Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sermon -- 11th Sunday after Pentecost (August 4, 2013)

LUKE 12:13-21

In the name + of Jesus.

     You may have noticed that King Solomon was a bit of a downer this morning.  Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities!  All is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)  The word translated “vanity” has the idea of a breath on a cold day.  It is empty and it is fleeting.  That is how Solomon saw life, which is striking because he was a king.  It is how Solomon saw his possessions, which is striking because Solomon was filthy rich.  But Solomon recognized that life does not last forever.  No matter how much stuff you have, eventually you are going to have to leave it to someone else who did not work for it. 
     Though you might cling to your goods with both hands and labor and toil to collect more, they are like a vapor.  What’s worse, when God takes you out of this world and requires your soul from you—for even that is God’s gift to you—your wealth and your possessions will prove to be absolutely worthless and useless to you.  Vanity of vanities!  Utterly meaningless!
     A man spoke to Jesus.  His parents had died, and now he and his brother were in a battle to divvy up their goods.  The fight was over wealth neither one had earned.  But Jesus was not going to play these games.  Moses had already laid down the law.  If this man wanted to enforce the demands of the Law, he would have to appeal to Moses, not to Jesus.  But if he were to appeal to the demands of the Law, it would not help him.  The Law merely exposed his covetousness and greed.
     So Jesus told a parable about a rich man who suddenly became much richer.  His blessings had been a gift of God.  His bumper crop was another gift of God.  He loved his goods, and he loved himself, but he did not love God who gave them.  He wondered, “What shall I do about my crops?  I will make my barns larger.  There I will put my crops and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, ‘Relax.  Eat, drink, and be merry.’”  My, he used the word “my” a lot!  Though the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the rich man claimed his goods and his very soul as his own.  He denied God his rights. 
     God had blessed the rich man with greater riches, but the rich man turned them into a curse.  As long as he had his wealth, he was content.  As long as his barns were full, he was pleased.  But—vanity of vanities!—he went to his grave with full barns and a fat wallet.  Though all he had was from God, he had little or no room for God.  The rich man died impoverished.  He died without wealth, without name, without forgiveness, and without hope.
     Now, the lesson is not hard.  Your riches cannot save you.  They cannot help you.  They will not love you.  The lesson is not hard, but our hearts are.  It is easy to sit here this morning and call the rich man a fool.  Yet, how much does your peace and contentment rest on your bank account?  And if it does, how willing are you to bid farewell to your wealth?  Perhaps you ought to pray, “Heavenly Father, you have blessed me richly.  But I am finding that I am putting my trust in my wealth and finding my truest joys in my possessions.  I am not turning to you for hope.  So, please, I implore you, take it away from me.  It is too much for me, Lord.  Please, wipe it out.”  The sinful flesh will never say such a prayer.  Rather, our prayer is for more goods and bigger barns.  Repent.
     Do not seek comfort in what you have prepared for yourself.  Instead, find your comfort in what Jesus has prepared for you.  Do not put your hope in what has your name on it.  Rather, put your hope in the knowledge that Jesus has put his name on you.  Jesus is the one who enriches you.  He is the one who pours out you God’s good pleasure, God’s mercy, God’s forgiveness, and God’s salvation.  All that Jesus has done for you, all that Jesus has fulfilled for you, and all that Jesus has promised you can never be lost or stolen or worn out.   
     Jesus is the one who enriches you.  Jesus fills you with peace by making known to you that your place in God’s kingdom is secure.  That place was purchased not with gold or silver, but with Jesus’ holy, precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death.  Jesus was holy and innocent because he had always and perfectly sought God first.  But Jesus suffered and died for everyone who has not put God first—which is everyone.  Jesus emptied himself of his glory so that you would receive the glories of heaven.  Jesus endured the pains of hell so that you could have the comforts of heaven.  The eternal Son of God gave himself into death so that you could live as children of God forever. 
     Jesus is the one who enriches you.  Jesus is the only one who can grant you eternal blessings.  Now, be sure of this: Everyone on earth will face eternity.  The rich man in the parable, too, received eternal things, but none of them were blessings.  He did not love God or serve him.  Since his heart was opposed to God, he would not be spending his eternity in God’s presence.  That means no blessing, no rest, no peace, and no life.  But Jesus assures you that your eternity will be filled with blessings and rest and life.  Jesus is the one who enriches you.
     Jesus will enrich you, but he already enriches you now.  The peace which you crave is already yours.  You don’t have to live in doubt or fear about God’s love and forgiveness.  God generously delivers it to you.  It was poured upon you when you were baptized.  It is poured into you when you come to the altar for the feast of heaven.  It is applied to you when you are absolved.  You have God’s reminder of it when you cross yourself with every invocation and with every benediction.  You are God’s own.  He has put his name on you.  That peace can never be lost or taken away.
     Jesus is the one who enriches you.  He bestows the blessings of heaven and he bestows your blessings on earth.  Both are good, and both are to be received with thanksgiving.  When you delight yourself in the joys of heaven, then you are able to rightly enjoy the blessings on earth.  King Solomon reminds you: There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.  This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?  For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy…. (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26)  When you know that you are the Lord’s, and when you know that your goods, your time, and your life is in his hands, you can enjoy your life and your blessings.  And you know that when they come to an end, you have really lost nothing.  The everlasting joys, riches, and life are still to come.
     Jesus is the one who enriches you.  For many, there is nothing more heart-rending than losing your stuff.  But for God’s people, you know that it everything is the Lord’s.  He lets you have your wealth and to enjoy it as long as he sees fit.  But the only blessings that truly matter are the ones that you have forever.  Jesus has not short-changed you here.  He enriches you—pouring out peace, love, mercy, forgiveness, comfort, encouragement, and salvation.  Though the Lord may take other blessing from you, he will never take these away.  They are yours because you are his.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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