Sermon for August 4, 2019
Texts: Micah 6:6-8; Psalm 122; Colossians 3:1-4; Luke 12:13-21
Sermon: "What Is in Your Barn?"
A famine is not really an unusual occurrence in some parts of the world. But a few years ago, a story about an area of Mozambique in southern Africa touched my heart deeply.
The people there do not farm to make money. They farm to stay alive. The weather in recent years has wreaked true havoc in their attempts to raise crops, particularly the dry spells caused by that phenomenon called El Nino.
October came that year. But the rains did not come.
The people waited, hoping the rains would come in November or in December or in January. But the rains did not come.
Some decided to plant and just hope that maybe the rains would come. But in the spring of the next year, no one had anything to harvest.
They usually harvest once a year and expect their food from that harvest to last for the entire year.
To make matters worse, many people ATE the remaining seeds they had because it was the only nutrition they had. That meant nothing to plant the next year.
Hearing a story like this evokes compassion in our hearts. We can't imagine a life in which there is not just a scarcity of food but no food at all, not just a smaller crop to harvest but no crop at all.
And here comes Jesus telling us about someone who had so much that he had to build new barns to hold it.
With a first read of the parable Jesus tells in the lesson today, we might instinctively wonder just what is foolish about the man in the parable.
Here is what we know about him from what Jesus tells us:
He is a very rich man.
He has been successful in his business of farming.
He has been so successful that he is running out of room for all the crops that are piling up around him. He has no place that will hold all of it.
So he builds a much bigger barn so he'll have a place to store the abundance of crops.
He looks around at how well he has done. Now, he thinks, "I'll have plenty for my golden years."
Are you wondering: What is foolish about planning for the future? Isn't that considered prudent thinking, even wise?
Well, let's be clear:
Jesus is not speaking against having wealth and enjoying it. Rather, Jesus uses the parable to reveal what it looks like when one forgets that riches come from God.
-- that the providence of God grants the abundant crops,
-- that the servants who toil in the fields have contributed to the overflow that surrounds the farm owner now,
--and that a barn filled with crops is not cause for boasting but for gratitude and praise of God and sharing with neighbors who are not so blessed.
To sharpen the irony of the man's satisfaction with himself, the parable tells that God comes to the man that very night to say, "How foolish you are. Whose barn full of crops will this be now? You are about to give up your life."
The foolish rich man forgot whose hand guides life itself.
The rich farmer does not give thanks to God.
He does not acknowledge that others, such as workers in the fields, had a hand in his abundance.
His barn overflows with material wealth, and that wealth dominates his life and gives him security that all is well for him.
It is easy to be lulled into such a false security by a barn full of stuff.
But I do wonder: what does someone who doesn't have a barn, much less anything to put in it, think about this parable?
Might Jesus have a message for them about hoarding riches in a barn?
I guess the story could be about something other than crops or money or other material things.
What if we made this a parable about our talents, our gifts? They, too, are ours because of God's gracious providence, God's loving care of us and of the world.
Some of us tuck away our talents. For what would we be saving them?
I think about people who are experienced in life, who have much to share with the younger generation. Does the parable speak to them?
What might you do to share what you have learned about life, about living, about God in your life? How might you bless someone in this church family by sharing that wisdom?
How could you share what you know with younger folks who have not had the advantage of your gifts or your experience in playing an instrument, singing, drawing, painting, growing flowers or vegetables?
Maybe you have a gift for storytelling or for reading aloud or for whittling or working with wood or fishing or identifying birds or working on automobile engines.
Are you storing all those God-given experiences and talents in a barn? How might you share those, glorify God by sharing those talents with your church family, your neighbors?
Jesus reminds us that instead of filling up bigger barns -- be rich toward God.
Being rich toward God includes tithing and giving offerings for the work of God's kingdom on earth. Being rich toward God also means giving of our talents and abilities to show our gratitude toward God. Being rich toward God means exhibiting that love we are called to give -- with mind, heart, body, soul, and strength -- to God and to neighbor.
There are no storage barns in heaven. But you can pass it on to others. You can pass on those gifts that bless you in this life.
God calls us today simply to imagine how we might do that, how we might pass it forward, each unique talent or gift or whatever God has given us in abundance. A shared blessing multiplies joy, satisfies our soul, and makes God smile.
Someone has suggested imagining this parable of the foolish rich man told in reverse:
A man became very wealthy. Everything he touched turned to more wealth, more abundance. Instead of putting everything away for himself for some later day, he put everything to work.
He established two charitable programs. One would provide funds for feeding the hungry. The other would provide money to help people who were without jobs and could not care properly for their families.
His abundance gave comfort and hope to many others.
He used his God-given creativity to figure out who might best benefit from his sharing. He became much more blessed by God as he emptied his barn of excess stored there.
He refused to let the abundance just sit there in the barn. He refused to sit there and do nothing when he knew there were needs all around him.
He acted out of love. He acted out of faith. He acted out of gratitude to God for all God had provided him.
Friends, ask yourself these questions:
Is your barn full of something that needs to be shared?
Are you giving back to God by honoring him and honoring others in your life?
Jesus teaches us that God has set us apart as his church to show his will for all humanity as we try to follow the teachings of Jesus.
And Jesus clearly shows us what God says through the ancient prophet Micah: How do we describe what God calls us to do. We know he calls us "to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God" (Micah 6:8).
In all things, let us give thanks to God and be rich toward God -- giving our utmost as we love and serve him by loving and serving our neighbors. Amen.