SERMON AUGUST 4, 2019.
Let us all pray:
The Gospel today tells us that “life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
In the light of these words and the truth that they hold, we pray: Almighty God, you are the source, the guide and the goal of our lives.
o teach us to let go of possessions that distract us, distance us and de-connect us from each other and from God.
o Remind us that continuing to build bigger barns will not lead us to happiness and fulfillment
o Teach us to love what is worth loving, to reject what is offensive to you, and to treasure what is precious in your sight,
One true God, father, Son and holy Spirit. Amen.
“Take are! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed – for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” The words of the Gospel speak directly into our lives of constant greed embodied in bigger barns and constant want of more more more.
Our house, the parsonage, doesn’t look anything like a barn, even if I sometimes used to think that the private quarters of our teenage boys did smell and look like barns with bales of dirty t-shirts, smelly soccer socks and unrecognizable dried food.
Our house does not look anything like a barn. It is painted white and we try to keep it clean and tidy, but it does contain accumulated things and possessions from many years. Furniture from grandparents, Danish Design treasures, hundreds and hundreds of books, clothes, and things filled with memories and meaning, which makes our house our home.
Then there is our garage, that might look a bit more like a barn. It juts over with accumulated things, boxes of things we can not let go or things we do not need, boxes of stuff stuff stuff. No bales of hay or horses in our house or garage, but simply a lot of stuff and a dog named Saxo.
What you find in our house and garage, you may possible also find in your home, in larger og bigger scale. A lot of stuff. A lot of accumulated stuff. If a person with few or no possessions was looking at our homes, he could mistake it for one of the barns belonging to that rich foolish man, Jesu talks about. The foolish foolish rich man who didn’t know his soul was buried beneath all those bushels of corn and grain.
Be on guard against all kinds of greed, for one’s life does not consist in the ambiance of possession.
I once read a definition of a house by comedian George Carlin:
“You got your stuff with you? I’ll bet you do. Guys have stuff in their pockets; women have stuff in their purses. . .. Stuff is important. You got to take care of your stuff. You got to have a place for your stuff. That’s what life is all about, trying’ to find a place for your stuff!
That’s all your house is; a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time. So that’s all your house is. It’s just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.”
A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you’re taking off in an airplane. You look down and see all the little piles of stuff. Everybody’s got his own little pile of stuff.
But as we race to keep pace with our neighbors and the newest trends, the distinction between needs and wants blurs. What do we really need to sustain a comfortable life? Our closets accumulate stuff. Bedrooms, kitchens and bookshelves sag from plenitude. Wanted and needed items quickly lose their ability to spark joy in us…. And then we find new stuff to want, need and accumulate. Before we know it, our dwelling place, our homes, transform into overstocked barns.
As the foolish man in the Gospe,l it is not easy to avoid collecting and accumulating stuff – it is part of our western culture and a part of the modern life of constant change and consumption. The commercials tell us that we need bigger barns and more stuff.
A sarcastic New Yorker cartoon depicts it like this: A man on his deathbed mutters to his son (or is it his pastor?), who is holding his hand, “I should have bought more crap.”
Jesus told a crowd and tells us another way of life. Jesus tells us, that life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. I’m convinced that we confuse possessions with treasures. But it quite simple as Peter Marty writes in “ The Christian Living”:
“Moth and rust go after possessions; they can’t touch treasures. I possess my house; I treasure my home. I possess food in the fridge; I treasure nourishment. I possess a cell phone; I treasure connecting with people. I possess a car; I treasure the freedom it offers. I possess a heart; I treasure love.”
What do you possess?
And what do you treasure?
For a moment declutter your mind from all the stuff, all the possessions, all the superficial belongings and think about the regrets you would have if God said to you: “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be… so it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
What are the most fundamental regrets likely to be spoken or left unsaid on the deathbed?
1. I wish I had spent more time with the people I love.
2. I wish I had worried less.
3. I wish I had forgiven more.
4. I wish I had stood up for myself.
5. I wish I had lived my own life.
6. I wish I had been more honest.
7. I wish I had worked less.
8. I wish I had cared less about what other people think.
9. I wish I had lived up to my full potential.
10. I wish I had faced my fears.
11. I wish I'd stopped chasing the wrong things.
12. I wish I'd lived more in the moment.
Take a few moments now and revisit you’re your life, your business, your joys, your stuff. Ask yourself if there is anything that you might regret later. And if there is, act. Later will be now before you know it. All of our plans and possessions become so irrelevant, as life might take a different turn. Car accidents, terminal illness or tragic mass shootings
We do understand when the foolish man sighs and says: “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’” This is what we want too. This is what we plan for. This is what we work for in order to retire to a life of relaxation, eating, drinking and happiness. Indeed, in our time and age there is a storage industry, an anxiety industry and a decluttering industry, all directed to make us feel better and make it possible for us to relax, eat, drink and be merry.
“You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”
And then we sit here. With our pockets, purses, houses, cars, pension, no end to it all. And when the rich man gets his bad news, it might dawn upon us that we may be foolish too: carrying, covering, locking up our stuff, hoarding more and more, putting the true treasure of life on hold.
Jesus claims there is more to life than possessions. There are treasures.
Maybe life isn’t about “trying’ to find a place for your stuff.” Maybe it’s not about your abundance of possessions. There could be an alternative; —living in the moment, flying free as the ravens, beautifully blooming as the lilies, and being rich toward God. Collecting treasures and not possessions.
Like the old harvest hymns tells us to sing and to believe:
So, teach me, O God how to live as I can
As freely as forest birds cheeping.
Give thanks for the rainfall that watered my land,
For sunshine and warmth as the summer days ran,
Give praise for the harvests safe keeping.
Where was our success if you did not bless?
The harvest grows while we are seeping.
So, teach me, O God, how to do as you say,
To use every gift I am give,
With honest employment to fill every day
And help and protect those who fall by the way
To live, for therein is life’s leaven
And give me t last when this life is past
A name in Your Lifebook in heaven.