Christ Church, St. Michaels Parish
July 31, 2016
I have never been much of a TV watcher. In fact, over the course of the past ten years I can truthfully say that I have watched almost no TV at all. But recently, wanting to keep abreast of the presidential candidates and their various antics, I began to watch the evening news hour.
At first, I stuck with CNN, with an occasional foray over to Fox News to keep Devin happy. After several days I bravely ventured over to our local channels and out of the country networks such as BBC. I guess, at least in the old days, one would call this channel surfing – perhaps it still is called channel surfing.
At any rate, in these wanderings from channel to channel I was making a valiant effort to find a network that would provide more than three minutes of news to every five minutes of advertising. Three minutes of news, or commentaries, delivered at such an aggressively fast rate of speech that I sometimes found it hard to follow what people were saying.
My efforts to locate more informational content and less aggressive marketing met with no success. Station after station greeted me with frequent and prolonged advertisements of every size and shape. Advertisements designed to intrigue and convince; to seduce and to capture. Advertisements designed to create a culture in which the products being brokered, including medications for every ailment imaginable, were publicized as “must haves” if life was to be experienced in the fullest, most comfortable and emotionally exciting way possible.
Perhaps those of you who have watched TV on a regular basis over the course of the past few years are not so affected by this intrusion of these up-close and in-your-face sales pitches. But, for someone who has been out of the TV loop for many years, the experience of this intrusion of marketing that far surpasses program content has been a rude awakening.
So, you may not be surprised when I say to you that when I first re-read Luke’s parable of the Rich Fool in preparation for today’s sermon, I immediately thought about the plethora of TV salespeople who daily play on our greed.
Salespeople whose entire focus is to convince us that our incredibly rich lives should be even richer than they already are. Salespeople who continually encourage us to store up more and more treasures for ourselves. Salespeople who put forth an incessant “white noise” that threatens to thwart the ability of the eyes and ears of our hearts to experience the multiple blessings that God’s presence in our lives provides.
Jesus’ teaching in the Parable of the Rich Fool directly addresses the potential impact of television’s massive ad campaigns. Quite simply, Jesus is saying, “Take care! Be on your guard against your greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
Jesus first says this to the man who asked Him to arbitrate between him and his brother.
In ancient times, the firstborn was guaranteed a double portion of the family inheritance. More than likely, the man who was addressing Jesus was not the firstborn and was asking for an equal share of the inheritance. Jesus refuses to arbitrate the brothers’ dispute and gets to the heart of the matter saying, life is so much more than the “abundance of possessions.”
Jesus then proceeds to tell the man the Parable of the Rich Fool.
Jesus then proceeds to tell the man the Parable of the Rich Fool.
This Rich Fool was materially blessed by God; his land “produced plentifully”. As God continued to bless the man, instead of using his increased wealth to further the will of God, he was interested only in accumulating and storing his abundant crops, for his own personal use, his growing wealth. So the man builds larger barns in place of the existing ones and starts planning an early retirement. Unbeknownst to him, this was his last night on planet earth.
Jesus closes the story by saying, “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 towards God.”
The point of the Parable of the Rich Fool is twofold. First, we are not to devote our lives to the gathering and accumulation of wealth. If money and possessions are our master, that means that God is not. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, “No one can serve two masters…. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
The second point of the Parable of the Rich Fool is the fact that we have been blessed by God not with the expectation of hoarding our blessings, our wealth, for ourselves. We have been blessed by God to be a blessing in the lives of others. We are blessed by God in order to build the kingdom of God.
In 2 Corinthians Paul writes, “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” (2 Cor 9:8)
We are blessed by God, so that we can in turn be a blessing in the lives of others.
So, if God has blessed you with material wealth “set not your heart on it” but “be rich toward God.” That is the message of the Parable of the Rich Fool.
Incessant TV commercials are but one of the multiple distractions in our lives that encourage us to accumulate our many blessings - for ourselves. The messages sent out via various media are almost exclusively focused on “me” what is good for me? I have come across very few messages, whether on TV, FB, or other media, that focus on “the other” – how can I bless “the other”? And yet, it is “the other” that God calls us to bless – with our blessings.
What does this message that calls us to be a blessing to others mean for us here at Christ Church in a multi-layered time of transition – the upcoming presidential election; the arrival and investiture of a new bishop in the Diocese of Easton; and the initiation of a search for a new rector here at Christ Church?
It means nothing more, or nothing less, than it has always meant from the very beginning of Scripture when God made his initial covenant with Abraham saying, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing…And Abraham went, as the Lord had told him.” (Gen 12:1-4)
God tells Abraham that his blessings are meant to be shared, not hoarded. In blessing Abraham, God was intentionally seeking to bless the world – to bring the world to a place of abundance and peace for all.
Of course, our ultimate blessing from God was the gift of his son Jesus, who came not only to bring salvation, but also, and most importantly, to show us the way – the way to offer compassion, care and love – the way to share our treasures – our blessings. It is only through that sharing that we are able to share in the abundance and peace of God’s eternal kingdom.
Bestowing our blessings on others – often referred to as charity – goes deeper than merely taking out our checkbooks and donating money to a good cause. It also means more than just showing up on a Sunday to worship with friends in familiar and beautiful surroundings.
Bestowing our blessings involves investing – not only our money, but more importantly ourselves in the community of Christ – the church – our church. Investing time, talent and treasure to build the community into a land of “milk and honey;” a garden that flourishes and produces enough to feed any and all in the community far and wide.
Bestowing our blessings consists of the very same selfless, unconditional and voluntary loving kindness that we see in Jesus – it’s the way Jesus loves us and the way that Jesus commands us to love, to be a blessing, to others – all others.
So in this time of transition, we cannot lose sight of the fragile nature of God’s church in this place and at this moment in time - this fragile time when old ties are broken and new ties have yet to be established and strengthened. If we do not listen carefully to the parable of the Rich Fool, we may well hear God’s words ringing in our ears, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things that you have prepared, whose will they be? So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
In this fragile time of transition, we cannot allow the white noise of TV commercials and the pervasive messages throughout society that focus on “me,” to block out – to overshadow – our call from Jesus to put our treasures where our heart is – to invest, in every way possible, in this blessed community of Christ – this blessing that God has bestowed on us – Christ Church, St. Michaels Parish, and the Christ Church community of St. Michaels.
In Paul’s 1st Letter to Timothy he writes, “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.” (1 Tim 6:17-19)
Let us give thanks to God for the many blessings that he has bestowed upon us, and let us be a blessing to our church and to our community. AMEN