Caitlin Trussell with Augustana Lutheran Church on July 31, 2016
[sermon begins after 2 Bible readings]
Luke 12:12-21 [22-31] Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ 14But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ 15And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ 16Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” 18Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” 20But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’ 22 He said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!25And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?*26If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;* yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, strive for his* kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Colossians 3:1-11 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your* life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.*7These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.* 8But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive* language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal*there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve watched bits and pieces of two political parties’ national conventions. All the way around, it’s a big dose of presidential candidates, the people who support them, and their view of the world and America’s place in it. One of the things I’ve been wondering is what the conventions would look like if they followed the traditional Lutheran worship liturgy. “Liturgy” means the work of the people and there are a lot of people working pretty hard at those conventions. At the very least, they’re already standing and sitting at intervals. It’s a place to start.
Following the liturgy idea, what would it look like for political conventions to open with a confession? Imagine people saying together:
“…we have sinned by our fault, by our own fault, by our own grievous fault, in thought word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone…”
The thing is, we know because we confess week-after-week, that this is only part of the confession and forgiveness liturgy. But imagine the conventions opening with that kind of confession – starting the conversation from the point of being convicted. I know, I get it. Confession and media hype don’t go hand-in-hand. But there is something appealing about the idea.
Jesus is talking to thousands of people in the Bible story today. Thousands of people. Just a few verses before these thousands converge on him, he quietly teaches his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. Pastor Ann preached these verses last Sunday and talked about our God who listens when we pray. I had a conversation with someone during the week about the comfort we experience in the liturgy and the Lord’s Prayer. Sometimes this comfort is disrupted by a powerful conviction. The conviction of being on the wrong road with some part of life. A conviction that comes through the liturgy’s familiar words of scripture, prayer, and hymns. Convicted.
Pastor Tim Keller says, “If your god never disagrees with you, you might just be worshiping an idealized version of yourself.” I like Pastor Keller’s thought about God disagreeing with us. This disagreement is softer language for being convicted. But who is right if God disagrees with us? I’m going to guess God.
The Bible story in Luke is convicting. A man from the crowd yells out to Jesus. The man wants his help to settle an inheritance dispute with his brother. Jesus side-steps his question and speaks to the crowd:
Listen to verse 15: “And [Jesus] said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’”
Jesus warns them against all kinds of greed. You name it and you can be greedy for it – money, power, things, time, information, degrees, etc. There’s all kinds of greed but Jesus takes a moment to name one in particular – the abundance of possessions – and tells a story about a man and his crops. The man’s land produced abundantly. He looks at the crops and starts talking to himself. Something along the lines of “self, you’re gonna need a bigger barn.” Once this is settled, he updates his soul on the latest goings on. “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for you for many years; relax, eat, drink, and be merry.”
Apparently God has had enough of listening to the man speak only to himself, a first-person universe that includes only the man. In just three verses, he uses the personal pronoun “I” six times and the personal possessive “my” four times. Then, God calls him a “fool.”
A little background to this parable about the man and his barn in the 12th chapter of Luke. In the middle of the 10th chapter, Jesus and a lawyer get clear about the priority of loving God and loving neighbor as yourself with the parable of the Good Samaritan. At the beginning of Luke’s 11th chapter, the Lord’s Prayer is taught by Jesus to his disciples, including praying regularly for God’s kingdom come and our daily bread. Now, in chapter 12, Luke tells the Parable of the Barn Man. A couple things to note here. Wealth and saving for the future do not seem to be the issue. What does seem to be an issue is the Rich Fool’s first-person universe and the perversion of wealth and savings into greed.
Over the last few decades, wealth around the world has shifted to an ever shrinking percentage of people worldwide. Think “Roaring ‘20s.” I’ve wondered about this shift of wealth and track its impact on the most vulnerable people in the world. I’ve also wondered how the most vulnerable will react as it becomes more and more difficult to feed and raise their families. I’ve wondered about civil unrest and the price that is paid in blood by the most vulnerable. You don’t have to think very far back into history to see this at work. Although, for now, it seems that the presidential primaries have become a way to voice discontent.
Closer to home in the City of Denver, gentrification is out-pricing many urban families who move beyond the city limits along with the next rent increase. Many have lived in Denver for generations. While a few schools are bursting at the seams, Denver Public Schools is anticipating a decreased enrollment, in part, because of this gentrification. It’s close to home for us as a congregation and community with some of us facing this very real possibility in our own families.
Human greed functions in every kind of economic system. Capitalism is no different in that regard to socialism or communism. There is also no pure form of economic system. For example, America’s capitalism includes taxation that pays for roads, emergency services, schools, and Social Security. Regardless, as the primary economic system, capitalism can cloak greed in a respectability that makes it difficult to begin a conversation about it.
Conversation partners are sadly lacking in today’s parable. The man talks only to himself as he plans and builds. This is where the church has something to offer. Jesus says to be on guard against all kinds of greed and then tells this parable. We are conscripted as conversation partners through the gospel.
As conversation partners through the gospel, we begin at the end – FREE. Made free by Christ, hidden IN Christ as the Colossians reading reminds us. Already belonging to God beyond those pesky categories of Greek or Jew, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; and well beyond Independent, Libertarian, Democrat, Republican, and Green. This freedom in Christ means that fingers don’t point outward first – finding a soul on which to throw the greedy label. We point those fingers at ourselves.
Pointing our fingers at ourselves, we have a chance of seeing where we store up treasures for ourselves but are not rich toward God. Where we love possessions and money more than we love God and our neighbor. Let’s start there this week with that level of honesty. That greed no longer bankrupt our relationships with God and neighbor; that the gifts of mercy and generosity take hold through our baptisms. Trusting God’s final word of mercy through the death of Jesus, we find ourselves and our neighbors valued by God beyond anything any of us may possess.
By the power of the Holy Spirit through your baptism, may you be clothed with the new self, “which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.”
May God’s abundant grace free you from that which binds you. In the name of Christ (+), amen.
 Tim Keller (b. 1950 – present). https://twitter.com/timkellernyc/status/510458013606739968
 A nod to Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb’s screenplay for the movie Jaws (Universal: 1975).
 Luke 12:19
 Matt Skinner used this phrase in Sermon Brainwave podcast for Luke 12:13-21 on WorkingPreacher.org for July 31, 2016. http://www.workingpreacher.org/brainwave.aspx?podcast_id=784
 Luke 10:25-37 – Parable of the Good Samaritan
 Luke 11:1-4 – The Lord’s Prayer
 CHAD STONE, DANILO TRISI, ARLOC SHERMAN, AND EMILY HORTON. “A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends of Income Inequality.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, July 29, 2016. http://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/a-guide-to-statistics-on-historical-trends-in-income-inequality
 For example, The French Revolution
 Melanie Asmar. “Enrollment Drop Will Leave 100s of Teachers Jobless.” The Colorado Independent: March 16, 2016. http://www.coloradoindependent.com/158050/enrollment-drop-will-leave-100s-of-denver-teachers-jobless
 American Government: 13b. “Comparing Economic Systems.” http://www.ushistory.org/gov/13b.asp
 Colossians 3:3
 Colossians 3:11
 Luke 12:21
 Romans 12:8
 Colossians 3:10