to me sometimes and probably to some of you --we find ourselves envying someone or some possession they have—someone who has more money, better car or tractor, or maybe it’s people with more talent playing an instrument or singing, the list goes on-- we must be careful it does not become an obsession which can lead to anxiety and depression.
Anxiety fills the modern western world. Look at the grim look on people driving to work—facing the traffic—maybe looking for work. The life of young mothers today-get infant up and dressed--get breakfast-drop off at day care—face slow traffic on the Mercier bridge. Finish work and repeat the process all over again.
We all know anxiety can be a killer. The medical profession is discovering that stress and worry can cause disease or contribute to it—it can also hinder treatment of health issues.
People are tired and wonder what it all means? We set goals for ourselves and worry if we will meet them—meet them success-make new ones. If we fail to meet them—we feel failure—is this the way to live
In the parable as in much of history people have faced the same anxiety. The difference though, is the level which anxiety strikes . Jesus knows the life we created, His warnings and commands go straight to the root with a message “to include God in our plans and daily lives.”
***Once more we see the contrast between the rich man’s perception and God’s is quite stark.
-The rich man thinks he has it made or years to come.
-God judges him A FOOL, because his very life will be demanded that night.
Here is the fate of one who thought only about himself and was NOT RICH TOWARDS GOD.
BEING RICH TOWARD GOD “What does it mean? I’ve listed some of the things I think are important-you may want to add to the list;
-sharing one’s resources for the benefit of those in need.
-listening to Jesus’ words and following his teachings.
-Trusting that God will provide for the needs of life.
- spending money wisely.
I used action verbs in my description--sharing--listening-following—trusting and spending. We are not called to sit back on our laurels but use our gifts to advance God’s agenda with care and compassion.
This text offers a healthy inventory for assessing our readiness to be RICH TOWARDS GOD.” It’s a good start to question our own relationship towards money.
-When it comes to money and possessions what values do you carry forward from your childhood?
- Have worries and financial pressure eroded your trust in God’s grace ?
- Does being committed to GOD WAYS provide you abiding joy?
The parable offers a time to talk about the congregation’s investment in missions, questions like:
-Why and for what does our congregation toil and save?
-What were the money values of our founding generation?
-Is giving driven by mission, or is our mission limited by our giving?
Amazingly this short parable of How a rich man became A FOOL in God sight carries on into our lives today. WHO WANTS TO BE A FOOL? NOBODY! So we should all pay attention to Jesus’ message.
Don’t be anxious about life. Trust God-use all the resources you’ve have and live a happy life—no chasing moonbeams—no fretting over what you can’t afford. Don’t let wealth and possessions or anxiety get in your way of enjoying the life God has given. AMEN