Luke 12: 13 – 21_A Life That’s Rich Toward God_August 4, 2019

A Life That’s Rich Toward God

Luke 12: 13 – 21


(preached August 4, 2019)


As many of you know, this past spring I made a big move.  I sold my house in West Springfield and bought a house in Springfield.  I made the move to be a little closer to the east, closer to our church, and closer to my sons and their families who live in the Boston area.  I made the move to be closer to my daughter and her family, who live just outside Springfield.


I also made the move because I wanted a smaller house.  I wanted a house with the bedrooms and the kitchen and the laundry all on one level, a house that would be easier to clean and maintain.  I wanted to downsize.  From a practical point of view, it seemed like a good idea.  It was a good idea.  But I had no idea how hard it would be.  As I packed up my dishes and clothes and books and knick knacks in West Springfield, I was astounded how much stuff I had.  But I packed it all up anyway.  The hard part came at the new house, when I began to unpack those dishes and clothes and books and knick knacks.  There simply wasn’t room for them.  Where was I going to put everything?  Clearly, I had to let go of some things.


Gradually, I am letting go of some things.  My new best friend is the guy who works at the donation drop off for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Springfield.  And I’ll have a pile of things for our Flea Market next month.


Still, the decisions are hardest part.  What to keep, what to let go of?  My grandmother’s dishes that are beautiful, but have to be washed by hand?  My books from graduate school and seminary that I’ll probably never read again? Letting go of these things feels a little bit like letting go of part of my life, letting go of the person I was at an earlier time.


How much of these things do I really need?  How important is this stuff?  Are all these things getting in the way of the life God wants for me, a life rich in relationships with God and with other people?


In the parable of the rich fool, Jesus is very clear that things can get in the way of our relationship with God.  In the parable, from the gospel of Luke, the rich fool has had a lot of success in farming.  His land has produced abundantly.  When he has no more room to store all his crops, he decides to replace his barns with bigger barns, to store all his grain and goods.


Hearing this parable, we might think of the man as greedy.  But maybe it wasn’t so much that he was greedy.  Maybe he was fearful.  Maybe he was insecure.  Maybe he had trouble trusting God to provide his daily bread.  Or, maybe he was the competitive type and he wanted to show his fellow farmers that he was the best in the agriculture business.  Whatever the reason, Jesus makes it clear that this farmer’s life is at odds with a meaningful and substantial life in God’s eyes.


Jesus says to the man, “You fool!  This very night, your life is being demanded of you!” In Jesus’ time, to be a fool wasn’t really about being stupid, or unwise.  To be a fool was to be a person who failed to comprehend the power and purpose of God in all things.


The farmer in the parable is a fool because he seems unaware of the fact that he is not in full control of his own destiny.  As he goes about his business, he doesn’t think about the fact that his days are numbered.  He acts as if he has all the time in the world, when in truth only God knows the number of his days.


The farmer has benefited from good weather, fertile soil, and healthy seed.  But he fails to acknowledge that God’s abundance is poured out for anyone but himself.  His life is about what he can create, what he can accomplish, and what he can consume.  Lutheran pastor Amy Elizabeth Hessel compares the farmer’s outlook to fast food consumption.  She writes, “[The farmer’s] days are like golden fat-saturated French fries consumed one after another.  He has no awareness of how sluggish, flabby, and poorly fed his soul has become.  If he thinks about his spiritual body at all, there is no indication.  No need to worry about the things of God.  There is always tomorrow.  There are retirement days ahead that can be devoted to matters of God.  Right now, personal business affairs, practical matters of home and family, and the pleasures of life take priority.  God’s business can wait”  (Minister’s Annual Manual, 2015-2016, p. 407).


Jesus says, “Be careful and stay on your guard against all kinds of greediness.  For a person’s life is not for the piling up of possessions.”  The farmer’s life is not the meaningful life, not the substantial life to which God calls us.  The farmer’s life may be abundant in piles of grain or piles of possessions, but God calls us to a life that is abundant in relationship, abundant in acts of service.  Jesus says, your life is not about what you have, but about what you do as a child of God.  Your life, and my life, are for enjoying the lives God created us to life, and sharing the gifts of life with others.


In the city of Cambridge, outside Boston, a while back, one man was determined to help others enjoy God’s gift of life.  Clifford Turner is a lifelong resident of Cambridge.  A few years ago, Turner walked into a convenience store to buy some juice.  He handed his lottery ticket to the clerk.  She put the ticket through the machine, she gasped, “Oh my gosh!  You’re a millionaire.”


Turner was flabbergasted; he was completely at a loss for words.  “Oh, OK, good,” he said, and went home to tell his wife.  When he got home, he still couldn’t find the words to explain the magnitude of his win to her.  She left for work as usual.  He went to visit a friend instead, just to verify the numbers. Again, a perfect match. At the time it was the biggest Mass Millions jackpot in state history: a windfall worth about fifty million dollars.


Turner worked in construction.  He could have used the money to upgrade to a more lavish lifestyle, but he didn’t do that.  Instead, he used his winnings to create charities to combat gang activity and promote opportunities for local kids in sports and the arts.  He said, “I just have to do the right thing with the money because that money didn’t just come out of the blue.  It came for a reason.  It came for what my mother did when we were growing up.  I lived in the projects, but I lived like I was rich.”


Turner grew up in the Jefferson Park housing project, a place that used to have a reputation as a rough part of town.  Now a corner in Jefferson Park is named in honor of his mother.


Turner says he has no plans to quit working.  He says, “All my life, I’ve watched my mother…give so much back to the community.  I was brought up to believe that money like that doesn’t really belong to you.  You don’t need much in life to live” (Boston Sunday Globe, March 21, 2004, pp. B1 & B4).


You don’t have to win the lottery to enjoy life as a child of God.  Our lives are not about what we have, but about what we do as daughters and sons of God.  Our lives are about enjoying the lives God created us to live, and sharing the gifts of life with others.








Rev. Elva Merry Pawle

Pentecost 8