Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sermon for Pentecost 11: "Abundant Life in Christ"

+ 11th Sunday after Pentecost– August 4, 2013 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C (Proper 13): Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-16;  Colossians 3:1-11;  Luke 12:13-21

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

 Today’s readings have a common theme: money and possessions. And how your life doesn’t consist in the abundance of stuff, but in Christ’s abundant life for you.

Solomon, Paul, Jesus – they all warn us: About our sinful, insatiable appetite for possessions. After all, you can’t take it with you. And how you’ll never enjoy God’s earthly gifts and blessings if you make a religion out of wealth and an idol of your possessions.
If anyone knew about wealth, it was Solomon. He had it all. In today’s terms – the cars, houses, women, personal chefs, the best wine cellar around, horses, gardens. You name it; he had it. But what does Solomon write?

I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind. Empty. Nothing. Dust in the wind.

And as Jesus was teaching, someone in the crowd said to him: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
The man had his mind made up. He was just using Jesus to get what he wanted, his inheritance. But Jesus had none of it.

“Man, who made me a judge or a divider [of property] over you?”
Jesus is no Judge Judy. He came to give out the eternal inheritance he won for us on the cross, not bless this man’s greed. Jesus came to reconcile us to the Father by his blood, shed on the cross for you. There’s your abundant life – in Christ Crucified.

 And Jesus said to him, ‘Take care, and be on guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’”
There’s no way around it. Jesus’ words are a stern warning for all. Watch out! Be on guard. Rich, poor, or middle class – it matters not. We all covet.
We live in a culture of consumption and covetousness. Get it on demand. Hungry? Why wait?  Just do it.  Eat more chikin! Have it your way. Obey your thirst.

But coveting isn’t limited to our homes and our hearts. It’s in the church as well. We covet other churches - their facilities or programs, their surplus budgets, maybe even their pastors…or their members. Can’t you see how poisonous that is? It’s one of the devil’s oldest tricks. “God’s holding out on you. There’s something better: more attractive programs, more successful ways of doing ministry, something more spirit filled than plain words and something more powerful and exciting than simple bread, wine, and water.”
Repent…and “Set our minds on things above and not on things that are on earth.” And “Put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Our sinful heart is like Velcro; we’ll stick to anything. That’s why Paul calls covetousness idolatry. Idols are made in the heart. Our hearts are idol factories, pumping out one idol after another. Whatever we place our trust and love in – that’s our god.
"Contrary to what Joel Osteen and prosperity preachers tell you, the abundance of your life isn’t found in the abundance of things, but being in Christ and receiving the abundance of life He gives you. St. Paul says you have a new mind, renewed in Christ. How?  You died. That’s right. In Baptism, you’re dead to the world, and that means you have nothing in the world to lose. All that stuff you own that’s piling up in your garage and the attics and closets of your life, isn’t your life. That’s just your stuff." (Cwirla)

Your real life is hidden with Christ. Hidden in Baptism. Hidden in the Word. Hidden in the Supper. Your life is in the abundant life of Christ Crucified and risen for you.
So Jesus tells us a little parable.

The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?”
The title of the parable, “The rich fool” is an oxymoron. Rich people aren’t necessarily foolish. They got their wealth somehow, whether by inheritance or earnings. This man was wealthy in land, which was probably handed down. And he’s called foolish, not because of his riches, but because of what he does with his riches.

“I will do this,” he said. “I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.”

Possessions aren’t the problem… but what he does (or doesn’t do) with his possessions. Money can be used for good or evil. It’s the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil. Our problem really isn’t possessions; it’s what happens when sinners like us get our hands on possessions.

And then I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This night your soul is required of you…”
The land was a gift. The abundant produce it brought forth was a gift. Even his life was a gift – all from God. Yours too. All that we have is Thine alone, a trust, O Lord, from Thee.

The blessings of possessions and money are given by God to be shared. Shared with a neighbor in need. Shared with your church to support the work of the gospel.
Sadly however, the man in the parable found himself alone as Jesus cryptically ends the story: “All the things you have acquired, whose will they be?”

Solomon asked the same question. Who’ll inherit it all, a wise man or a fool? What will happen to all my toils and labors under the sun? But he also answered his own question…
“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink, and find enjoyment in his toil. This also is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”

Ah. There’s the secret. Apart from God who can have enjoyment or contentment? Without Jesus in the middle redeeming and reconciling all things, making all things new, there is no lasting enjoyment. But with Christ at the center, you can enjoy food, drink, work and rest. These are gifts from God.
Jesus’ parable is difficult to hear. He exposes our covetousness and sin. But Jesus is greater than your coveting, your sin, and death. For though Jesus was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. Jesus didn’t use his wealth for selfish gain, but for you. Jesus labored and toiled under the scorching sun of God’s wrath for you. And his labor was not in vain. 

To the world, Jesus’ economy sounds strange, counter-cultural even…the one who is rich in this world’s goods should live as if he possesses nothing and the one who is poor should live as if he possesses all things. Jesus was rich beyond all comprehension. Birds have their nests, foxes have their holes, but the Son of Man has no place to rest his head. Jesus was born in a barn to save us from our barns and storehouses of sin. He was poor and lowly for you, so that in his death you are given abundant life.  Now you belong to Christ. His eternal inheritance is yours. You’re an heir of heaven. Washed in Baptism. Fed with abundant life in the supper. Redeemed from all of your coveting, idolatrous ways. You’re Christ’s great treasure. And Christ is your abundant life.
Still, the parable leaves us wondering…what happened to that man in the story? What about the man talking with Jesus? How did they respond? We’re not told.

It’s open ended so that we answer the same question. We have been and we are richly blessed in our personal lives and in our congregational life here at Redeemer: 50 years of Christ’s faithfulness; a preschool, music academy, Sunday School, youth group, VBS, caring members, facilities that serve us well, a place where the historic riches of the church flow in Word and Song, a place to receive His sacraments, opportunities to share the gospel and so much more.
What will we do with many gifts and great treasures? Store them up for ourselves or share them with others? You are not your own. You were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your possessions.

And remember, Christians aren’t against the material world. God loves material things – He created them. God gives us many gifts in creation. He even took on physical, human flesh to redeem us. 
So there’s no need to go sell your possessions and live in a cave like a hermit. You won’t be of any help to your neighbor in a cave. Instead, hold your possessions loosely, with the dead hand of faith and they won’t hold you. Use your earthly blessings to serve others. You’re free from sin and death. Dead to the world. Dead to sin in Christ. Dead to your possessions. Therefore, live as you are…a free child of Christ; live as servants, bound to your neighbor’s need.

St. Augustine says, “to be redeemed is your greatest treasure.” That’s what it means to be rich towards God. To rejoice that he is the Giver of all good things in heaven and on earth.
And the abundance of your life consists in Jesus’ life and death for you.

For in Jesus you have everything you need, material possessions, daily bread, and more. In Jesus you have his sacrifice that has taken away your sins, his resurrection that conquered death for you; You have the greatest possessions of all: Jesus in water, Word, Body and Blood. That’s the abundant life – the forgiven life. Life in Jesus, your abundant life.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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