Tuesday, August 03, 2010
As it's Lamas day (historically the day of the first harvest) it's very apt to have this reading about a man harvesting his crops and filling his barns and then makingplans to make bigger barns to putall the rest in.
Our lives can be a bitlike that too. We can fill our lives up with things like shoes, dvds, books, cars, houses a bigger house and what does it get us?
(demo with rocket balloon which gets filled and filled with things- it wasmeant to fill up and then fly aroudn the church but instead it burst - which ended up being far more dramatic!!)
I’ve got a friend who likes to have all the new gadgets. First it was the ipod shuffle and then he wanted more storage so he got the ipod nano then it was the ipod touch the ipod itself and now of course he wants an ipad – with as the advert says “more books than you can read in a lifetime”. There is a desire in each of us to accumulate more and more STUFF. Just like the foolishman in the gospel reading, we can focus on all the STUFF in our life on the storage of our music on our ipod, on our cars or houses, new plants for our garden, new shoes, new books ( a personal downfall!) or just more money. What is it about all this gathering of possessions that drives us so much?
“Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions”
This need for the status symbol, I think is about our need to feel that we are important. We want these things because somehow we don’t feel that we are important enough without them. I remember the terror of the teenage angst that no-one would like us if we didn’t wear the right trainers or listen to the right music but as adults are we much better?
This desire to accumulate is not of God yet not because the objects themselves are inherently wrong. A car may be a status symbol for some but for others it is a vital method of transport. For sportsmen the right shoes matter a great deal. The right plants give us food and medicine. The books give us knowledge and the music on our ipods inspiration. These things are not inherently wrong but if we have a burning NEED for them it is. Such a need is not of God. It is something which goes against God’s view of each of us. God doesn’t think we NEED these things to make us important. God think every single one of us is important already.
Some of the most beautiful things in the world are natural: a peacock feather, a rainbow, a child’s laughter (as Michael and I heard a lot yesterday watching our 3 year old niece play with our dog). You can’t possess such things. Yet of course all of these things that we do desire come from God’s creation – some with a bit more human intervention than others. If perhaps we view creation from God’s point of view we might see it differently. He gave us an earth abundant in strong resilient metals like God and silver yet we chase after it for its “value” when it’s real worth is something else. There is abundant food across the earth and yet some have so much choice and others so little.
I’m going to Peru this week as part of the diocesan group. (and I need to take photos of my church to show them - so while I'm up here nad you're all sitting there whereyou can't move *click* and the choir too! *click*)
In Peru we’ll see real deprivation. Of the 29 Million population 45 % live below the poverty line. Some of you may have seen the news on the BBC website (though I’m sure many will not as it’s not made the front page) that 400 people have died in the mountains in Peru so far this winter because of the severe cold at night – temperatures of -240C. We’ll be going to the pueblos jovenes the young towns areas where people from the country travel into the city and build whatever they can wherever they can: Where water is delivered every fortnight not every time you turn on the tap. Where, perhaps people are more able to value what they can do not what they possess. In some ways perhaps they are rich and we are poor; Rich in hope; Rich in faith despite it all.
This need we have for material things is not of Christ as Paul tells us “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”. Now I don’t think Jesus or Paul are saying we should possess nothing at all rather that we should be modest in what we do possess. Yet it is more than that. It is not a mere absence of possessions but a focus of the mind not on things earthly but on things heavenly. Jesus said: “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” This is not a call to sell all you have (though Jesus did suggest that for some!) but to be focussed properly on God not on Money –render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar and to God that which belongs to God as Jesus said another time.
What does this change of focus look like?
Remember where this story begins. A man asks Jesus to MAKE his brother share his inheritance with him. Is Jesus saying that the man should be focussed more on the matters heavenly – on their shared bereavement; on the bond of family; on their faith in God rather than on the financial resources of a deceased parent.
As Paul’s letter shows this is not just all about material possessions but also about the status associated with them and all that that might imply. It is not about being rich or poor, slave or free Jew or Greek anymore. NONE of these things are what we should be focussed on. Rather our focus should be on Christ. I don’t know how many of you have access to the internet but the Diocese of Oxford has put up a marvellous pair of videos encouraging people to see God in their lives in all kinds of places not just in church. To FOCUS themselves on Christ through what might be thought to be non-holy activities. The film shows a choir singing, a woman gardening, a grandmother making Jam with her grandchildren, a man leading life drawing class on behalf of a church. Notice all of these things involve some form of creativity; Of joining God in the delight of creation. I hope some of you might get a chance to go to their diocesan website and have a look.
Yet it’s not only about focussing on God in our lives but because of that focus, changing the way we interact with others. As St Paul writes.
“you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.
That new self is available to each of us. And when it becomes hard to live up to that standard; When we find ourselves getting angry or malicious, that is not the end of that new self, no. Paul says that new self “is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.”
So we can turn away from focussing on possessions, we can turn to God our creator and meet with him in all kinds of mini acts of creation, we can act towards each other in a way that is Christ-like and yet if we fail to do so that is not the end because there is always the chance of renewal; Of repentance and a new beginning.
In a possession focussed world, there is no such renewal. Oh there are new things – always new things we can chase after and desire but the possession of those things will never give us satisfaction. Such completion only comes in turning to our God and focussing our lives on following Christ in spirit and in truth
Readings for the Day:
13Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
3So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
5Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.
8But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
Posted by Sarah Brush at 12:16 PM