Pentecost 9-C/August 11, 2019/Community Lutheran/Pr. Joe Vought
Genesis 15:1-6 Ps 33:12-22 Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 Luke 12:32-40
Last week we heard a parable about a rich man who thought only of himself, planned only for himself and was surprised when God said, “this very night your life is at an end, and the things you have acquired, whose will they be?”
Today’s Gospel continues Jesus’ teaching on wealth and true riches. It seems that Jesus spends as much time talking about money and possessions as he does about faith and God. Then and now our Lord knows how consumed we are with the things of this world. How often we are driven by anxiety and worry. Abraham is anxious and questions God in the first Lesson, “What will you give me, for I continue childless?” And then notice what God does? He takes him outside and tells him to look up, “Look toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to. So shall your descendants be!” God’s people were anxious when God delivered them from Egypt, even when God struck water from a rock and sent manna from heaven. When Moses was delayed on Mt. Sinai, they got anxious and made a golden calf.
Does our worry and anxiety draw us to God or something else? Jesus invites us to take a good hard look. When we look at the world do we see a projection of ourselves, our wants (anxiety) and desires? Or do we appreciate this world, the people we are with, as the arena and place for Godly love and service?
This past week Debra enjoyed a few days in New York City. We visited “The Tenement Museum” on the Lower East Side that tells the stories of immigrants and their lives that were a pathway to the “American dream.” John and Caroline Schneider left families in Germany for a new life. They worked together operating Schneider’s Lager Beer Saloon on 87 Orchard Street from 1864-1886. Caroline cooked, John brewed the beer and their saloon was a place where people gathered to socialize, share food and drink, debate the politics of the day and support each other. They lived in a tiny apartment behind the saloon which was a center of hospitality for neighbors and friends. They attended a Lutheran Church and when their time came they were buried there. What a life they lived: worshiping God, caring for each other, serving others and building community.
Jesus says we will look at God in one of two ways- as a Master or a Thief. When we look at life as if we are Lords and owners, forgetting God and others, trying to build our kingdoms, God will come as a Thief, like the man who thought only of himself. Or, Jesus says, we may look at life as if we are servants, caring for an estate, like running a saloon, to welcome enjoy it and share it with others. What is required of servants? That we do good work, care for the estate of the Master, care for each other and keep an eye on the door, so when the Master comes we are ready. When the Master comes and finds us serving, loving others, He will fasten His belt and He will serve us.
I like the way Fr. Henri Nouwen speaks of how we are to listen for God and live by God’s values. “From the beginning of my life, two interior voices have been speaking to me: one saying, “Henri, be sure you make it on your own. Be sure you become an independent person. Be sure I can be proud of you.” And another voice saying, “Whatever you do, even if you don’t do anything very interesting in the eyes of the world, be sure you listen and stay close to the heart of Jesus, be sure you stay close to the love of God.” (“Spiritual Direction”)
We all have anxiety about our world, work and loved ones. I know news of my retirement is causing a little anxiety. What about the future? Remember, six years ago we said farewell to Pr. Tiffany. We grieved, we kept worshiping, listening to God, caring for each other, praying for wisdom and Pr. Annabelle arrived. This church is resilient and changing again. And God is good. Pr. Annabelle, this talented staff and you will move forward in faith to write new chapters.
Jesus says “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!” Invest your time and energy in the Treasure of God’s Kingdom that will not wear out, where no thief can steal. Do good work. Take on a ministry that serves our youth or children. Give your money to this wonderful Church or other causes so you will not be possessed by your possessions. Invest in Faith, Family and Community. With Abraham, Sarah and all who came before us, “we look toward a city whose architect and builder is God.” Like John and Caroline Schneider we are immigrants passing through, trying to learn what it means to Welcome Others, Grow in Grace and Share God’s Love. We can only receive with open hands and pass it on. Let us love God and love each other while we can. Amen.