Monday, August 02, 2010

Sermon - Luke 12:13-21 - Pentecost 10

Luke 12:13-21
August 1st, 2010
“Jesus and Stuff”

You and I have a problem with stuff. Things. Material possessions. You may think that the problem is that we don't have enough stuff. But that's not the problem. Maybe we don't have the right stuff, or the stuff we want. But that's not the problem either. The problem is us and our sin, not the stuff.

Today we read about some of Jesus' teaching on “stuff”. Treasures on earth. It all started when someone asked him to judge a dispute about an inheritance. Jesus balks at the request. “Who am I to judge such a thing?”

Interesting, isn't it? Who is Jesus to judge? Well he's God, of course. Now maybe the guy asking didn't know it, but anyway he had some kind of authority. He was someone important. And so Jesus was a handy way for this man to get what he wanted – to get his brother to give him part of the inheritance. He wanted Jesus to help him get stuff. Stuff he thought belonged to him. Perhaps at the expense of his brother.

But Jesus wants no part of it. That's not who Jesus is, and that's not why he came. Even though all authority in heaven and earth is ultimately his, Jesus isn't interested in helping feed people's greed for selfish gain. That's not this person's main problem anyway.

Don't get me wrong – we're not saying that God doesn't give us things. In fact, if you have something, anything good – it is a gift from God. Things you earn, things you are given, things you build or make. Things we eat or wear or enjoy – all of these are daily bread – physical blessings for which to give thanks. Blessings we don't really deserve. Blessings that come from our gracious God.

But it's just like us sinners to turn good gifts into objects of worship. It's just like us to be thankless for what we have, and always want something more. The commandments call it coveting. A sinful desire for what is not ours. And Jesus tells us, his people, to have no part of it. “be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”

Not only do we covet, we fail to guard against coveting. And not only to we fail to guard against it, but like the man in the story, we often try to co-opt God in our coveting.

Maybe you've caught yourself trying to bargain with God. “If I do this for you, God, will you give me that thing I want?” Or maybe you've been tempted to turn God into some sort of giant pez dispenser, turning to him only for the physical needs and neglecting to ask him for what truly matters... forgiveness of sin, faith, and spiritual blessings.

Something you want? Some goodie or trinket or possession? Kick God a prayer or two, and maybe you can get it. But don't bother with him the rest of the time, so the thinking goes.

God does give us what we need – but seek ye first the kingdom of God. Jesus gives us what we need, but much, much more.

But let's repent of turning him into a Messiah he is not. He is not a bread-king. He didn't come just to heal and feed and cast out demons. He certainly didn't come to overthrow the Romans. And he doesn't promise to make your life easy today. Jesus might not get you a job. He probably won't make your children behave. He doesn't promise you'll always be healthy. He never says he'll guarantee your marriage will be perfect. Her certainly doesn't promise you will live high on the hog, that you can name it and claim it, and that wealth and prosperity will be yours.

But he did come to die. He did come to give his life as a ransom for many. To pay for our covetousness and materialism and selfish greed and worship of created things – to pay for it all and for every other sin. He paid for it with his holy precious blood, and his innocent suffering and death. That's the kind of Messiah he truly was, and is. A savior from sin, death and hell. A giver of grace, mercy and peace. A maker of promises that never fail. A friend of sinners like you and me.

And if we have nothing else but this Messiah, this Christ Jesus, then we are still wealthy beyond imagination. If we are bankrupt and destitute. If we are homeless, starving, begging and broke. We are still blesses beyond belief in Jesus, our priceless treasure.

Now, this doesn't mean Jesus is against us having things. It doesn't mean you have to sell your possessions and live in a cardboard box. Or that you can't have a savings account or prepare for retirement. But Jesus does put perspective on how we use these things, this stuff that we have.

May it not become a god to you. May it never confuse you about where true treasure is found. May you never care more about this world than the next. May you see earthly wealth as a gift, and use that gift in accord with God's will. Love God with all your heart – when it comes to your possessions. That means we don't love things more than God. That means we use our things in service, first of all, to God. And Love your neighbor likewise – so we don't put things before people. That we don't love things more than our neighbor. For life does not consist of things.

Where is life found, we might then ask? Only in Jesus Christ. Only in the one who gave his life for us. Only in the one who took his life back from the grave, never to die again. Life is found in his promise that “he who lives and believes in me will never die”.

Such life is found in the new life of baptism. Such life is sustained in the food of his table – given and shed for you – forgiveness, life and salvation. If you want the good life, if you want the life that matters. If you want the life that lasts forever – don't look to the stuff around you. But look to the things unseen – the promises of God in Jesus Christ. Life – abundant life – consists in these things.

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