Sunday August 4, 2013. 1.00pm.
Not for Bigger Barns
Luke 12:13-21, The Parable of the Rich Fool
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Someone once said to me that out of all the so called, “seven deadly sins”: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony, that greed is least able to identify in ourselves, and the therefore the most uncomfortable to talk about.
If you had a room full of people talking about sin and you mentioned sloth or pride, people would talk about that and be able to easily identify where it exists in their own and others’ lives.
But if you asked the same room of people to talk about greed in their own life – the room might fall deathly silent. Greed is hard to spot, hard to acknowledge and hard to talk about.
What we are doing here is not about greed. It is not about building bigger barns, like the wealthy young man in Jesus’ story.
But it could be if we let it.
- We could determine our focus in mission for the next 5 years in order to ensure that we have more people coming to Sunday worship.
- We could renew our buildings and our activities to get more people and be able to share that number with others, convincing ourselves that we have been successful as a church and stopped the decline of the church right here at St Petri.
- We could then, ”take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”
- The treasure which we pursue might be just a bigger barn, a bigger offering, more activity for activity sake and for human pride’s sake.
But this would fatally flawed, according to Jesus. The Lord is our life and he determines our focus, lest we take all the glory for ourselves, as we are often want to do.
Our lives as a church in mission and being God’s people in our vocations and families are in God’s hands. He is shaping our journey and he has the first and final authority over us. So instead of building bigger barns to just build bigger barns, we are letting him build his own sized community of “living stones” by his major building tool – the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Graham’s words in the email he sent out this week struck a chord with me…
“This is not an exercise in trying to make St Petri a larger or a better congregation. It is more about preparing ourselves for the future that God places before us. Part of the point is to recognize that we are already a large congregation, and to act accordingly. God has given us many gifts as a congregation, and invites us to put them to use with a standard of excellence worthy of the Giver”.
Friends, we are not into pulling down our barns to build bigger ones so we can future proof ourselves. We are not engaging in this journey of God’s mission to “guarantee St Petri’s future existence”. We are not reaching out to people to get our numbers up, our offering up or say that we are winning a contest to renew the church.
What we are doing is treasuring the Lord and each other.
We are treasuring his love, his grace his Son, his cross, his baptism, his church in his mission and so, our heart follows for where our treasure is, there our heart is also.
We are learning to love each other so that they know us by our love – the most potent sign of God’s presence in a troubled world.
Treasure him with me. Treasure him and his call to use the good gifts he has already given to reach out to everyone with the prized gift of acceptance and forgiveness and life in Jesus’ name.
Treasure each other with me. Help each other live and talk this journey God has set for us to share.
If this is where our treasure is, our heart will be there too and God will surely have a church for his mission in this place.
Lord, make us your church for your work here in our place by what we are doing today and whenever we gather in your name. Show us the treasure of your word on things, your grace and kindness so that our hearts are inspired and renewed in that resurrection joy in believing. Then we will be the church for you mission and we trust that you “always will” seek us, forgive us, love and work in and through us.