Sermon – July 31, 2016 – The Rev Kelly Aughenbaugh

Proper 13, Year C
Lessons: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23, Psalm 49:1-11, Colossians 3:1-11, Luke 12:13-21

Prayer: Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.

Life and death are topics we read and heard throughout the scriptures today. Qohelet, the writer of Ecclesiastes, is summarized in my own words as writing, everything we do and work for that is “under the sun” is vanity. It’s futile and pointless because when we die it is left under the sun, which is on earth.
——-Life is precious. God gives us life and how we live effects our own self and the lives of others——-

We all have different experiences of life. And at some point in our lives we’ve probably asked, “How do I live?” Like where will I live, what transportation I will use, what food I will buy and what clothes will I wear. These are good questions and at times the answer is clearer than others. But those are only part of the answer to the question “how do I live?” We also have morals and values we live by that influence our decisions. As Christians we are guided by how Christ taught us to live.

Jesus specifically teaches us through direct words and parables (a helpful and important teaching tool. The topic of not being greedy seems important because Jesus goes into more detail about it with a parable.)

In the Gospel, it’s important to note that Jesus emphasized the importance of living in a way that is not of greed or materials of the world. He says to the person who asked him about his inheritance, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Just to make sure he understood he continued with a parable.

The land of a rich man produced abundantly. The man had more harvest than he needed. The answer to his question, “how do I live?” was to tear down his barns and build newer, larger ones. That way he could store up all his harvest. After doing this he would eat, drink, and be merry. As a part of our life cycle we all die and the rich man eventually did. He is called a fool for storing up his harvest and not being rich toward God. When he died all that he stored up was left.

What might, on first glance, seem reasonable in this parable, store up excess grain you have, and then sit back and eat, drink, and be merry, is misplaced understanding on how we are to live. If someone is secluded from others, only focused on themselves and not living in kindness, compassion, forgiveness and love, then when they die they have lived their life in a kind of poverty toward God. pause

This interaction is a wake-up call to the man who asked Jesus about the inheritance. Jesus is saying, don’t worry about the money or be greedy so that it consumes you. Instead, change what you place as your highest values and morals and live differently. Be rich toward God.

One of the patristic commentators, Ambrose, simply states what happens to the “stuff” we’ve accumulated when we die. “The things that are of the world remain in the world, and whatever riches we gather are bequeathed to our heirs.” Remembering this simple fact puts the “things of the world” in perspective; we can’t take those things with us.

What we love influences how we live and at the end of this parable Jesus invites a perspective shift to the man from the worldly stuff to being rich toward God. Cyril of Alexandria describes those who are rich toward God by “not loving wealth but loving virtue… [having a] hand open to the needs of the poor, comforting the sorrows of those in poverty…”
In this encounter and parable Jesus re-focuses the man’s way of life. “There is much truth in the observation that all of us are addicted to our own patterns of thinking.” Wrote Br. Robert L’Esperance a Society of Saint John member. He continues, “Parables are invitations to begin to see the world around us and other people, in particular, with Christ’s eyes.”
And sometimes we need to be re-focused and renewed about how we live our life.

Paul’s letter to Colossians describes to the community how they are to live as people who follow Christ. The same instruction and encouragement is applicable for us.

He wrote that “if we have been raised with Christ, then we need to seek the things that are above…” (Col. 3:1) that is, those things of God. They are not: “evil desires, greed, wrath, malice, slander, or abusive language” (Col. 3:5-8).

Instead, they are: “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience…forgiveness and above all, love” (Col. 3:12-14). These are the moral and life values that if we live by, are ways that we can be rich toward God. By going to worship, having deep reflective and confronting conversations with ourselves and an open heart, we get to a re-focused and renewed place of answering the question “how do I live?”

Another way to re-focus is learning from the example of others. Story about reflecting about grandparents.

The witness of the life lived by others can be a powerful example of how we can live too. I am reminded by my grandparents to work for the greater good of a community, be faithful to God, love, forgive and be joyful. Not to spend too much time being greedy, because there are more important things in life. Morals and values not of this world, but needed in this world.

In effect of this new perspective and focus, we can more easily have our hands open to the needs of the poor, and help comfort the sorrows of the downtrodden like Ambrose described.

We may not have a clear answer to the question, “How do I live?” all the time, but we have resources to guide our decisions: remember St. Paul’s words to the Colossians and remember Jesus’ words that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

What things are we storing up that we could be giving to God? What’s holding us back from being rich toward God? Offer that to God and trust that when you do, you will be renewed.

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