“I have an affection for a great city. I feel safe in the neighborhood of man, and enjoy the sweet security of the streets." -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, August 2, 2010

What does your life contain?

Luke 12:13-21

In a world of piling credit, the have more want more mentality, and the bigger the better idea, this passage is often hard for us to hear. This passage not only beckons us to examine our physical resources, the things that we have or own but also encourages us to look at what is really important in our lives.

According to globalissues.org, at least 80% of people in the world live on less than $10 dollars a day or a yearly salary of $3,600. The richest 20% of the world’s population account for three quarters of the world’s income and 24,000 children die each day due to lack of nutrition, health care, or safety concerns that are the result of poverty. Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century without being able to read, write, or even sign their own name. This week someone told me that if you have running water, an indoor bathroom, electricity, a means of employment, a roof over your head, and a means of transportation (even if it is public transportation) you are in the top 60% of the world’s population.

I do not share these statistics this morning to make us feel guilty for the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the homes in which we live, or the jobs that employ us but rather to make us think about where we place our focus, our priorities.

This is a question I often have to ask myself. Where is my priority? Where is my focus? What is important in my own life. Is a fabulous pair of shoes important or, rather, is the ministry I do in this place, with you, of great importance. Where do we place our value? What does our life consist of?

The man that we meet in Jesus’ parable placed very little value on relationships. He placed little value on helping others, sharing with others, and loving his neighbor. He built larger barns to store all that he had grown. He hoarded his wealth, in order to make his life the easiest, the best, and the most relaxed. To top that Jesus shares this parable with those who are listening in the crowed because someone has demanded that Jesus, the Messiah, make his family give him the inheritance that he feels he is due. The overarching connection between these two individuals is greed. Self-centered, self-seeking, and self-interested, greed.

The past few weeks we have been journeying with Joseph. Unlike the man in the parable, Joseph built storehouses for the excess grain so that when others needed it he gave it away with a generous heart. Because of his foresight an entire country was saved during a time of feminine. Joseph shows us the difference in planning verses greed. With the man from this morning’s parable we do not encounter planning, but rather we encounter the essence of greed. He did not build larger barns in hopes of being a service to those around him. He did not take his great wealth and offer it to those who needed help, but rather he wanted to “relax, eat, drink, and be merry.” Greed became the essence of this man. He life enveloped around it. Do you think that when he built a larger barn it was enough? Doubtful. More than likely he built another, and then another. Greed is what takes us from the simply wanting to the never having enough.

We have seen this in our news haven’t we? We have heard about companies for whom a billion does not seem to be enough revenue. We have watched as BP needed to build a bigger barn without placing a safety valve on their equipment. We have also all watched as this greed impacted our brothers and sisters on our gulf coast. Many of us have personally felt the impacts of the crisis in the gulf. Some of us may know a fisherman who is in desperate need of the open waters to survive. The impacts of Greed can be far reaching. It not only destroys the heart of those on whom it has a grasp but it can also destroy the lives of many other people.

Recently, I sat and listened to a former minister tell about the generosity of one of the members of this congregation. I was moved by the story and amazed at how it reminded me of the lesson that Christ teaches us this morning. At her memorial service, he told a story about the interaction his family had with her kindness. As a young child his daughter became ill. As the family visited doctors they soon realized that affording the procedure would be a financial hardship to their family, and perhaps even impossible for them to afford. A generous member from this congregation gave them, anonymously, the exact amount of money necessary to afford the medical procedure for their child. They later came to learn of this generous giver and remain grateful to this day. On hearing this story a few weeks ago I was amazed at the giving spirit this wonderful woman. She stands in great contrast to the man who built larger barns to hoard his wealth of crops so that he could “relax, eat, drink, and be merry.” She stands in great contrast to those who have their lives enveloped with greed.

We must ask our self this morning where do our priorities lay? Are we like Joseph and the woman who helped a family in need or are we like the man who could not get enough. Are they found in bigger barns or in a giving spirit? Are our priorities found in begging Jesus to give us what we are due or are they found relationships with our family, friends, and individuals in this community of faith? Where are our priorities?

It is through Christ sacrifice on the cross that he gave of himself. This was the most selfless act that the world has ever seen. Our messiah did this so that we could have a relationship with our Lord. On the night before Christ gave up his own life for us he invited us to remember the love, the actions, and the relationship through the bread and the wine. He told his disciples to “do this in remembrance of me.” And so, that is what we will do this morning. We will remember Christ selfless act. We will remember how our Lord placed priority on relationships rather than bigger barns. And we will remember the love that was demonstrated on the Cross.

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