November 3, 2019 -Sermon

Posted by on Dec 4, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

All Saints Sunday November 3, 2019 Psalm 150, Revelation 7:7-9, 1 John 3:1-3, Luke 19:1-10 Out on a limb **************************************************************** Last week (in Bourne) Richard Jensen, our liturgist, instead of saying the usual “Good morning” instead sang – “Good morning!” And – we all sang back– “Good morning!” “Wow,” Richard said, “I didn’t quite expect that! Let’s do it again!” And he sang“Good morning! Good morning to you!…” And we all sang back again to him – Good morning, good morning to you!…. And I remember thinking – “Wow – didn’t know we could sing so well together, without any practice or warning…” (Of course it helps that Richard, our choir director for many years, has a gift for singing in ways that inspire responsive singing…) Which is kind of how I’ve been thinking about the kingdom of heaven this week, based on our first reading from Revelation, where we hear we will all be “heartily singing” by the throne of God together… People from all tribes and nations, races and languages, singing the Lord’s song together to the Lord…and to each other… Which is also how I’ve been hearing Luke’s gospel lately. Visualizing it as a biblical musical – the words of the gospel our script – the hymns and spiritual songs of the church our musical score… And by the time We all get to heaven… We’ll all know our parts in the gospel drama so well… That we’ll be ready, willing, and able to join in singing the gospel story together, responsively – anytime, anywhere… And… Maybe it’s because we’ve just done the Halloween thing again (including hosting the town library’s costume party with the Toe Jam Band in Bourne) that I’m thinking of the characters in this gospel musical as all dressed up in slightly exaggerated gospel costumes… to help us better visualize and communicate all the ways each and every character helps tell the gospel story… And maybe I’m also thinking of children and halloween all the more because… Just a little before our gospel reading today Jesus tells us – unless we receive the kingdom of God as a little child we won’t get in at all… So – I’m remembering a children’s song about a short little guy in Luke’s gospel: Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he– he climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see. And as the Savior passed that way, he looked up in the tree – and he said – Zacchaeus – you come down! For I’m coming to your house today. I love this little story of a wee little guy going out on a limb for Jesus, because… I remember, back when I was a small boy, I used to love to climb trees to get a view from higher ground, when the world below was getting me down. I can relate to little Zacchaeus – short in height and short-in-stature – low-down-on-the-social-spectrum, like the kid nobody wants to be seen with in school. As a chief tax collector, working for Rome, the evil empire of the day, Zacchaeus was probably filthy-rich from exploiting his neighbors – taxing them-to-the-maximum on behalf of the Roman colonial empire that ruled Israel with an iron hand. Imagine...

read more

Pentecost 17 – October 6, 2019

Posted by on Oct 10, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

(Ps 37, Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4; 2 Timothy 1:6-14) Luke 17:5-19 Faith, love and gratitude **************************************************************** Just before where our gospel reading begins Jesus tells us – ‘it’s better to be tossed in the ocean like fish bait, with a quarter-ton-stone-sinker attached to you – than to lead a child or disciple astray’ – and – ‘if another disciple sins against you seven times in a day and says “I repent” seven times – you must forgive each time.’ No wonder the disciples say to Jesus “Increase our faith!” But Jesus says “if you’ve got faith the size of a mustard seed you can tell a tangerine tree to tango and it will start dancing.” Faith, according to Jesus, isn’t about size. It’s about trusting God – and even a very tiny size faith is enough to do wonders. It’s a metaphor. It’s a parable. And– If we’re faithful in our relationship with God – Jesus says – we can ask in his name and God will move the metaphoric mulberry tree – into the ocean and out again. Which can sound like fun. But the follow-up example of faithfulness Jesus tells next makes me say again “Increase my faith!” As Jesus asks us to imagine having hired servants who have been ploughing and tending sheep all day long – and when they come in from the fields they’re expected to wait on you at table before eating – not expecting any thanks – saying “we are unworthy servants, just doing our duty.” Now I’ve never had any hired servants – and I doubt the first disciples did either. So I’m pretty sure Jesus intends for us to see ourselves as those servants, working in the fields of the Lord, and in God’s kitchen. Not expecting thanks for our labors on behalf of Jesus. Just saying “we’re unworthy servants, just doing what we’re supposed to do.” (There will be a time, Jesus says elsewhere, when the faithful are thanked – but that’s not to be our motivation.) But – before I can even begin to say “increase my faith!” – again – Luke the gospel writer directs our attention now to an encounter with lepers – in which – Ten lepers approach Jesus crying “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” And Jesus says, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” (Leprosy meant any kind of skin disorder considered contagious in those times. Lepers had to stay outside towns and villages, and be certified healed by priests before they could rejoin the community.) And – Now all ten lepers are healed as they go. And one – turns back – falls at the feet of Jesus, praising God, thanking Jesus. And – “Where are the other nine?” Jesus asks – “Were not all ten healed?” **** With these gospel stories before us we’re walking with Jesus on the biblical road of stewardship. Perhaps the first theme of the bible… as – In the beginning God makes human beings in the image of God, and commissions us to be stewards of creation. And in the beginning God instructs us to tend the garden – as we ourselves are tended, nurtured, taken care of by God… Stewardship means employing all our God-given gifts, grace, resources and abilities to do all God asks us to...

