Sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

July 31, 2022

Texts: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21

Sometimes on hearing the lessons in worship we are left to wonder, so, where’s the thread in this? But today it is as if three teachers have met together and decided on a curriculum for us.

To contemplate being and nonbeing. To set our minds on things above. To embrace what is really lasting. To know and seek what is truly precious.

Teacher One – Ecclesiastes (Solomon by tradition, though likely another wise soul.)

1 Kings 24 “The whole earth sought the presence of King Solomon to hear his wisdom which God had put into his mind.”

Proverbs 8:11 “…for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.”

But! Vapor of vapors!

If, and when, there is finally time in life to sit and contemplate what finally matters and what finally has meaning, it turns out to be hard for many of us.

Ecclesiastes, possessed of a very great mind, shares the struggle. Life, for all our work and all our wisdom is ultimately insubstantial, impermanent. We leave it all behind. Talk about a joy killer!

Teacher Two – Paul

Think higher! Set your mind on things above. Be raised with them.

Earthbound ways of thinking and acting are garments to be stripped off.

Clothe yourselves with the new self, no longer weighed down by desires that become idols.

And Jesus

Someone in the crowd said…”Jesus tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” The conflict of rights of inheritance, a big issue in the ancient world. Like today.

Yet this is both a problem of real goods, and a problem of who inherits God’s good.

Jesus’s words of caution to “them”

Who is this “them” that Jesus addressed? The brothers? The crowd? Maybe all three!

-Watch and guard for all greediness, because the life of anyone is not in the abundance that flows from their possessions. Ah, the weightiness of earthbound stuff.

The Parable

Starring a rich man. His possession was more than a bit of productive land. It was an expansive region of orchards and fields.

Isaiah 5:8 warns of “joining house to house and field to field until there is no room for anyone else and you are left to live alone”. Which is not a blessing.

The reasoning in his mind – The man is not about things above. He wonders instead:

What should I do with my excess?

Build and Store. (For one’s self enjoyment) Well, of course!

Then the man’s self says to his soul: you have ample goods. Relax, eat, drink, think good thoughts.

Here are all the goods a soul could desire!

Assuming, that is, that goods could ever satisfy the soul.

In the bible, soul is the animating force on which the physical body depends. It is emotion, intellect, all that makes us unique persons. Once gone, the body decays to dust.

The man’s soul… never responds. Didn’t that make him wonder about the state of his soul?

Even so, the man decides that he has done good thinking. He has reached his conclusion.

It’s his final answer.

But God is in on the conversation.

It’s God who answers the man’s internal reasoning.

Unwise! Unthinking! This is God’s appraisal of the man’s conclusions.

But the man is right about one thing. This is his final answer.

God says, “This night they are demanding your soul from you.”

It is not God who demands. But we do not know who or what “they” are.

All we know is what Jesus said: Watch and guard for all greediness, because the life of anyone is not in the abundance that flows from their possessions.

The man watched and guarded his possessions, but did not watch and guard against greediness. And perhaps it was his possessions that divided his soul and body.

The end result is the same. The end of life. The nothingness of possessions.

The parable may speak to both brothers. Each is greedy for an inheritance that is impermanent. Neither sees a better inheritance in the way Jesus is teaching. So perhaps they will never value anything more lasting.

So.

The unwise desire earth’s treasure.

The wise treasure God.