St Bride's: Sermons

The difference between Having and Being

Luke 12 :13-21

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13 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.

14 And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?

15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:

17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?

18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.

19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

The difference between Having and Being
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It seems as if  The Liturgical Committee of the Church of England has decided that July and August will be the time to look at The Gospel According to St Luke. Last week in an earlier chapter, we had Jesus praying and teaching through "The Lord's Prayer" or what might also be called "The Disciples Prayer"

Today we move to Chapter 12 - a chapter comprising of sayings that are found in both Matthew and in Luke. It is thought that by the time the Gospels were written both evangelists had possibly forgotten the original contexts in which the various things were said, and so they are arranged to suit the writer's purpose.

In Luke they are presented as a continuous discourse to the disciples with a large crowd in the background. Here it is one who steps out of the crowd asking Jesus to intervene in what is clearly a family dispute about inheritance.

Well that sounds familiar. I cannot tell you how many times in my ministry I have been asked to take sides in a family dispute about inheritance. So often all seems well with families until a death occurs and inheritance comes into focus.

And who says the Gospel isn't timeless?

So in todays parable - What does this reveal about this man? His life completely revolves around himself and his own thinking. It is interesting to count the number of times the words "I" and "my" appear in this passage - 11 times!  He doesn't consult anyone. He doesn't see his connection with other people, especially God.

If I was asked for a title of today's Gospel reading - It would probably be - The difference between Having and Being.

This parable of the Rich Farmer is only recorded in St Luke - and is not to be found in any of the other three Gospels. In it Jesus declines to act as a lawyer in the case of a divided inheritance. Instead - he chooses to lay bare the questioners underlying motive. Covetousness.

An unbridled desire for more. Having more simply for the sake of having more. Wanting more simply for having more is a denial of God's providential and ongoing care.

The rich farmer is not condemned by Jesus for being a wicked capitalist, he is condemned for simply being a fool. In concentrating entirely on more and more business - he has missed the whole point of living both here and for eternity.

Materialism is often condemned in the name of Christianity, but so sweeping a condemnation is dangerous.

Baron von Hugel a Roman Catholic philosopher and author, observed that bread for oneself is a material matter. But bread for one's neighbour is a spiritual matter. The material world is part of God's creation and is certainly not bad in its self. And in this regard of having and been provided for - Christians have a clear duty to see that the good things in life and of life are fairly shared. And of course to recognise and to acknowledge that good things do not in themselves - constitute a good life.

There are so many examples of this all around and in all we read that it is hardly worth a reminder - but, it never ceases to amaze me how so many feel that to have good things - will mean a good life. Comfortable maybe? But good as in fulfilled? Well, we need simply to look around and see. Surely, the great danger of an abundance of things - is to make us suppose, that things matter and that people do not.

That is everything that goes against the teaching we follow and the message of today. This is true too in the many other parables spoken and lived out in the life of Jesus. They point clearly to the fact that it is people who matter.

This is the second point of the Parable read today. The fact that we are not blessed by God to hoard our wealth to ourselves.  We are blessed to be a blessing in the lives of others.

There is a passage in Paul's Second Corinthians that summarises this very well. (2 Corinthians 9:6-15). Paul says, "And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work."

We are blessed by God, so that we in turn can be a blessing in the lives of others. That richness of - and in - life, that is found in relationship with other people and with God. It is that which - truly matters.

Amen

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