Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sermon for 11/24/11--Harvest Festival/Day of National Thanksgiving

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Eat, Drink, Be Merry

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions. That’s worth some serious thought. To illustrate this truth, this warning, Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool. The rich man’s land produces plentifully, so much so that he doesn’t have enough room to store all of his crops. So he decides to tear down his barns and build bigger ones so that he can store more grain or goods. Then he gives one of the silliest speeches recorded in Scripture: “Soul, you have ample good laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” After all, isn’t that what the soul is all about?

Hardly. God has the final word in the parable, saying to the rich man, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” There’s nothing inherently evil about relaxing, eating, drinking and merriment: but these are helpful for the body and mind, not the soul. The rich man expects his riches to take care of his soul for years to come. But saving souls is the work of God, and there’s the rich man’s problem—as soon as he’s declared that his good will take care of his soul, he’s made them into a false god. When God requires his soul that night in the parable, the relaxing and eating and drinking and merriment do nothing for him in the Judgment. So the rich man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. They cannot prevent his death; and when he dies, they do nothing for his soul.

The parable is a clear warning: beware the sin of greed. Obsession with possessions is a terrible temptation. It leads you to value things over God. It leads you to put your trust in things that fall apart and pass away. It tempts you to resent God if you don’t have all you want. It seduces you to believe that your soul is good in God’s eyes because you have enough things. Greed is a dangerous idol, and it’s never satisfied: the more you have, the more you want.

You don’t even have to have possessions to be guilty of the sin. While the rich man in the parable already has all sorts of wealth, Jesus tells the parable because of a man who desires wealth. This whole thing begins with someone saying to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” It’s a family squabble, with an inheritance to be shared. Though as God He provides all things, Jesus isn’t there to divide out the family farm: He hasn’t come for such temporal things. He’s come to do what goods and grain, what relaxing and eating and drinking and merriment can’t do: He’s come to save their souls for eternity.

So Jesus warns, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness.” And then He adds, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” We should expand that, too, because you’ll covet and be greedy for more than grain and goods. Your life does not consist in the abundance of your popularity. Your life does not consist in the abundance of your looks or fashion sense. Your life does not consist in the abundance of your health. Your life does not consist in the abundance of the knowledge you’ve accrued, or the peace within your family, or the goals that you’ve attained, or the promotions you’ve received, or the items you’ve crossed off your bucket list. But you’re tempted to covet all of these things, to believe that they are what give you life, and to believe they are good for your soul. But none of these things give life to your soul. Flee these temptations, and repent when you give into them. All of these things are false gods when you put your trust in them, and putting your trust in them reveals even more about you than greed or covetousness.

Now all of this is true, but please note: we’ve answered this all according to the Law. The Law says to guard against all covetousness because it’s a sin, because it’s a sin to believe that your life does consist in the abundance of your possessions. However, there’s some very good news to be found here. If your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions, then of what does your life consist?

The Lord gives you so much more than the abundance of possessions or other things that will pass away. He gives you gifts that do not pass away. He gives you life that does not pass away. Jesus became flesh and went to the cross for you. He died for you, bearing your sin—including greed and covetousness and every evil desire. He died your death for you, so that you might not go the way of all things in this world which pass away. He rose again to give you life—eternal life in heaven. He has made you a child of God in Holy Baptism, so that now you’re an heir of the kingdom of heaven.

You still have the specter of death hanging around, but you also have hope in Christ. Where you worry about what you do not have, you consider the lilies of the field and the sparrows of the air, knowing how much the Lord cares for them: because you know that Jesus didn’t become a lily to redeem lilies or a sparrow to redeem sparrows. He became man to redeem you: and if He redeemed you at the cost of His own blood, He will not fail to give you forgiveness and life.

You have hope— not nebulous, pie in the sky wishes, but sure and certain hope—and you have this hope because your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions. You have a much greater abundance than that: your life consists of Christ in you, the hope of glory. Your life consists of His life, because He’s joined you to His death and resurrection so that you might live forever. Your life does not consist of things that pass away, but of Christ who keeps you for eternity. You are rich in heavenly treasure because the Father pours out His riches upon you—grace and life and every blessing in Christ—and you will dwell in His house forever.

You’ll always be tempted to hear Jesus as a killjoy as He warns you against love for the things of this world. But ultimately, His message is this: He has better things to give—eternal things. Your life isn’t the sum total of your possessions. The Lord is your life and your salvation. Eternal life is yours because Jesus pours out abundantly on you the riches of His grace, so that you are forgiven for all of your sins. Thanks be to God for such bounty! In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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