July 31st, 2016: "How Much Is Enough?"

Text: Hosea 11:1-11; Psalm 107:1-9,43;           18th Sunday in Ordinary Time             Sandy Nuernberg

Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21                      11th Sunday after Pentecost                Pastor

Title: “How Much Is Enough?”                             

First Presbyterian Church                                   Sunday, July 31st, 2016                     Pardeeville, WI

 

Please pray with me, Lord, allow our minds and hearts to be open to your Light, your Wisdom, and to be filled with your Spirit. Allow us to be gathered in by your Peace that passes all understanding, and your Love that follows us, always. AMEN.

 

            Have we ever wondered how, or maybe why, we are a consumer-based society, in every stretch of the word and meaning? Whether it be food, clothing, larger mansions, bigger SUVs, or more attention, sympathy, or love, we think a larger amount is better for us. Yes, we have an inclination, all of us, to exist in the abundance of our possessions. Look at advertisements that take up space on our television; they encourage us to seek, purchase, gather, collect (all ages!!).  And like the rich farmer in our story, we’ll build bigger barns to stash everything we own. Believe it or not; our culture trains, teaches, leads us to acquire, accumulate, even hoard sometimes, in what we hold on to. We might ask, what has meaning in numbers of items?

                                                                                                                   

            In contrast, there are those, we all know them, who particularly enjoy having garage or estate sales every other-week-end to get rid of their ‘things.’ They are emptying their barns (homes) of wealth because of “too much stuff.” My twin sister, Cindy, has ‘loved’ having these sales as they’ve moved around the country (NY, WI, AZ, FL). She works oh, so hard getting things ready—her and her husband (Steve) are work-horses themselves preparing, labeling, selling, and then taking down and admiring their labors over the years with these tasks of paring down their stuff!

 

The reason I respect, really admire her in going through the process, is because I am the opposite; I am a ‘pack-rat’ from the word go (not PokemonGo!), and I always think, “Sometime, somewhere, we will need this or that, so I better hang on to it.” I have to be ‘in the mood’ as they say, to throw things out, replace what is no longer working properly, or we can’t get parts for. Household items might include a new dining set, Rick’s leisure chair, better light fixtures, or more Christmas tree ornaments!! Guess what? I’m in the mood, now!! I’m throwing out “stuff.”

 

            Do we really think that what we possess and how much we have will influence our well-being, our thoughts of having a ‘good life?’ It’s called ‘prosperity theology’ where we might be considered the rich and/or foolish one! The problem is when do we say how much is enough?(Today’s language, ‘Enough, already!’). Isn’t our parable that Jesus shares about the rich fool an honest announcement to us about the temptation of idolatry---in other words substituting our riches for our God? This story is not so much about prosperity or possessions, it’s more about perspective of how we understand/use the treasures we possess.

 

            Actually, we might ask ourselves what it means to be “rich towards God?”

Here in Luke, just as in most of the Gospels, Jesus’ has a constant preference for those who are poor, not those of wealth (there are numerous examples: Matthew 17:24-27; 25:18-28, Mark: 6:8-10; 12:41-44, Luke 9:3; 19:15-26, John 2:14-16…all NRSV). He doesn’t back down on his dislike for ‘bigger barns’ when it comes to possessions. He puts it right out there in front of our faces that money does matter. Jesus says, ‘don’t worry about your life, your body, or what you will wear’ (v. 22). ‘Instead, desire his kingdom and these things will be given to you’ (v.31). Jesus thought that those of wealthy ‘status’ were those who could get greedy and tempted toward idolatry; he talks mostly in his ministry about money and possessions, yet he contrasts it more with his love of his ‘Father’ and how we might substitute our riches for God.

 

            When the farmer gathers so much in life that his barn is too full, he is confronted with God in death, God saying, “You Fool!” And we ask, ‘now what?’ All that we’ve accumulated; where is it in death? I think what Jesus is saying is we need to keep our possessions in their proper place; we as Christians have a different story and that is it is not what we accumulate in our possessions as much as that our lives are significant in accumulating that Light and Love as God’s gifts to/for/with us. If you and I were honest, we couldn’t even count the light, love, and peace that passes understanding given us in our lifetime. It’s a lot that God gives us, I think!

 

            Jesus repeats his parables to his listeners time and time again, where we have to find out who we are in his story---(in this case) the brother, friend, soul, maybe the ‘fool?’ It’s not important to Jesus, nor should it be to us how much we earn, or where we bank it. What’s important is that Jesus does not want us to lose perspective of what wealth mean to us. If we haven’t gotten the inheritance yet, if it hasn’t been divvied up yet, if we don’t have bigger barns, if, if, if---if it hasn’t happened yet, how do we know what is fair to receive, or what we might to do with our new-found inheritance?

 

            Jesus warns us about stupid decisions, greed, hoarding, along with a compromise of quiet soul-searching, deep-rooted discernment, and good choices we might make; we can’t let distractions trigger our foolishness! Times change, people change, situations change, and oh, yes, our thoughts can change too. Have we ever thought that in listening to someone else’s advice to us, we say to ourselves, “Self! Wow, I never thought of it in that way?” Jesus’ parables help us to see things differently, not in our seeing different things in our own, same, selfish ways.

 

            Seeing things differently and in richness towards God is radical and positive; it includes finding new ways to do old and worn out ways of accomplishing things. It’s asking others for their ideas; it’s making new friends we’ve seen but are afraid to make contact with, it’s having faith (taking that risk) in trying things and if they don’t work, so be it. Richness towards God is letting God judge, not us; its kindness towards others who are less fortunate than we are; its admitting we are human in forgetting something, and thanking the soul who helps us; it’s patience with those who are suffering. It’s about advocating, vouching for and supporting others as we ask others to do the same for us.

 

            ‘Courage is grace under pressure’ said Ernest Hemingway. Let us have the courage as sisters and brothers in faith in knowing that the love of God and the Spirit of Christ rests in us our whole life long. We need not resort to a life gathering abundance, things, and more things. Yes, we can ‘clean house’ of our many and extra possessions. Our treasures are in giving our hearts, souls, minds and bodies to the living God who gives us the gifts and riches we need. In doing so, we can be stripped of the old self with its many practices and pressures, and be clothed with a new self, being renewed by our Creator God that Christ is all and in all (v.11). That much is surely enough!

           

                                                                        Thanks be to God.                  AMEN.

 

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