read more

Pentecost 16 Sept 29, 2019

Posted by on Oct 4, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

(Ps 146, Amos 6:4-7, 1 Tim 6:6-12) Luke 16:19-31 Dip his finger in the water * Jesus hears his mother, while he’s still in the womb, singing about God filling the hungry with good things, sending the rich away empty (Luke 1:53). We’ve heard Jesus preach “Blessed are you poor, yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, you’ll be filled…” and “Woe to you rich, you’ve had your comfort… Woe to you who are full now, you’ll be hungry…” (Luke 6:20-26). So maybe we’re not shocked to hear Jesus tell this parable today. If it’s a parable. Most consider today’s gospel reading a parable, though Jesus never names it as such. And John Wesley, our Methodist founder believed its not a parable. If it is a parable, it’s the only one told by Jesus in which any character has a name. The name Lazarus means “God will help.” A name that makes sense only if the story is literally true. Or true on a level deeper than literal. I think our story today is a parable. I hope it is, because Jesus occasionally employs hyperbole (exaggeration) in some of his parables – to accentuate his point. And I hope Jesus is exaggerating here to get our attention. But I really don’t know if it’s a parable or not or if Jesus is exaggerating. So I’m trying not to make assumptions….And I remember… The popular book a few years ago by Mitch Albom titled The Five People You Meet in Heaven – about people you meet again in the after-life. Thinking – if St. Luke the gospel writer were to title this story Jesus tells today he might call it– One of the Few Persons We See in Heaven – and The Only Person We Meet in Hell. Elsewhere in Luke’s gospel we overhear Jesus tell a crucified thief next to him on the cross, “today you’ll be with me in Paradise.” Elsewhere we glimpse Jesus flanked by Moses and Elijah of old, transfigured in heavenly light. Here today, Jesus speaks of Abraham and Lazarus, together, in the heavenly realm. But the rich man of our story today is the only person we ever see in the New Testament in hell – more literally Hades – an ancient word for the grey-area of afterlife between what we call hell – and what Catholics and some Anglicans and Eastern Orthodox believers call purgatory. I don’t think Jesus intends to open up discussion of purgatory today. But I will note in passing – in some versions of purgatory the flames are not literal – and in all versions are meant to purge and purify souls so as to be able to ascend to heaven. I don’t recommend ever aiming for purgatory – since we really don’t know if it exists – and if it does, we don’t know how hot those flames are, or how long it might take for purification to happen…. Best not to go there… But I suppose… We can say there is some good news in this parable – in that this rich man today is the only person Jesus ever describes as suffering in the afterlife… Although, there’s also some bad news – in that, apparently, we don’t have to be...

