St. Mark's Episcopal Church

124 North Sylvia Street - Montesano, WA, 98563

Pentecost 10 Sermon 2010

While Jesus was talking to a crowd of people that was following him, there was a man in the crowd that called out to him, asking Jesus to tell his brother to divide the family inheritance with him.  Jesus said, “Friend, no one sent me to be an arbitrator or judge over you.”  This seems to be a troubling case for the man in the crowd.  His brother must have decided that he was the sole heir to the family inheritance.  Greed can do all kinds of hurt and devastation.  Jesus warns the crowd to be on the lookout for such people.  Jesus tells us that our lives do not consist of abundance of possessions.  Even if we think it does.

Jesus then goes on to tell the crowd about the land and a rich man—he had plenty of money and he laid out plans for accumulating more and more.  He had a large amount of grain that he raised and had no place to store it.  His barns were all full, and he decided to pull down the old barns and build bigger ones.  He thought he would have enough grain stored away to keep him for a long time, so he could relax, eat, drink, and be merry.  But, God had a different plan for him.  “You fool, this very night the demand will be made for your soul.  And all this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?  So it is, when a man stores up treasures for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.”   

I have a few thought provoking sayings and questions:

A man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has made more than he needs. 

What or who is at the center of our lives?

What or who is first or foremost in our lives?

What or who ranks number one in our value system?

What or who do we turn to for fulfillment—our search for happiness, our desire for peace of mind and heart and soul?

The man in today’s Gospel lesson didn’t even think of God or sharing with the poorer people.  He was greedy and because of his greed he will lose his life.

Earlier in today’s lessons, Jesus says to the crowd that is following him, “Watch and be on your guard against greed of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.”

An over weight businessman decided to shed a few pounds.  He took his new diet seriously, even changing his driving route to the office in order to avoid passing his favorite bakery.  One morning, however, he arrived at the office carrying a sugar-laden, calorie-loaded coffee cake.  For this he was scolded by his colleagues.  But he only smiled and said, “This is a very special coffee cake.  I accidentally drove by the bakery this morning and there in the window were trays full of goodies.  I felt this was no accident, so I prayed, “Lord, if you really want me to have one of those delicious coffee cakes, let me have a parking space in front of the bakery. “  Sure enough, on the ninth time around the block, there it was.”

That’s life at times, isn’t it?  That’s us at times, isn’t it?  We hear God’s word about what’s good for our well-being and then pray that maybe he will change his mind and give us something different—something that we’ve decided we need and want at the moment.

I can relate to that.  Sometimes when Lee & I go shopping I’ll see something that I would like to have and really want it.  Then Lee will ask me, “Do you really need it?”  And I’ll reply with, “Need doesn’t have anything to do with it.”

What Jesus is telling us here, is the matter of our life’s priorities.  Again, what or who is at the center of our lives?  Isn’t it the case that money is the answer in today’s culture?  Isn’t it the case that money, not love, is what makes the world go round?  Isn’t it the case, perhaps, that in terms of our true and ultimate goal in life, we’re moving in the wrong direction?

Maybe, just maybe we should stop and ask directions, wouldn’t that be the logical things to do.  If your life has taken the wrong turn, even if your life seems to be going nowhere, we should listen to the Lord, when he says, “ask and it will be given you,” for everyone who asks receives.  I just read that in last week’s Gospel.  My Dad and my uncle used to get in heavy discussions, with each sentence they said kept getting louder and louder.  Finally, in the end my uncle used to say, “That’s God a fact!!”  This seemed to happen each time we visited them.

When we have lost our way the logical thing to do is stop and ask directions—that is, unless you happen to be married to someone that feels that they know where they are going.  This woman writes:

“Even if I were collapsing from thirst and hunger, even if I observed between sobs, that we should have arrived three hours ago and the hotel is going to give away our room, I still would be incapable of persuading my husband, when lost, to stop the car and ask for directions.”

Even if your life seems to have taken a wrong turn.  Even if your life seems to be going nowhere, even if you feel so trapped by events that you can’t find you way out of an aimless existence, you are not incapable of persuading yourself to stop wherever you might be heading and ask for directions.  Scripture tells us, “For the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what is lost.”  If you feel your life is not taking you anywhere, it is not because God isn’t giving you directions.  It is because you are refusing to stop, look, and listen.

All the “self-help” books tell us that we need to have goals in life—financial goals, career goals, psychological goals, leisure time goals, retirement goals, possessions goals, and the list goes on and on—

This is a quote from Yogi Berra, a New York Yankee baseball player and manager, “Know where you’re going, because if you don’t know, you might never get there.”  You have got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.  We need to have goals, within the context of God’s plan, for our ultimate destination, or we might never get there.  When we are pursuing genuine Christian life-goals, we discover that the happiest people in the world are those who are willing to stop and ask for directions form the Light of the World. 

But, on the question of life goals, we really don’t like to hear much talk in church about our attitude and approach to money.  Somehow we fail to see how it ties in with our religion, our spirituality, our relationship to Christ.  In the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says, “No man can serve two masters. You cannot give yourself to God and Money,” he is giving directions for our life’s journey directly to us.  Because the temptation to serve the almighty dollar instead of Almighty God, is with us constantly.

Jesus told people to give up the idea that money could make them happy. 

In the Forward reading for today, Jesus points out that you cannot estimate personality in terms of quantity.  A human soul is not to be assessed in terms of dollars and cents or of lands and acres.  A person’s life—the true inner self—the soul and heart of a person, is all that counts in the long run, and that can be judged only in terms of quality.  The first question, and the true question, is not “How much?” but, “Of what sort?”  Not “What does he own outside himself?”  but “What is he like inside himself?”

When we choose to serve, not the almighty dollar, but the almighty God, we will have chosen to follow Christ’s directions for the journey into his new life.  And each cup of water we give in Jesus’ name will be a sign that his Kingdom of Love is where our true treasure lies.

Again, in Yogi Berra’s words, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”  AMEN 

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