August 4, 2019 - Rev'd. Kevin Corbin Smith
SERMON FOR THE 4TH OF AUGUST 2019
THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST – PROPER 13 C
THE REVEREND KEVIN CORBIN SMITH RECTOR, ST. CLEMENT’S CHURCH, SEATTLE
THE GOSPEL: LUKE 12:13-21
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." But he said to him, "Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" And 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." Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, `What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' Then 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. And I will say to my soul, `Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But 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?' So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Those of you who have email got the word late this past week that this will be my last Sunday for a while, probably until September sometime. You’ll notice that Ron isn’t here this morning. Communicating has become almost non-existent and his frustration levels at being trapped inside a body that doesn’t really work anymore is rather intense for him. So, he decided to stay home. But sends his love.
To be honest, putting together a sermon for this morning has not been my first priority this week. I mean, there have been other things going on: meetings with the hospice team at home, being with Johnny – whom we’ve basically adopted as our son since his father is a fundamentalist who can’t cope with a gay son – and Courtney, Ron’s niece from San Diego is here. She’s great and a wonderful presence in the house. So, my attention has been in other directions.
However, the Gospel this morning actually spoke to me at a rather deeper level, probably of because of what’s going on at home. It’s the story of the wealthy farmer who decides to tear down his barns to make bigger ones for all his grain which he will sell and make a fortune for himself. This parable is frequently interpreted as a diatribe against greed and the fact that since none of us knows when death might come, we should do our best to be generous with what we have especially to the poor and needy, the outcast and the marginalized.
Now, I have no problem with this interpretation. I think it’s what Jesus was driving at: that generosity towards our fellow human beings is a requirement if we are going to claim to be his disciples. But what hit me was the fact that this guy really thinks of no-one but himself. He’s the consummate narcissist. It’s all about him and his grain and his wealth and his money and how he’s going to spend it on himself lying on the beaches in the Bahamas soaking up the rays. Note the parable says nothing about his relations to other people: no wife, no children, no parents, not even friends. It’s just he and he alone.
What struck me was the idea that true wealth really has nothing to do with money or barns or the Bahamas or wherever rich First Century Jews went on vacation. In one way, the parable goes even farther than care for the poor, the outcast and the marginalized. In a way, Jesus is trying to tell us that our true wealth is in each other, in the relationships we share with other people, with our families and our friends, the people we love and trust. He’s reminding us that for the Great Holy One, love is the only thing that really matters. Not some schmaltzy kind of romantic love but love that goes the extra mile, that is there when the chips are down, when we have reason to celebrate and be joyful, when life begins and there is much hope in a new life; and when death comes and we have big holes in our hearts. And in so doing, we are God, we are Christ for each other. That doesn’t mean our caring and our love for each other doesn’t matter. Not one iota. It matters in the most holy and grace-filled manner. But in the process, God moves among us and shares the holy moments of our lives together. God is what brings us together. And nothing has more value than our love for each other and the love God brings us and with which God cements us.
Jesus wasn’t the judgmental sort though he did have some opinions about those who abused power and wealth at the expense of those who had little. And my suspicion is that he told this parable not so much as a judgment against the greedy but rather to make the point that such people are to be pitied and for whom we must feel some deep compassion because they just don’t get it. They think life’s meaning is in things when Jesus is telling us that life’s meaning is in each other and the love we share together and in the gracious Root of all Being who unites us.
The Seminaries teach the clergy never to preach about themselves. But rules are made to be broken. The next few weeks are not going to be easy for Ron and me and Courtney and Johnny. And in a different but very important way it will be a difficult time for all of us in this Parish. Ron’s death will impact us each in our own way. There’s no right nor wrong way to experience it. And it will be sad and there will be grief. And that is as it should be. But in the midst of all of this, as I wrote to you this week, the Blessed Mother keeps reminding me that all will be well. And why? Because we know what the rich farmer didn’t know. We know what life is all about. We know that no matter what happens – and we know what WILL happen – love does not die. We know where our wealth really lies. We understand that grumpy old St. Paul was right: that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.