read more

Pentecost 15 – September 22, 2019

Posted by on Oct 4, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Luke 16:1-13 Make friends for yourself What is Jesus saying to us? – in this rather strange story of a dishonest manager – who, facing loss of his job, unilaterally reduces debts owed to his boss – and wins the approval of his boss? If we’re puzzled by this story that Jesus tells, we’re in good company. Church father St. Augustine back in the 4th century, who believed the bible was absolutely always the word of God – considered this story of the Dishonest Servant so hard to understand that he couldn’t quite believe Jesus really said it. And what we hear in any story of course always depends on what we bring to the story. In his book, What Do They Hear?, seminary professor and bible scholar Mark Allan Powell explores ways people hear the stories in the bible differently. For example – Powell likes to have his seminary students read a bible story aloud, then retell the story from memory. He once asked a dozen seminarians to retell the parable of the prodigal son (the familiar story we talked about last week). All the students told almost all the story accurately – but all of them left out the part about the famine that occurs while the younger son is off in a far-off land and all the money he had is gone. Curious about this omission, Powell followed-up with a more extensive study, involving 100 American seminary students from diverse ethnic, economic, and denominational backgrounds – and still only 6% mentioned the famine. Later, Powell taught for a semester in Russia, and did the same exercise with seminarians there. There 84% named the famine when they retold the story – and most heard the famine as an essential part of the story. Why such radically different results? It didn’t take Powell long to realize – Russian seminarians’ families had experienced famine, within living memory. In follow up conversations Powell also learned the parable of the prodigal son was nearly universally interpreted in America as about a sinful son repenting of spending his inheritance on womanizing and strong drink. In Russia, however, the parable was interpreted not as about what the money was spent on – but about the son leaving home in the first place – and putting a monetary value on family. The larger point is – we all hear selectively. It’s almost impossible not to. Where we hear the main message of a story depends on how the story intersects with our own experience. What we like in a story usually corresponds with what we like in life. And so – I like what Jesus says about those who are faithful in even a little are faithful also in much – since I think I can be faithful in a little. I’m not so sure I like what Jesus says about those who are unfaithful in even a little are unfaithful also in a lot – because I know I’ve been unfaithful to God some of the time… I usually like the way the parables of Jesus make me think outside the box. I don’t always like the way his parables keep seeming to change meanings on me… every time I consider another part of the parable. Like – why does Jesus keep reminding...

read more

September 15, 2019

Posted by on Sep 19, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Pentecost 14 September 15, 2019 (Ps 23, Exodus 32:7-14, 1 Timothy 1:12-17) Luke 15:1-10     Lost and Found ***************************************************************** Jesus says “which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one, won’t leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that’s lost?  We may say “amen!” But will shepherds really leave 99 sheep out in the wilderness? – to seek just one that’s lost?  Not without a mighty good backup shepherd on hand to watch the rest of the flock, I’d think. But Jesus doesn’t mention any precautionary measures – as he expects – ‘of course any of you would immediately get up and go and seek the lost…’ Like the shepherd in the parable, who – When he’s found that lost sheep – lays it on his shoulders rejoicing – comes home, calls his friends, says ‘rejoice with me, I’ve found my sheep that was lost.’ Now I can understand a shepherd being glad to get a lost sheep back alive but – I have a hard time imagining a farmer throwing a party when a lost sheep or cow is found. Farmers I knew up in Vermont might have an extra slice of apple pie, and maybe raise a glass that night – but call the neighbors to come, rejoice,  and have a party? I don’t think so. But – Jesus didn’t ask me – and this is his parable, not mine… And – we probably need to remember – Shepherd and sheep were familiar metaphors for God and God’s people in Israel. The Lord is my shepherd Psalm 23 says– We are the sheep of his pasture Psalm 100 tells us. So if the shepherd represents God, ok – guess I can  imagine God throwing a party… And Jesus, expands the metaphor, saying – And what woman with ten coins if she loses one, won’t light the lamp, sweep the room and search till she finds it? And when she finds that coin, won’t she call her friends and neighbors and throw a party, saying ‘rejoice with me, I’ve found my coin that was lost.’” And again my first thought is – if you’ve lost a day’s wages (the value of the drachma coin Jesus is talking about) and find it again –  I can understand calling friends and sharing the good news – but throwing a party? Maybe end up spending more than you found? Again I don’t think so. But, again – it’s not my parable… And now I’m remembering earlier this summer hearing from a parishioner whose purse had gone missing – apparently stolen or taken by mistake – while she was helping with our children’s clothing exchange. We prayed for whoever had the purse to bring it back… and… Next morning I had a call from a leader of the 12-step group that met in the Bourne church the night before – saying the purse that was lost – has been found.  I called Joan to let her know… And she came over immediately to retrieve her  purse and thank the man who reported it found. Rejoicing there was nothing at all missing… And a party happened, spontaneously, in our kitchen, spilling out into the parking lot – all of us thanking God, feeling blessed… because somehow we could...

