Message Based on Colossians 3:1-11 and Luke 12:13-21

This week’s Scriptures (“C” – P10)  are Hos 11:1-11   //   Ps 107:1-9, 43 or UMH 830   //  Col 3:1-11   //   Luke 12:13-21

You can find them here:   NIV  //   The Message  // NRSV

 

 

We are constantly bombarded with advertisements and commercials.

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TV and Radio, primetime TV, billboards, movies, and the internet remind all of us that we are somehow incomplete, insufficient, unsatisfied and not quite right on our own. We are constantly assured that if only we buy the product they’re pushing (a tube of toothpaste or newly designed toothbrush, a new carpet or laminated floor, new computer, new furniture, better and safer car, new TV) the purchase will complete us and somehow make us a better person.

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We are bombarded with messages that consumption equals satisfaction, possessions bring happiness, and material wealth results in the good life. Today’s readings from the Early Christian writings and from the Gospel deal with these issues.

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Today’s parable scares me and also makes me hopeful. Let us start by talking about the scary parts.

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How many of us have ever thought something like, "If I just had a little more in my savings account… if only the mortgage was paid off… if only the cash for the kids’ college was already in place… if I could only win the lottery… or ( — _fill the blank here__ —),… then I would be much happier and everything would be okay." The difference between us when we think such thoughts and the man in today’s parable is that for him that wish became a reality: he has money in his savings account, his mortgage is paid off and he has more money than he could possibly use in his lifetime. The dude is set for life.

 

Today’s parable scares me because I identity a little too closely with the {"} "rich guy." We are not told that he is a model citizen, but we know that he is not a cheat, or a thief, he is not even described as being particularly greedy. We are told that he has worked hard and made enough money to retire in comfort – his 401k is fully funded and he is ready to move to his version of "Florida." How many among us have similar goals?

 

In the end, his demise has nothing to do with his wealth. His demise came from the fact that he believed that his wealth could secure his future and make him self-sufficient and independent – independent from others, insulated from need, and on equal terms with God.

 

The fascination and attraction of wealth is that it creates the illusion of independence. Wealth seemingly brings with it a promise that we can transcend the vulnerabilities and needs of daily life that remind us that we are mortal, created beings ultimately and always dependent on God and others for our well-being.

 

That is why today’s parable scares me; it is just a little too close for comfort; I can see myself in the Rich Man.  But today’s parable also brings me hope.

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It brings me hope because I know that I am not alone in this struggle. It brings me hope because today’s reading describes my plight to some extent. It also makes it clear that Jesus understands me and Jesus knows what I am going through.

 

The easiest conclusion to derive from today’s readings is a vague sense of guilt that our lives are focused on the earthly aspects of our existence and that we are not "spiritual" enough. I learned a long time ago that the true lessons of the Holy Scriptures are usually much simpler, much more interesting and much more elegant than first meets the eye. The most obvious conclusions are often not the right ones.

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As I thought about today’s message, I realized that today’s readings are not about guilt. Today’s readings are not just about stewardship of our physical assets. They are about stewardship of all aspects of our lives, including physical assets and resources, as well as stewardship of our spirituality and our spiritual lives.

 

Let’s unpack this idea.

 

We live in a material world and we are called to be practical with the gifts that God blessed us with. It is important to be responsible with money and physical possessions in the present, it is important to plan for our future needs and it is important to prepare for our retirements. Stewardship of our lives however has another dimension; we call this dimension spirituality and it has to do with the fact that we are created in God’s image, it has to do with our interaction with each other and it has to do with how we allow God’s presence to shine through us.

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There is a story of a conversation that took place between a pig and a cow that lived on the same farm. The pig was unpopular while the cow was beloved by everybody and being unpopular troubled the pig.

 

So she, (the Pig) complained to the Cow, "People speak warmly of your gentle nature and your warm eyes. They think you are generous because each day you give them milk and cream, but what about me? I give everything I have. I give them bacon, ham, barbecued ribs and skin for their shoes. I give my all. They even use my eyes when they make scrapple."

 

To that the Cow replied, "You are correct. You give your all, but you do not start giving until after you are dead. Life is about what you are giving while you are still alive."

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Complete stewardship of our lives is about finding a balance between taking care of our physical needs and sharing our tangible spiritual presence. That means sharing our tithes, talents, presence, love and other resources while we are still alive. That means being intentional about the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:16-20: "making disciples for Jesus Christ." That means serving God by serving the world around us.

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Complete stewardship of our lives means being a part of something bigger than ourselves, it means being a part of a community of persons who want to glorify God by helping each other to take care of our physical needs and by helping each other to take care of each other’s spiritual needs through sharing of our tithes, talents, presence, love and other resources WHILE we are still alive.

{Celebration of the Holy Communion}

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