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“What If This Is The Last Thing You Read?”
Sermon, Year C, Proper 14, August 11, 2013
Plymouth United Church of Christ, Eau Claire, WI
© Rev. David J. Huber
Focus Scripture: Luke 12:32-40

While I was reading that, I had an image of Downton Abbey. I don’t know if any of you have watched that show. What is the Lord’s name? Lord Grantham? Whoever the Lord is, I had this image of him arriving home late and the servants being ready and him saying, “Well, let me cook you a meal and let me serve you.” Probably not going to happen. But in God’s Kingdom, that happens.

Last week, Jesus offered his parable of the rich farmer. A man had come to Jesus and asked him to arbitrate for him an inheritance between he and his brother, to which Jesus told the parable of the rich farmer. The farmer who had this abundance of crops. So abundant that he didn’t have a place to store all the excess. So he decides to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. Instead of being satisfied with enough, he decides that he wants more, and wants it all for himself so that he could then sit back, look at these brand new large storage bins, and say to himself, “Ah, now I have made myself safe for the future. I have prepared my future, and now I may sit back, relax, eat, drink, and be merry.”

That sounds kind of like a good life, yes?

But it fits the myths of the self-made man, and the myths of the comforts of riches. Because God said to the man, “You fool! Tonight your life is demanded of you. And then what good will all these possessions be? And who shall own them after you are gone?”

So we have that parable, and Jesus follows it up with the teaching we heard in today’s passage. He says, “Make treasure in heaven.” The treasures of God’s realm. The realm that is already here, that God is wanting us to live into. To live into the treasures of God’s realm, and God’s realms treasures are love, generosity, mercy, justice, compassion, the fruits of the Spirit. Those are the treasures of God’s kingdom. Those cannot be destroyed by moth or rust. Those are the permanent treasures. Treasures that really matter and will endure. And I said in last Sunday’s sermon the paradox of these treasures, of these heavenly treasures, is that they are permanent because they’re shared. It is by giving them away that we have them. And they will live with us forever. We will have those forever. The things that we hoard to ourselves, the treasures that we lock up for our own use, are impermanent. They are transient. They will be taken away from us some day. Whether they are treasures in a literal sense, like gold, money, stocks, bonds, diamonds. Think of a treasure chest, what would be in that. Or whether they are other intangible treasures like fame, power, influence, or territory. We might say “This is MY place, this is MY church, MY community, MY country, MY whatever.... OUR group, OUR community... and you are not allowed in.” That is also a kind of buying into earthly treasures.

And there is no one at the end of their life, at their funeral – at least, not very many, it depends on the community or family, but not very many people at their people get applauded because of their greed, stinginess, or selfishness, or their grab for power or their abuse of power. They don’t get applauded for that.

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Where is your treasure?

What do you treasure?

Is what you treasure where your heart is, or is it not?

Does your bank statement, your budget, your calendar, and activities agree with what you just thought about what you treasure? Are those aligned, or is there some opportunity here to realign things in your life?

I think Jesus would have our hearts aligned toward treasuring generosity, relationships, love, other people. That’s what Jesus would have us treasure, or align our hearts with.

Through generosity, there is life. We find life in generosity, or any of the other Spirit Fruits. Any of the other things that God would have us do is where we find real life. Because it’s shared. A life that is lived just for ourselves, or just within, is not a full life. We are called to community. We are people of fellowship. Not just in the church, but I think as human beings, we are intrinsically called to be in community with one another.

And Jesus goes on to say to also be ready. Be prepared. Pay attention. And there are many calls in that. One of those calls is to live in the present. To be mindful of the moment. To be mindful of the time that you’re in, right now. Live in the here and now. Because you might not have tomorrow. You don’t know. You never know. Tomorrow, things might change. Things might be radically different tomorrow. So be mindful. Live in today. If you knew what time your house was going to be broken in to, you’d stay home. You’d either stop or catch the burglar. But we don’t know when that is going to happen, except that it happens when we are away; when we cease to be mindful and to pay attention.

And not everything the rich farmer said is wrong. There is a biblical call to eat, drink, and be merry. To celebrate life and the goodness of God’s gifts. But the farmer says it this way: “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years. Now relax, eat, drink, and be merry.” And that is very different from the other biblical phrase to “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.” The first one, the farmer’s, denies the sovereignty of God. All the credit goes to him. He has stored up the treasure. He has assured his own future. And now that he is taken care of, he is going to rest easy. He is self-focused and arrogant. The latter one admits to our impermanence, and admits to God’s sovereignty. It is a celebration of life right now. Live well today, because today might be the last. As opposed to the rich farmer who says “Live well today, and tomorrow, and the next day, because I have guaranteed my own future.” Not much of God in that kind of thinking.

Live in the moment. Enjoy the day. Live in the day that we have. And be ready, and alert for Christ’s presence. For God to show up in our lives in whatever way that might be. An epiphany, or Christ present in someone else, an event, something that changes in your life that you are aware enough not to miss it. The movement of the Holy Spirit.

At the Basilica last night the priest told a story. They had the same Gospel lesson last night, so his story also was related to this text. He told a story of when he was in seminary, he had a homiletics professor – a preaching professor – was teaching the students how to read and how to be present in the pulpit. A student had gotten up and did a reading, and it wasn’t very good. Not very passionate, not much life in it. After he was done reading, the professor whispered something in his ear and sent him back up to read again. This time the guy read with passion, fire, and zeal and it was really good and wonderful. And one of the other students asked the professor what he said to the other man. The professor said, “I told him to read it like it would be the last thing he would ever read.”

Imagine greeting each moment that way. Living in each moment that way. As though it were the last. What would that kind of church look like? What would that kind of community look like? What would that kind of life look like? The specifics might be different for each of us, but the effect, what it would look like is like a faithful life. It would look faithful. “You also must be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour,” Jesus said.

And so we wait.

And are watchful.


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Plymouth United Church of Christ
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