read more

September 8, 2019

Posted by on Sep 10, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Pentecost 13   September 8, 2019   Psalm 139, Isaiah 40:27-31, Luke 6:31-38, Romans 12:1-13                      Present *********************************************************** Present ourselves as living sacrifice – holy scripture tells us – And as human experience tells us – the main problem with living sacrifice is just that – it does tend… to crawl off the altar… We’re celebrating our heritage today. Reflecting on all the living sacrifice – given (for the most part) quite willingly – on the altar of worship, prayer, and humble serving of God and neighbor – over the past 225 years in the life of our Bourne Methodist church – over the past 250 years in the life of our Cataumet Methodist church (at least 188 of these years as Methodists)… It’s often said “showing up is half the battle.” True enough – whether we’re talking about finding a job, making friends, staying married, or being the church – showing up is one of the most non-negotiable-of-necessities… And when we’re talking about being a healthy church with good vital signs – showing up bodily – hearts and minds, hands and feet, eyes and ears engaged –  may be pretty close to 100% of the battle…Since – When we show up willing (or even willing to become willing)… God does the rest… Which is why – Showing up – body and soul – really is our spiritual worship – as the letter to the Romans tells us. All the rest follows as we let God be God – let God change our minds – transform our hearts – guide our bodies and souls – so we can be non-conforming to the world as it is – and be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Getting into the mind-set of Jesus is how we begin to know the will of God – the good, perfect, and beautiful will of God… Transformation of our minds begins with showing up for God. Once we show up we can begin to live-into the rest of the message – and really – Be humble – for we are all one body… It’s humbling – in a good way – to know – We can’t do faith alone. That’s why the New Testament’s favorite metaphor for church is “the body of Christ.” The body of Christ where all of us are members of the one body – and members of one another. No matter what our individual spiritual gifts may be, no member can fully properly function on it’s own. And, as Christian author Rachel Held Evans has said, “The good news is you are a beloved child of God – the bad news is you don’t get to choose your siblings.” And the even-better-good-news is – we don’t need to choose – since God does a far better job of choosing our family in Christ than we can ever possibly do on our own. And (I suppose)… the so-called ‘bad news’ is also that – it doesn’t take long to figure out the church – which is also now our family – is made up entirely of flawed humans beings, like us. Differently flawed, but best to assume – no more  flawed than we ourselves. (As Jesus says today – judge not, then we won’t be judged ourselves.) We thank God for the faith,...

read more

September 1, 2019

Posted by on Sep 3, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Pentecost 12   September 1, 2019   Psalm 81, Micah 6:6-8, Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Luke 14:1,7-14   **************************************************************** Jesus first tells us something we already know: it’s a lot better to humble our self –  preemptively – than to be full-of-ourself –  and be humbled – involuntarily. Parents and teachers told us when we were very young – don’t hurry to be first in line, don’t cut in line. Don’t rush to take a seat on a crowded bus if there are others older than you looking tired or carrying heavy bags. Offer the seat to someone who needs it more, first – only then look for a seat for yourself. What Jesus says first is common knowledge. Yet St Luke tells us he’s telling a parable – a comparison of something familiar with something deeper, less obvious. And for context it helps to know: In Jesus’ day, eating out was never about just having a meal. It was mostly about being seen with the right people in the right places – and not being seen in the wrong places, with the wrong people. (Which sounds a lot like high school back in my dark ages.) Though in Jesus’ day the honor code was practically etched in stone. Seats of honor at banquets were assigned closer and closest to the host of the party according to the relative status of each guest. Which still happens, in different ways, different contexts. At wedding banquets in first-century-Mediterranean-culture people would be seated according to their relative prestige, wealth and influence. Today, at wedding banquets, seating’s usually arranged with closest family members and best friends sitting closest to the bride and groom. In less formal situations, where seats are not assigned, we’re  usually expected to not sit in a more prominent place than we should. Even before Jesus, Proverbs (25:6-7) says “do not put yourself forward…  – for it is better to be told “come up here” than to be put lower.” Jesus starts talking by telling us things we probably already know. But Luke the gospel writer tells us this is a parable. Which becomes clearer as we consider the alternative table manners of Jesus – as he, the guest, tells his host – who to invite, and not invite to the next party. Saying –  don’t invite those who can help you climb the social ladder or help you land a better job. Invite the poor and others who can’t repay you. And you’ll be repaid in God’s kingdom. Which reminds me of our reading from Hebrews, where we’re told ‘remember to show hospitality to strangers – for some have thereby entertained angels unawares.’ (Abraham and Sarah in Genesis, Gideon and the mother of Samson in Judges come to mind as biblical examples of entertaining angels unknowingly.) Hebrews then says to remember those in prison as though in prison with them… Early Christians were sometimes sent to prison, accused of subverting the Empire. Prison food was only occasionally provided by the state. Prisoners relied on family and friends for survival. The whole letter to the Hebrews is a tutorial for the church in Christian community living … And I’m familiar with these precedents and the history… but… I’m still pondering Jesus’ guest list – his instruction to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame,...

