Fr. Dave Sermon Proper#13

PROPER #13…Series C

Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (July 30th-2016)

Title: The Successful Fool…

Text: Luke 12:13-21

Three men were walking down a country road when, suddenly, they stumbled across what looked like an old treasure chest.  When they opened the chest they found that it was filled to the brim with gold and silver coins.  One of the men went into the village to buy wine to appropriately celebrate their amazing good fortune.  While he was gone, his two comrades plot to murder their friend and steal his share of the fortune.  And, when their friend returns, they carry out their evil plot. Then the murders sit down and drink the wine their former friend had purchased.  What they didn’t know is that he had poisoned the wine.  Minutes after drinking the first glass of poisoned wine they also die!  In the end, all three men were found dead at the foot of their treasure…KILLED BY GREED!

Beware…watch out…guard yourself against every kind of GREED!!

Friends, I am convinced that the “center of gravity” and the key which unlocks the deepest spiritual meaning in the Parable of the Rich Fool (our Gospel reading for this Eleventh Sunday after the great Feast of Pentecost) is verse 20 of chapter 12 of the Gospel of Luke…this is God’s response to the Rich Fool’s strategy to build larger barns to store his abundance of and secure his future for years and years to come.  And, in verse 20, God says, “You Fool…this night your soul is required of you and all the things you have prepared-whose will they be”. Now the literal translation of the Greek text is a little different…the Greek text actually reads, “this very night THEY are demanding from you, your soul”…”This very night THEY are demanding from you, your Soul”.

Now, as you can imagine, Biblical scholars have had a field day trying to explain who or what the third person plural pronoun THEY refers to.  Some say the pronoun is a “Rabbinic CIRCUMLOCUTION for God”.  Now a circumlocution is a word or phrase which is used in place of another word or phrase…in this case, in place of the divine name (God or Yahweh or Elohim). God’s name was believed to be so holy that it could not be spoken, so the third person plural pronoun is used instead.  It’s like in Genesis 1:26 when God says, “Let us make man in our image after our likeness”…or in Isaiah 6:8 when God says, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us”.

My favorite interpretation of the THEY in Luke 12:20 was given by one of my New Testament professors in seminary, Dr. Frank Stagg, who said the THEY refers not to God but to the Rich Fool’s possessions! It was his possessions that demanded his soul…NOT GOD.  It was his possessions which blinded him to the truth about what really matters in life.  It was his possessions, and his desire to secure his future by hoarding what he had, that shriveled his spirit and closed his heart.  Someone once said that “When the heart is empty, we collect THINGS”. And that was certainly true of the Rich Fool in Jesus’ parable…his barns were filled to overflowing but his heart…his heart was empty!

Beware…watch out…guard yourself against every kind of GREED!!

I used to think that Jesus was exaggerating…using a bit of hyperbole, when he warns about the tyranny of our material possessions, and the serious danger of greed.  But, the older I get, the more convinced I am that this is not the case…Jesus wasn’t exaggerating one bit.  Greed is a very dangerous thing…not just for the wealthy (or those we consider wealthy) but we are all vulnerable to its powerful and seductive influence.  Greed has become the “socially acceptable sin”: but make no mistake about it, greed is evil and powerful…it has the power to destroy your life and to ruin your relationship with God…

Beware…watch out…guard yourself against every kind of GREED!!

All the ytoung man wanted…all he asked Jesus to do was to intyervene in a family squabble about an inheritance and render a decision which would bring him a few more acres of real estate…a few more dollars in his checking account.  But Jesus looked at this young man and he loved him, and he wanted to give him so much more than he asked for!  Jesus looked at this young man and he knew, instantly, the condition of his heart…he knew that he was addicted to his material possessions and that his addictioin was robing him of the joy and peace and freedom that he desired and dexserved.  Jesus looked at this young man and he loved him and he told him a simple story about a Rich Fool…a story which provided a “verbal mirror” which exposed and revealed the ytoung man’s inauthentic existence…but the story also was a heart-felt and grace-filled invitation to the young man to give up his rsistance to the Gospel and to embrace/enter into and experience LIFE in it’s fullness…ABUNDANT life…RESURRECTION life…ETERNAL LIFE. And the great Good News that we celebrate tonight/this morning is that, thru the Words of the Holy Gospel and thru the Visible Word of the Holy Eucharist, Jesus, the Christ, comes to us…moves in our direction this evening/morning, and he offers us (just as he offered the young man in the Gospel)…Jesus extends to us the very same heart-felt and Grace-Filled invitation…Jesus holds up for us the equivalent of a ‘Verbal LIFE PRESERVER” because, you see this simple story about a Rich Fool is the WORD OF GOD.  And friends, that Word…that gracious and life-giving Word is more powerful…more potent than the magnetic power of our material possessions…that Word is more powerful…more potent and is even able to penetrate the foolishness of our hearts and minds and save us…literally SAVE US from the seductive power of greed!

(pause)

It was just a simple story about a Rich Fool…not at all what the young man asked for…and not what many  (possibly MOST of us) think we want (pause) but it is exactly what he (and WE) most desperately need…

Beware…watch out…guard yourself against every kind of GREED!!

Amen!

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