Monday, July 25, 2016

Living Pre-Fab?



OUR READING for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost comes from the Gospel According to Saint Luke. In this scripture reading, we hear a parable story that our Lord used to challenge our worldly thinking about security and treasure…

One of the multitude said to him, "Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me." 
 But he said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?" And he said to them, "Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And he told them a parable, saying..,
 "The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself.., 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And 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; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.' 
 But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' 
 So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
                                                                                                  (Luke 12:13-21)


Building Judge?
Our Lord endured multiple contentions and assigned woe upon both Pharisees and lawyers on the way to Jerusalem. In the previous chapter of this gospel, we read that Jesus had contended with their hypocrisy. He had chided them about how people of upper class offices offered public faces of holiness; yet they frequently neglected doing justice and seeking the love of God. Now, in this chapter he takes them to task again, for our Lord is asked to fairly settle a financial matter.
 We hear in the reading that a man wanted an issue settled between himself and his brother about their family inheritance. Jesus’ answer, however, did not follow the man’s desired course. The man seemed to not have heard all that had been previously taught by Jesus, for hypocritically and judiciously he sought only that topic that was to fit his own financial aims.
 Thus we know that typical of many persons from sinful human society both past and present, he attempted to get God to approve his plans to maintain and endorse his worldly pursuits. Here we see that he was testing Jesus’ interpretation of the Hebrew’s Torah, simply in order to justify himself and his treasury.
 We can easily see that this attitude concerning worldly things awarded the man a short dismissal from Jesus. The occasion of this selfish approach, however, gave Jesus a moment of opportunity for teaching. Jesus stated clearly that his kingdom is not of this fallen world. Therefore the rewards of being one of Christ's disciples are of another nature than simply material. Jesus taught us that worldly covetousness is a sin constantly to be fought; for eternal comfort does not depend on temporal wealth. To demonstrate his point, he told a parable to those around him. Our Lord described the folly of a man who maneuvered for greater riches while he lived, and beheld misery when judged before God.
 You see, our Lord taught that a poor trade-off was had when a farmer had no grateful regard of God’s providence nor thought wisely concerning the uncertainties of life. The man ignored the value of his soul and the importance of eternity. When he saw a great crop growing, instead of thanking God… instead of being comforted in being able to do more good, being self-centered he questioned in himself... “What greater thing shall I do now?” His gluttonous egocentric nature caused him to think of making no other use of his plenty than to gratify his appetite for more.
 However, be careful lest we gloat at his folly. We need note that the death of such a person is miserable and terrible, for they are eternally cast out. Indeed, foolish are many. Too often we see ourselves in the story. Wouldn't we sinful do the same were it not for the Holy Spirit, for it is the Spirit that teaches us not to pursue that which is temporal to the expense of the eternal gift.

True Wealth?
We must note that this lesson is found in Luke alone. Therefore we must also consider to some degree the attitude that our gospel author had toward wealth. You see, it was thought in the wholistic concept of Hebrew thinking, that whatever blessings you enjoy in worldly possessions shows that you also possess that same countenance in soul and body. Basically, to profit in one meant to profit in the whole.
 However, Luke relays for us to seek a different life. He was telling the Christians of his churches precisely what Jesus taught about worldly wealth. Luke recorded that if we truly value holiness, we have to be persons “set apart”. We are taught to adhere to a code that is not of this world and its values.
 You see, as the church, we are not to sinfully crave accumulating the luxuries of this life. Rather, Luke exhorted the Christians of his day, that we should measure richness in belonging to Christ as our Master, for only through him shall we please God. Given this thought, I view this parable related by Luke as a story received from Jesus concerning the people of Israel… but it stands here as applied to all people of the infant Christian church. Consequently it also applies to us!
 You see, when originally told while Jesus was on the way to the richness of temple in Jerusalem, the interpretive message came across as a warning to the invested of Israel. Many though themselves as “rich” and were invested in their deeds as crops, yet their days of woe were coming.
 Decades later, this message rang forth to persons worshiping within the communities of Luke. We need only to remember that this gospel was written down for them after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem… and the fall of the Hebrew fort at Masada. Knowing this subsequent history, therefore, both we as individuals…. and the Christian church in its entirety, need to apprehend this message clearly. We need ask ourselves, “Are we, or have we been, individually or cooperatively those who revel in worldly riches without giving proper thanks to God? Are we those who attempt to build even larger churches without paying proper homage to the One who deliberately gave freely of himself for our salvation? Should we not do the same?
 Truly I believe that like the ignorant farmer in this parable, we collectively tend to forget our place and our mission. We are but called to be working servants waiting for the eternal richness promised by God. We are to be working diligently... sharing that grace which has been revealed to us by the Spirit. Truly, if we possess a firm belief about the grace of God's providence, that knowledge should guide us whenever we work liberally in a world full of poverty or peril.
 Consequently, I say to you now that though we often strive to acquire worldly status and goods, and take care to preserve our houses, churches and more… we need to be most concerned to know that these things are indeed not ours, but are temporal. Let us not trade our souls, or the souls of others... for these fleeting things. As the Christian church, let us be made ready by the Spirit for doing the most important evangelical work… and not hoard our gifts. Let us share the gospel and do good works in thanksgiving… for as scripture reveals, we do not know at what hour the thief shall come.

 
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