Tenth Sunday after Pentecost / August 1, 2010 / Resurrection Lutheran Church / Text: Luke 12: 13-21 / Message by: Rev. Carol Kniseley / God’s Teachable Moments
I want to begin today’s message by referring back to something Pastor Jim said in a sermon not too long ago. In referring to children, he stated that their impression of God is being formed right now. In other words…even our youngest child, including infants, is beginning to sense God’s presence in their life…even God’s touch and perhaps even God’s voice. How can this be, you ask? Because educators in early childhood development tell us that the key role models for any child is undoubtedly their parents. Not to put any undue pressure on any of the parents here today, but I think it is safe to say that it is through you, the parents, that children first learn about God. Which leads me to surmise, then, that every single waking moment of any child’s life…becomes a teachable moment in the eyes of God.
To the parents, I would like to offer some reassurance: you are not in this daunting task alone! Here at Resurrection, we want to help you raise your child in the faith...and it all begins with bringing your child to God’s house…and particularly, to Sunday School. It is there in an age-appropriate atmosphere, that your child will begin to learn about God through the stories in the Bible. And beginning this year, these are the same stories that we will be hearing read during worship. Why is this important? Because now parents will be able to talk with their children about what they learned in Sunday School…and continue the discussion throughout the week…as more “teachable moments” arise at home.
And speaking of ‘teachable moments’, that is exactly what Luke records for us in today’s lesson…as Jesus makes his way toward the city of Jerusalem. Let me begin by saying that Luke has always been concerned about how we view our possessions. Our stuff. Be it money in the bank, or clothes in the closet, or the latest gadgets on our walls…we all collect “stuff” that to us is really important to have. Or at least that is what we have fooled ourselves into believing.
Yet, in the first chapter of Luke, we are reminded of the time when Mary, the mother of Jesus, went to visit her cousin Elizabeth…who is 6 months pregnant with soon to be born, John the Baptist. When Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting, the child in her womb leaps for joy…knowing that Mary is now pregnant with God’s son. It is then that Mary bursts into song (so to speak)…even stating: “….God has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.”
And then, as if to drive the point further home, in Luke chapter seven, Jesus is heard reading in the synagogue and for the very first time acknowledges that what has been written in the book of Isaiah about the Messiah…has been written about him. (Quote) “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news…to the poor”.
Now to chapter 12 and today’s lesson. The reason that Jesus doesn’t take any time in addressing the man’s complaint…is that frankly, in Jesus’ own mind…he has come for the sake of the poor…and not the rich. Jesus has something else on his mind…and he graciously gives us a clue in verse 15, when he says: “Take care! (or as in some translations: Watch out!) Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
And to prove his point…he unveils one of his parables, what has been labeled: The Parable of the Rich Fool. Which begs the question…what makes the man…a fool? Apparently it isn’t the fact that he suddenly finds himself with a bountiful harvest of crops (for which he himself had nothing to do with). Nor is it the realization that his barns are already filled to capacity, leaving him no room to store such an unexpected blessing.
What makes him a fool…in God’s eyes…is that instead of seeing this as a ‘good problem to have’…even being an opportunity for sharing his “wealth” with those in need, the man turns in on himself and settles on tearing down his existing barns to make room for larger ones instead. His goal is unmistakable: to secure his own future by hoarding all that he has been blessed with…even to the exclusion of those in need. His possessions have lulled him into a false sense of security…and the belief that all is well.
The point being: all is not well. For what was lacking…was any mention of God. How God was the one who supplied the soil and the minerals and the rain and the sun. Even to the neighbors who bought his produce in order to feed their own families so that their children could grow up and work in the man’s fields. He was rich in possessions, yes…but poor in soul. Ironically, according to Jesus’ own words…he had come for the sake of the poor.
If only the man could have realized how bankrupt he truly was, and poured his energy into being rich toward God…maybe then, Jesus would be telling a different story. With his sights on Jerusalem, Jesus knows all too well…that unless a person is willing to empty themselves of all the “stuff” that the world has to offer…there can no room for God. The rich man in today’s parable was far too interested in counting his many blessings…only in the end…receiving none.
And that is why…if I were to take this story and teach it to our youngest children (knowing that we have Sunday School for children as young as 2 and 3 years old)…the word that I would focus on is: SHARE. Share with others. Knowing, parents, that the word “MINE” is already imprinted in their brains…it’s going to be a tough sell. But also know this. If we think that it is only the children who need to learn about sharing, we need to think again.
In a world turned in on itself…what better witness can we provide, than to open up these barn doors and in gratitude…share what it truly means: to be rich toward God. It could just be…the most profound teaching moment that the people of Resurrection have ever seen. I can only imagine. Can you? Amen.