Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions 

There are two tv programs I really enjoy.

One is Antiques Roadshow.
To see these amazing things that people have found or have had handed down to them being appraised by experts is fascinating.

To see the reactions to the valuations is even more fascinating.
It is there you see either joy or disappointment.
This thing they value is sometimes worth a lot, or is worthless.

Collecting things isn’t bad or wrong. It is something we do as humans.

Sarah collects Teasmades. You’ll have to ask her to explain them to you.
I collect books and cds. I get pleasure from reading and listening to music.

Collecting things isn’t bad, it is when collecting takes over our lives that we end up in trouble.

The other tv program I like is Hoarders.

It shows you someone’s house that is packed with stuff.
Often, they can’t move around, or there are rooms that have become oversized cupboards.
We look at the house and the people involved with pity.
We are thankful we are not like that.

But then we see the process of letting go of things.
We see the pain and anguish that that often involves.

Then we see the final result.
We are happy that the person’s house is now liveable.

But there is an emotional reaction.
We can see that the person has now gotten their life back.
They are now no longer a prisoner to their possessions.
It is an emotional experience, for the now ex-hoarder, and the viewer.

Collecting things is not bad. It is when collecting takes over our lives, and we are no longer ourselves free to be who we are, or free to be with God that collecting becomes a problem.

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; 

Earlier this week, a friend of mine on Facebook posted an image that said the following:

If a man has a house stacked to the ceiling with newspapers,
we call him crazy.
If a woman has a trailer house full of cats,
we call her nuts.
When people pathologically hoard so much cash that they impoverish others,
we put them on the cover of fortune magazine and pretend they are role models.

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; 

Greed is a monstrous thing.
Think of the hoarders.
Their inability to let go things means they imprison themselves, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

Think too of millionaires and billionaires.
We hear how they are wealth creators, but often it is at the cost of others.
It is often at cutting costs, wages, finding tax loopholes that their wealth is created.

Think of the banks.
They announce record profits, yet at the first sign of the government putting on a levy of %0.05, they say they have to increase fees.
Billions of dollars of profit a year still won’t cushion them from a small levy apparently.
They have a duty to their shareholders, thereby shouldering the blame on to others.
And the people that are CEOs of the banks are held up as leaders and paragons of society.

It is not right.
Yet, the hoarding of money is an acceptable and even admirable behaviour in our society.

But to Jesus, it was not.
To Christians it should not be.

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; 

See, it is not the possessions, or the money that is the problem.
It is greed.
The word Luke uses is literally, ‘the desire of gaining more and more.’
This is the problem.

Like the hoarder who gathers so many things that they can’t move in their house, if we desire more and more things, we become trapped in our desire.

Like the man in the parable.
He is so concerned about his security, that he neglects other areas of his life: other people, and God.

His desire to store more crops is so significant to him that he speaks to his soul, his very being.
And I will say to my soul,
‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years;
relax, eat, drink, be merry.’

Jesus warned about this:
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”

But his storage of his goods does not really supply him the security he is after. His wealth provides no security in the sense that his life may be very short.
If he were to die tomorrow, what use would his stored crops be?

‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you.
And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 

The need to acquire goods, the need to hold on to things, the need to increase wealth, these behaviours are the most destructive in our relationships with each other, and even more so in our relationship with God.

The need to acquire more and more comes from fear,
and that fear has nothing to do with God. A real relationship with God casts out fear, and in such a relationship, fear of not having enough money or possessions does not exist.

One’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions

We know this to be true, for the life we have in Jesus is worth far more than our bank accounts, or piles of books, or cds.
Our life in Jesus is the pearl of great price, there is nothing of greater value. Our life is worth so much,
not because of what we own or possess or have stored away,
but because of the love God has for us.
That is how valuable we are.

The creator of all things, of all time, loves us.
That is worth more than our bank accounts, libraries, or knick knacks.

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