Plymouth United Church of Christ

Right click to download to your computer.

Subscribe to Plymouth's podcast and receive sermons and other special events automatically (this link for iTunes only. If you don't have iTunes, this link might work for you).

“Is Your Storage Barn Big Enough?”
Sermon, Year C, Proper 13, August 4, 2013
Plymouth United Church of Christ, Eau Claire, WI
© Rev. David J. Huber
Focus Scripture: Luke 12:13-21

This parable has been running through my head and become personal in some ways in the last week. Scripture lessons are always bouncing around in my head while I’m preparing sermons, but a couple things happened this week that are a bit out of the ordinary, not weekly happenings. I will talk a bit more about that later on. But first, I want to get into this parable that Jesus tells.

There is a man who comes to Jesus and asks him to arbitrate over some inheritance that this man wants to be part of. So Jesus tells this parable about a man who already has everything that he needs. At least, that is how I read it here. This man Jesus is talking about already had everything that he needed. Jesus says that he is rich. It is clear that his storage bins have been big enough for whatever needs he’s had in the past. Big enough for himself, and big enough to make him rich over the years. And then, he is beset by an abundance. One might even say he was cursed by this abundance of crops. He is given an abundance. And it is an abundance of food. Something that does not last forever. It is not gold or silver. It is food. It is a temporary thing.

He’s given an opportunity here, in a sense, to test his faith. Or at least to test his character. To test who he is as a man.

What will he do? What will he do, now that he has been given this abundance? How will he respond?

This is a question we can ask ourselves: How would I respond?

The man has had no problem surviving on what he had before. Now he has abundance.

What to do?

What would you do?

What do you think God might want you to do with an abundance?

This man fails his test. Instead of keeping only what his barns could hold, which has been enough, he decides instead he’s going to raise the bar of what he will consider to be enough. He is going to raise what is acceptable, and tear down his barns and build bigger ones and then rest easy because, “Hey, I’m taken care of. I have more than I need now.”

But God says, “Tonight you die. And what value will all that have after you die? What kind of treasure are you storing up?”

As I said, this scripture lesson has been rolling through my head this week through a couple of experiences. This question “What is the value of stuff?” Of material things? The things we surround ourselves with?

The first experience was that a friend died earlier this week. Irene Foslin was her name. When I was born until I was about five, Irene and her family lived right next door to us. Our yards touched each other. Two houses right next to each other. And as I thought of Irene this week, I realized she might very well have been the first non-family adult in my life. If not the first, she was certainly one of the first. She was sometimes babysitter, and she also had four kids that were about my age, a little older. Sometimes she acted as mom if I was at her house playing, making sure we were safe and had snacks and took care of us, the things a mother does. And at that time, in the '60s, if she saw me outside doing something naughty she had no hesitation to yell out the window, “Hey...”

There was another family, across the street, with five kids, all a little older but in the same age range as my sister and the Foslins. All elementary age when I was living in that house. And we all hung out together a lot, the three families, and occasionally some other neighborhood children. Then when I was five we moved to another part of town. A few years later, the Foslins moved to another part of town. Then the Swansons moved to another part. But we stayed in touch over the years in one way or another, especially the ones who stayed in Janesville. Not to the point of hanging out together, but there was a bond that was forged as children and from being neighbors, and we were able to stay on top of where people were, what they were doing. And that bond continued over the years. So when Irene died this week, I had to go to Janesville for the funeral. That was very important, because it was Irene, and I knew her family would also be there. And Irene was just a wonderful woman. Very generous, very faithful. Catholic. Which for our family – my parents grew up in a Lutheran tradition that was a little suspicious of the Catholics. We kind of whispered it, “You know, Irene, (whisper) they’re Catholic.” But she was okay. We got along really well. And she was the only Catholic I knew for a long time. She was loving, kind, generous, and raised her four kids as a single mom in the 70s. Not so easy to do. She worked for the newspaper in Janesville. And even with four kids, she made sure they all went to parochial school. So maybe not a lot in material wealth or stuff around them, but she made sure they had a good education, that they were loved, and that whenever they had friends over there was always room at the table. There was always enough food for whoever was there. Much like this Communion table. Always an abundance. Always enough.

So I went down to the funeral, and a lot of the old neighborhood were there. Probably the first time we were all together in 25 or 30 years. We would meet one another separately over the years, but not together. My sister and I were there, the Foslin kids all there, two of the Swanson kids, and the Swanson parents were both there. The first time that we had been together since the 70s or early 80s. As we gathered in the vestibule during the visitation, we got to sharing stories and catching up and laughing and remembering. This was fifty years or more of knowing each other, at least for the older ones.

And this parable kept popping into my mind, about storing up treasures of heaven or earthly treasures. It kept coming to mind because I felt in that moment as we were sharing stories, THIS moment, THESE people, THIS experience: THAT is what really matters. Everything else was just not as important. To be with these people and to remember. All that stuff that is in our storage barns, or in our storage sheds – drive around Eau Claire and see all the storage places, and around the country; we have too much stuff, and we need to rent places to store it – it just doesn’t matter anywhere near as much as these friendships, shared lives, shared experiences. No one gets applauded at their funeral for their selfishness or their accumulation of goods.

I was also anticipating my friend Jim and his family coming here Saturday. As I was at the funeral on Friday morning, I was thinking of them coming Saturday night and I was excited to see them again. It had been nine years. That was so much more important to me than stuff or things.

Those are the treasures of heaven. As I look at my past I cannot think of anything I’ve ever given away that I miss or regret giving. But I can think of many times that I regret what I didn’t give. The times that I did not share of myself or my time. When I was selfish or greedy. I can think of many moments I regret, but I never regret any moment of generosity. And for the most part, I don’t even remember what I have given away. But I remember that it has made people happy or done good things.

The man’s fault in this parable is not that he built barns. He already has them, and Jesus seems to be okay with the fact that he already has these storage sheds for his food. The problem was that his “enough”, which had been enough, was no longer enough. Instead of sharing the excess, the abundance; instead of being satisfied with what he had been satisfied with before, he keeps it all for himself and for his own selfish pleasure. And he does it with crops! Something that isn’t even permanent. It’s food! It’s going to rot. He won’t have it for the rest of his life.

It’s those friendships, those experiences with people that we love, and that we know. Those relationships. The relationship that we build with God. Time spent together. Generosity of our material goods and generosity of our time and of our selves. The shared stories. The times of laughter and tears. Times we share our worries and our hopes.

That is what we will take all the way to the grave with us. Those are the permanent things. The heavenly things. And paradoxically, they are permanent because they have been shared. These are things we have given away or shared with people, and that makes them permanent. They will last forever. They are what have permanence and importance.

And thank God for them, and thank God for the people we get to share them with. Amen.

Share |
Follow @revdavidhuber Follow @plymouthec Tweet

Rev. David Huber's Facebook profile

Return to previous page.
Plymouth United Church of Christ
2010 Moholt Drive
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 54703

Webpastor: Pastor David