Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sermon -- 11th Sunday after Pentecost (August 25, 2019)

LUKE 12:13-21


In the name + of Jesus.

     The church where I served my vicar year is in Jenera, Ohio.  My supervising pastor, I have learned since then, adds a Scripture verse to every letter he sends to his children.  It comes from the third epistle of St. John: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4)  Without a doubt, there are many things that bring parents joy about their children.  We want our children grow up to be productive, successful, well-adjusted people.  I think any parent would be proud of a child who excels in a career, is recognized by awards, earns a lucrative income, and enjoys a good family life.  Ask anyone how they would describe the good life, and they will list such things as healthy families, fine food, luxurious homes, nice wardrobes, and glamorous vacations. 
     But of all the things that you might desire for your children, your family, your friends, what could be of greater importance than what St. John wrote: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4)  Whatever God gives us in this world will pass away.  No matter what you accumulate in this life, you will have to give it up, whether prizes or possessions.  The only thing that we are given in this world that we have a chance to see in eternity are the people we know.  And there is no way for anyone to enter heaven except through faith in Jesus and his truth.  So, whether you are well-to-do or just scraping by, whether you are praised for accomplishments or anonymously doing your duty, there is no greater treasure that you can have than your faith in Jesus.  Therefore, guard your most treasured possession.
     Still, when we think of the good life, it usually comes down to this: money.  If we have money, then we have the good life.  We fear and love and trust our wealth more than all things.  We trust that money will solve our problems.  We love what money can gain for us.  We fear losing it, and we dread the future if we think the money will not be there.  This is nothing but idolatry.  We continually crave more and more money.  It is a craving which is never satisfied.  It defies God and it ends up in death. 
     This was illustrated by Jesus when a man came to him with an urgent plea.  Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (Luke 12:13)  To be fair, I am guessing this man had a legitimate complaint.  This man seems to have been cheated out of his portion of his father's inheritance.  So, he appealed to Jesus.  But (Jesus) said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (Luke 12:14)  Jesus' role is not to assure you that you get your fair share of wealth.
     Then Jesus said to (the crowds), “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)  Like the man who craved his share of the estate, we also crave wealth.  We labor and scheme and plan to accumulate as much as we can so that our world will be much better—better for us, that is.  Our efforts are not concerned about others.  It is an on-going effort to establish our own little kingdoms in this world.  When we think of the good life, we think of this world and our comfort in it.  It does not take much to forget that the goal of our life is not to make this world our home but to look for a better dwelling with Jesus.  Guard your most treasured possession.
     To illustrate this, Jesus told the parable about the farmer who was blessed with a bumper crop.  He had harvested so much that his barns could not hold it all.  As he assessed his situation, he did not consider the needs of his neighbors.  He did not concern himself with God who had blessed him with his harvest.  This man devoted his goods to himself.  He trusted in his possessions to give him a comfortable life for years to come.  He knew how to stretch his wealth for his own good, and his wealth allowed him to settle into the good life we all crave.  It was the best first century 401k plan around.  Many would consider him a good business man and envy his plans.  But Jesus demonstrated his man's foolishness and misplaced trust.  “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 the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:30-31)  
     The reality is that we will all lose what has been given to us.  We come into this world with nothing.  God chooses to bless us—sometimes with much, sometimes with little.  We depart from this world, and all of our blessings will be lost.  All are gifts and are to be used for the glory of God and the good of others.  If you devote yourself to the riches of this world and are not rich toward God, you will lose your kingdom in this world and have no part of the kingdom of heaven either.  Therefore, guard your most treasured possession which is your faith in Jesus.
     If you are going to be rich toward God, then understand that it is God himself who gives you these riches.  Just as the man in the parable did not create his own crops, so you do not create your own faith.  Just as it was God who blessed the man in the parable with his worldly riches, so it is only God who can give you heavenly riches.  Therefore, to be rich toward God, you come to the place where God enriches you with mercy, forgiveness, life, and salvation.  And to guard the riches he has given you, you continue to come to Christ to be enriched all the more.  If you are going to be children who walk in the truth, then you must dedicate yourself to hearing and learning God's truth, to fearing, loving, and trusting God above all things.  ALL things.  Guard your most treasured possession.
     Dear fellow Christians, Jesus has regarded you as a treasure to be won for his kingdom.  In order to redeem you, Jesus came to earth to sacrifice everything.  He purchased and won you from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death.  Your worth is not determined by your bank account.  Rather, the Lord has showed you that your are worth the sacrifice of the Son of God.  You are highly esteemed.  God has decreed it.  This is your most treasured possession.  Guard it!
     Behold: The good life is realized only in Jesus.  He supplies all that you crave.  He has put you in a blessed family, the Church.  He feeds you with heavenly delicacies which bestow forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation.  He clothes you with robes of righteousness.  He prepares mansions in heaven for you.  He will deliver you from a sinful world and assures you of a glamorous, glorious kingdom which endures forever.  Neither Dave Ramsey nor Charles Schwab can promise you that.  Guard your most treasured possession.  And if your wealth is drawing your attention away from this, get rid of it.  It is only harming you, and it can do much good for others.
     Guard your most treasured possession, which is your faith in Christ.  And as you continue to be enriched by God's word and sacraments, the Lord will continue to guard and keep you in his kingdom.  For, you are God's treasured possession, redeemed by the holy blood of Jesus.  Jesus continues to enrich you by his promises which are preached to you in words and which are delivered to you in the sacraments.
     In 100 years, you will not care what your worldly riches or reputation were.  The world may be impressed if you end up accomplishing and accumulating much.  Although, if they sing your praises in eulogies and tributes, you won't be around to hear it.  But what will have everlasting value is this: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4)  If you walk in God's truth, you may not hear the world's praises, but you will hear Jesus Christ say of you: “This one is mine.  I have covered your guilt with my innocent life.  I have purchased and won you with my precious blood.  I have loved you and preserved you through your earthly life.  Now, enter my heaven and enjoy boundless riches and glory.  All this, the Father has been pleased to give you, and he is pleased to have you here.”
     If you desire to have such a blessed judgment, then guard your most treasured possession.  For that judgment has been proclaimed upon you by Christ already.  It is declared to you again and again from altar, pulpit, and font.  If you crave this, then you will be satisfied in every way—both for this life and for eternity.  And that is the good life.

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

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