Pentecost 10 C 2010 – Rough edges

This is the good news – plainly told.

For once, Jesus is direct –

well, okay, Jesus is blunt.

To a man who comes looking for help getting his share of an inheritance;

“tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me…(Lk 12: 13)

Jesus has a harsh word of truth.

This is a story that doesn’t simply question the way society seems to work –

it makes a mockery of it.

And because society still operates on seemingly timeless economic principles,

this good news has some rough edges for us.

A man did well for himself – his crop was abundant –

clearly he was prosperous – and his problem seemed a simple one;

“How can I store my bumper crop?”

The answer seems equally simple – build more, bigger barns.

This is a story that we might be familiar with –

a story of encouragement, perhaps.

For isn’t this what we are supposed to dream of?

Aren’t we al geared towards success in our enterprises?

We’re supposed to find good work –

we are encouraged to do it well –

we have to live, after all, we need to survive in the present and plan for the future.

Our education, our economy, our whole way of life

is founded on this sort of behaviour –

Jesus story confirms that this is ancient behaviour –

So he builds and he rests, and he is pleased with himself – who wouldn’t be?

The problem is, our man did not take into account his mortality. He reckoned without God

Suddenly, his life is ‘demanded of him’ (v. 20)

He is revealed, not as a successful, forward-thinking businessman,

but as “a fool” whose efforts suddenly count for nothing.

“and so it is,” Jesus concludes,

“with those who store up treasures for themselves, but are not rich toward God.” (v.21).

This is not a call to generosity in giving –

this is a lesson in priorities.

A call to revolutionary living, in fact, is at the heart of this parable.

The ordinary order of things – the way of the world –

is concerned with building and buying; with success and excess;

with Joneses, and keeping up with them.

These patterns have revealed themselves as universal truths

in modern cultures across the ages.

We are measured by what we have, what we can get, and how well we keep it.

And yet, for those who would be “rich toward God” ,

these time tested truths are shown to be empty.

I said at the beginning that this was the gospel made plain –

so where, you might ask, is the good news in this?

All we know – everything we understand about life is proven false.

And while Jesus is perfectly happy to be blunt

where the failures of the world are concerned

he is not, in this passage, too eager to share the alternative.

This is not a failure of the gospel – nor an omission of Jesus

this is the fault of the person who selected the lessons.

We are offered – in the Epistle – a reminder of the good news

the outline for righteous living are put before us –

reminders (in Paul’s own delightful way)

of the things of the world that should be avoided.

What’s missing is Jesus invitation to change – if not the world, then certainly ourselves.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat,

or about your body, what you will wear…” (Lk. 12:22)

Jesus is just as blunt in telling us what really matters.

Not economics – but stewardship;

a thoughtful treasuring of those gifts which are freely and abundantly offered.

not competition for the best and brightest – but compassion;

a mindful gathering and sharing of resources for abundant living.

The good news of this lesson is that society has another option –

a holy, righteous possibility that springs from the imagination of God

Society’s primary task is not the relentless recovery of the work of our hands

but a constant pursuit of the gifts of God,

that are offered for the good of the whole creation.

We take steps towards this holy task every time we gather in worship.

We are drawn into this alternate society every time the sacraments are celebrated.

As we encourage one another on the journey towards God

we together take the sharp edges from Jesus challenge to view the world differently.

The weight of society’s expectation is lifted when we gather together to hear Christ’s challenge

and with the Spirit’s help, accept it.

It is good news indeed that Christ’s example can help us to be rich toward God.

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