read more

August 25, 2019

Posted by on Aug 30, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Pentecost 11 August 25, 2019  Psalm 103, Isaiah 58:9b-14, Hebrews 12:3,7-9 Luke 13:10-21   Therefore – ************************************************************  Well – not everyone. The congregation is sternly rebuked by it’s chief elder, for this healing occurring on the sabbath: “Why don’t you do this any other day of the week?” But Jesus rebukes the church leader and any in agreement with him – saying, “Hypocrites! Don’t all of you lead your animals to drink on the sabbath? Ought not this daughter of Abraham be set free from bondage to crippling pain and affliction on the Lord’s day?” Jesus this woman is now freed from the bondage she’s been held in by demonic powers for eighteen long years. (He’s not implying she has sinned.) He’s letting us know she’s been bent-over-and-enslaved, not only by bodily crippling, but even-more-so by crippling-states-of-mind that insist on proper order, decorum, and regulations – over and against the free flow of God’s grace… healing…  and blessing. So there’s more than one dimension to this healing story. The healing itself. And the sabbath-day context. The healing wouldn’t be controversial on another day.  Even his opponents don’t disbelieve – or object to the healing except for it’s timing. Healing on the sabbath is controversial. The synagogue leader and at least a few others are upset because the fourth commandment says we’re not to work on the Sabbath, and they view healing as work. Jesus sees it differently. Jesus heals on the Sabbath five times in Luke’s gospel – it’s a Jesus pattern. His speaking of bondage reminds us of Deuteronomy (5) which says honor the Sabbath because you were slaves in Egypt, and the Lord brought you out from slavery with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Now here’s Jesus, hands-on, compassionate arms outstretched – commanding release for this daughter of Abraham, bound by forces of spiritual darkness and slavery. Reinforcing the message from Deuteronomy: slaves aren’t free to enjoy sabbath. Sabbath is for those freed from slavery. Our reading from Isaiah says – honoring the sabbath means not pursuing our personal interests on the sabbath. Jesus isn’t working for money – isn’t playing golf or fishing – isn’t selling anything… He’s doing Sabbath by the Book – doing  what Israel is told to do (especially) in the Sabbath Year (Deut 15) – freeing the enslaved and restoring right relationship with God and neighbor. Jesus, as Lord of the Sabbath, heals on the Sabbath, and restores Sabbath to what God intends. Yet so often we, the church, have misunderstand, and turned the Sabbath delight Isaiah speaks of into bondage to regulatory restrictions… *** So… Jesus keeps teaching after silencing his opposition… Because this healing needs a little more contextualizing to help us understand what Jesus is doing – Therefore (in Luke the gospel writer’s word-choice –) Therefore Jesus says – “What is the kingdom of God like? What can I compare it with? It’s like a mustard seed… someone took and sowed in the garden and it grew to become a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches…” Again he said – “What should I compare the kingdom of God with? Its like yeast (leaven) that a woman takes and mixes in with a whole bushel of flour till it all rises up…to nourish...

