Year C1; Proper 13; 8.4.2019, The Rev. Carolyn H. Eklund,
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church,
It’s great to be back worshiping with you today. It’s even more wonderful to be sharing Coffee Hour hospitality with my friend and Vestry member, Dana Baer because our August birthdays are only three days apart. Happy birthday, Dana!
I will be serving wild blueberry lemon muffins for one of the treats. Its wild blueberry season in Maine and I learned how to make Lemon Wild Blueberry muffins when I was staying in a cottage I rented Down East in South Addison. Please join us for fellowship after the service.
Last night, at the time I turned out the lights, I checked one more time on the news reports from El Paso. At that time 20 people had been confirmed killed at the WalMart; 26 had
been injured. I thought then that 20 was a horrifying number. But so is any number of people killed as we witness one more mass shooting in this country, one of the most deadly countries on earth for mass shootings on civilians.
And after the mass shooting in El Paso yesterday, I never imagined that I’d wake up at 5 this morning to read that in less than 24 hours 9 more people would be shot in the early morning
hours in Dayton, Ohio.
We are a disturbed nation. We are a heart-broken country. No one wants more killings, yet they persist and are becoming more frequent. Time and time again at the state level and federal level, well-known effective measures to reduce gun violence are proposed and don’t have enough votes. Some 80 Episcopal bishops have formed a group to advocate for common sense
gun legislation. Many lay and clergy have followed their leadership to insist to our legislators that legislation to reduce gun violence be enacted swiftly…and nothing.
I’ve wondered about the reasons our elected officials do nothing while the death toll rises. Maybe it’s power. Maybe it’s greed. There are powerful lobbyists for Second Amendment organizations and gun manufacturers. It feels to me as though we are held “hostage” to inaction by those who are elected to protect the common good. Once again, I will contact my elected
officials and urge them to act on our behalf.
Jesus talked a lot about greed and power. He counseled the righteous rich young man to sell all he had, give it to the poor and come and follow him. The man desired very much to be a
part of the Jesus Movement, but turned away grieving that he just couldn’t give up his earthly treasures.
Jesus told the parable of poor, sore-ridden Lazaraus who sat at the gate of the rich man begging. The rich man stepped over him every day, ignoring him. When it was time for God’s judgment at the time of their deaths, Lazarus was sitting at God’s right hand while the rich man was on hell’s side of the abyss asking Moses to save him or at least his family from the fires of hell. Jesus’ point was that in his lifetime, he had more than he needed and hadn’t shared anything. Now, it was too late.
And there is today’s lesson. “You fool!” he says of the rich man in the parable who built up larger barns to store his greater and greater yields. “My barns! My crops!” The rich man says proudly. “Me and Mine!” He gave no glory to God. He made no mention of God’s creation or God providing. He just gathered what was his and said, “Let me now sit back, eat, drink and be
Jesus emphasized to the crowds to be rich toward God. He said of the rich man in the parable, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” What good will your possessions be in the end? And all the while, you have squandered the treasures God has for you.
The question Jesus poses for us this morning…this gorgeous summer morning in Maine… is, What does being rich toward God mean to us? Our possessions…whose WILL they be? What is our true relationship to things, power and money? Has our relationship with them displaced our dependence on God’s good treasures like love, mercy, hope, grace and peace? I recently read an article in a business journal that described security companies
specializing in building what they call “billionaire bunkers.” They claim these bunkers can provide doomsday security and survival in comfort come any catastrophe. You can have a pool table, a movie theater, a swimming pool, a pub and security personnel to support your bunker stay.
I think this is what is meant when we say, someone has a bunker mentality. “Bunker mentality.” I love the definition of “bunker mentality”, “a state of mind especially among members of a group that is characterized by chauvinistic defensiveness and self-righteous intolerance of criticism.”
I am hearing Jesus say, “You fool! Turn to God and be opened up and free! Turn to God and live a life rich in God’s treasures, for your life will end and then what?? What about that bunker? What about those possessions?”
I brought this object to share a story with you. A friend invited me to a home-cooked supper last winter. As she, her spouse and I chatted before dinner was served, I noticed this darling green, diamond-shaped, footed container that I knew to be an antique container for salt.
My friend even had a cute miniature shovel in it to scoop the salt out and put it on the soup. I commented on how unusual it was and how my mother loved these kinds of antique objects, and
that it gave me a warm memory of my mother. Several weeks passed and Christmas was upon us. Unexpectedly, I received a wrapped package from this friend – a book on bread and a box that had a label for votive candles on it. I swiftly thanked my friend for the book and the votive candles. I hadn’t looked in the box labeled for the votive candles. I had just assumed that it was full of candles. But it wasn’t. Later, when I opened the box and looked in, I found instead of candles, the darling green salt container! My friend had released that possession of hers and placed it in my adoring hands. There is no bunker mentality, no storing up excess in silos. She was rich in God’s treasure of generosity. She gave me joy and friendship, two true treasures of God.
What if each of us in this community…in this country “released” our hold on power, possessions and money to give in such a way that reveals the true riches God wants for us?
What do we need for a deeper trust in God’s treasures?