Pentecost 11, 2016 Bunker Hill, Luke 12:13-21
Luke 12:21, That is how it is with the man who piles up treasure for himself and remains a pauper in the sight of God.
Sometime ago there was an article in the newspapers about a street called “Easy Street” in Huron, South Dakota. It seemed, however, that “Easy Street” was difficult to find because the signs had been stolen two years in a row. “Incidentally,” the article concluded, “no one lives on the street.”
This morning Jesus teaching us, not how to find “Easy Street,” but about the cost and the benefits of following him to “Cross road.” Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, where the cross looms; where he will lay his head down in a borrowed tomb; and in three days emerge from that cocoon to reclaim the glory that was his before he was born of Mary’s womb.
He is preparing us for living in this world under God’s rule. The cause for rejoicing is that our names are written in heaven. In his visit to the home of Martha and Mary, he showed that the right way to receive him and to serve him is to listen to him; to allow him to first serve us. Furthermore, he teaches us how to speak with our heavenly Father. His Father’s name is holy. We are to us his name in praise and thanksgiving for giving us our daily living and forgiving our daily sins.
Jesus is teaching his disciples in the midst of swarming crowds; so restive they are trampling one another. The religious leaders are fiercely assailing him, plying him with questions, laying snares to catch him and use his own words against him. If Jesus can teach his first disciples in those kind of conditions, he can certainly teach us in the sometimes chaotic world in which we live.
Don’t worry, he tells us, about those who might persecute you. That’s all the power they have. God will take care of us. He takes care of the sparrow does he not? Stay true to the good news of Christ which the Holy Spirit brings into our life. Don’t worry, the Holy Spirit will give us the words we need when called upon to confess his name. Jesus is teaching about living in His kingdom, while we are still on earth when, suddenly he is interrupted.
Out of the madding crowd comes the voice of one who has other things on his mind than the kingdom of God. He has a pressing issue. We shouldn’t consider that unusual. Any of us here this morning might have something weighing on our mind which has nothing to do with what I’m talking about in this sermon. The man who interrupted Jesus has lost his father; and he believes his brother hasn’t dealt fairly in dividing the estate. He wants Jesus, the Teacher, help him get a fairer share of the inheritance. We all know families where dividing the possessions etc. has left division and animosity in its wake. The thought of the psalmist, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity,” suffers from conflict between family members.
However, Jesus, who will one day come in power and glory to judge the living and the dead at the end of time, refuses to get involved in this family squabble. He sees greed, covetousness. Instead, Jesus uses this interruption to teach us to direct our attention not to the accumulation of treasures here on earth but set our minds on things that are above. Where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. That is where our life, our true life, is hid with Christ in God. We have an inheritance of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. This inheritance has been intended for us since before God spoke “Let there be” for the first time as he brought the creation into being. More than that our inheritance is sealed, guaranteed, with the Holy Spirit is a down payment. It’s in a trust until Christ returns when we shall appear with him in glory and receive in all its fullness which has been promised from before the ages began. Now Jesus was heading toward Jerusalem and the cross to gain our life and salvation so that we would look beyond grubbing out a life here and live our life with an eye on our true and eternal future. It’s true, heaven is our home.
Of course that is easier said than carried out in our life. So while teaching us to how to find the true “Easy Street, located in heaven, Jesus tells a very down to earth story about a successful farmer. I asked my younger brother, Wayne, to read Jesus parable of the greedy farmer who though wise in the ways of agribusiness; nevertheless, was declared a fool by God. In the bible a fool is one who does not believe in God. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” My brother wrote in part, “How we deal with abundance can be a big stumbling block for Christians. Fighting our human nature and following what God would want us to do.”
My brother thought, the farmer had good soil, and a stretch of good weather. He had planted his seeds at the right time and had little pressure from pests. Because of superior farming practices this was not his first good crop. Indeed, the harvest was so bountiful that his storage facilities were going to be filled to overflowing. What to do? Ah, he said to himself, tear down the old and build new and bigger granaries. Now, at last he had it made. He could retire and finally enjoy life. His future was secure. He could take it easy. He could finally do all the things he had been putting off.
Isn’t that what we try to do? To have enough invested etc. so we can live out our life in security? That the farmer had achieved his goal wasn’t the problem. Why shouldn’t he gain some long term benefit from all his hard work and good sense of succeeding in agribusiness? Why shouldn’t he be able to eat, drink and be merry? But Solomon cautions us in our Old Testament lesson, for a person “To eat and drink and experience pleasure in return for his labors, this does not come from any good in a person: it comes from God.” Ah, there it is. Solomon continues, “For apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”
The problem comes in life when we do not take God into account, when God is good for Sunday but ignored Monday through Saturday. Jesus has taught us to pray “Father, holy be your name, let your kingdom come. Father, you give us our daily bread; You forgive our sins; you save us in the time of testing.” But the farmer prayed,” I” and spoke of “mine.” I, will do this with my produce, my barns, my grain. I will say to myself. He didn’t have anything to say to God, nor an ear with which to listen to God. The psalmist called us to “Acknowledge that the Lord is God; he made us and we are his, his own people.” That didn’t come into play for the farmer. Therefore, he was a fool. When he sold his grain, his house and yard would be filled with treasures for his enjoyment and everyone else to see. But he had no treasure stored up in heaven. Martin Luther writes, “Through the Gospel we have been given a treasure which is not goods and gold, power and honor, joy and happiness of this world, and not even life on this earth, but hope. In this treasure we are baptized.” The farmer had no hope, beyond that which he could see and touch. And that night God required him to surrender his life. All that he had accumulated here on earth would belong to someone else and eventually turn to rust and dust just as the farmer would someday.”
However, would you like to live on “Easy Street?” You won’t find it on “Cross Road”, then look up and you are home.