read more

August 11, 2019 – Sermon

Posted by on Aug 23, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

On August 11 we celebrated the 250th anniversary of Cataumet United Methodist Church in the neighborhood of what was then called South Pocasset. Donna Mark gave a brief background talk in Cataumet on the church history, then Pastors Sandra Smith and Tim Atwater shared reflections (Sandra’s sermon is slightly different in Cataumet from the version preached in Bourne)…. I wanted to share some of the history of our church as we celebrate its 250th anniversary. The history of this building began in 1765 as an Indian meeting house in Bournedale.  Rev. Thomas Tupper was the minister and he was paid by the General Court. The Indians did not adopt his religion, however, and the church fell into disuse.  In 1769 it was dismantled and moved to South Pocasset (Cataumet) and rebuilt in the cemetery grounds. We were not always Methodist, may have started out as Congregational but the first Methodist minister, Joseph Snelling, preached here in 1808.  In 1893 the church was moved from the cemetery to its present location and in 1897 a parsonage was built, and funds were raised for an alcove for the church. The steeple was blown off in the Gale of 1898 and a new steeple and belfry were constructed by Walter Wing in 1899 for $200. In 1967 the congregation raised the funds for an addition which includes the Amend Room, the office, Handy Hall and a new, bigger kitchen. There have been repairs to the roof, to the steeple and windows have been replaced.  In 1996 to make this church more accessible to everyone the congregation put the addition on the front of the church which includes the lift. It has been interesting reading the history of this building but what I have found the most inspirational is the story of the people who faced many difficulties but who felt that having a place of worship was important.  This church became a center for the village; providing a place for worship, Sunday School, MYF, church suppers, plays performed by the children (hooks are still there for curtains) and community meetings. In closing and in acknowledgment of our distant Congregational past, I found a Congregational prayer for a house and as this is a house of worship, I thought it would be appropriate. And today I think these words are more important than ever. May the Lord bless this house and make it home Full of generous welcome for all who visit Brimming with warmth and contentment for family and friends Overflowing with hospitality and nourishing provision A haven for safety and peace in night and day And a place of refreshment, of growth and happiness May the Lord bless this house and make it home Filled with His love, Amen  (Donna Mark)   Pastor Sandra’s sermon is unavailable at this time.   Pentecost 9   August 11, 2019 (Psalm 33, Isaiah 1:1, 15-20) Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40    Faith is… *************************************************************** I’m thanking God for Pastor Sandra’s reflection today on God’s wisdom from Hebrews – with it’s beautiful imagery of the faith of our ancestors, in whose faith heritage and lineage we are living… We continue to celebrate God’s great faithfulness to us – and to our ancestors over the past 250 years in Cataumet, 225 years in Bourne. It’s been a blessing...

read more

August 4, 2019 – Sermon

Posted by on Aug 8, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Pentecost 8 August 4, 2019 (Psalm 107, Isaiah 58:10-12, Colossians 3:1-5) Luke 12:13-31 Life made simple ************************************************************** Jesus is teaching a crowd of people, when a man interrupts, asking Jesus, “tell my brother to share our family inheritance with me.” But rather than offering help (or even answering yes or no) – here’s Jesus, warning against any kind of greed, and telling a story in which a rich man has prospered and plans to build bigger barns to store his wealth, and now he’s talking to himself, saying, “Soul, you’ve got plenty stored up now. Relax! Eat, drink, be merry! And if I didn’t know it was Jesus telling this parable I’d be thinking – what’s wrong with feasting, celebrating, and resting from our labors when we’ve been blessed with success? This guy probably worked hard to get his land to produce bountiful harvests. So what if he’s planning to tear down old barns and build bigger barns to store the abundance? So what if he wants to rest and enjoy life. Maybe he’s earned it? Yet here’s Jesus, telling this story, in which now God comes on the scene, saying “Fool! I’m calling in the loan of the soul you call yours. No matter how big a barn you build – no matter how much wealth you pile up – it will never even begin to cover what you owe me.” (God doesn’t use the word ‘loan’ – that’s translating into language the rich man knows.) But scripture clearly says: everything in heaven and earth belongs to God. We’re God’s servants, entrusted for life’s little while with whatever we have. It’s what the parable says. Still, we might wonder – is this even a little practical? And – how seriously do we need to take Jesus, here? Isn’t he exaggerating a lot to make his point? Does he really understand economic realities? If we don’t keep building bigger barns, houses, and buildings of all kinds – and if we don’t keep filling them with more things of every kind – isn’t our economy going to go down the tubes? Isn’t our culture’s perpetual need for more possessions and bigger buildings what makes our economy tick? But somehow Jesus doesn’t seem concerned about the health of our economy – as he warns – how very dangerous it is – to store up riches for ourselves – without being rich toward God. And if we think Jesus is tough on the rich man in this parable – check-out again Luke chapter sixteen – where we meet the only person in the bible we’re ever told is in hell – a rich man who didn’t share with Lazarus, his impoverished neighbor. Then in Luke 18 a rich man goes away sorrowful when Jesus says ‘sell all, give to the poor, store up treasure in heaven, and follow me….’ And tells disciples, ‘it’s harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ What Jesus says today is part of a consistent pattern of strong warnings about the dangers of accumulating wealth and having many possessions. All part of Jesus’ campaign to protect us against what Martin Luther 500 years ago called the world’s most popular idol – the...

read more