Sermon for Proper 13 (Year C) 7th Sunday after Trinity: 4 August 2019

Hosea 11:1-11 and Luke 12:13-21

There were many occasions during our childhood when my brother and I would squabble or fight over some game or toy and maybe cry “It’s not fair” or “mummy make him give me that, it’s mine”. The response we got depended upon the parental mood at the time. One possibility was “if you can’t play together without quarrelling and fighting then I’ll take whatever it is away from you altogether”.

I get the feeling that there’s something like this going on between Jesus and the man who comes to demand justice over the division of his inheritance with his brother. Jesus doesn’t seem to want to get involved in the dispute, It’s almost as if he wants the brothers to sort themselves out and reach an agreement. He certainly warns them that life is much more than the possession of wealth.

He then goes on to tell the vivid story of the rich fool, the man who has everything … and nothing.

In modern terms we might think of it as the story of a man whose investments and properties earn him more money than he can spend.

The man says to himself:

“I can’t find ways of spending all my income, what shall I do with it? I know, I’ll invest it in more properties and more shares and then I’ll have even more income and I won’t have to worry about money for the rest of my life – wonderful – I can just sit back and enjoy myself.”

Then tragedy strikes: a life threatening illness, a bereavement, the breaking up of an important relationship. There are many ways in which our lives can be turned upside down. Suddenly he knows that not all his income and his capital put together can buy him what he’s just found out is more important to him than money and the pleasures it buys.

Jesus then gives the explicit warning about storing up wealth in this world but giving no thought to being “rich towards God”.

The story is familiar to us and seems fairly straight forward. Perhaps it’s become too familiar and we no longer ask ourselves the questions it asks.

What are we preparing for ourselves in this life?
What are we preparing for ourselves in the life to come?
What will we be leaving behind for other people?
What does it mean to be rich towards God?

EXERCISE for congregation in small groups
Think about someone you care about
words come up to the surface in your thoughts?
Tell neighbours what words came up – no other detail.
Feed back – what kind of words did you use?
Hope they’re words like kind, compassionate, caring, generous, brave, fair.

We’ve thought about how we see the people we love.

The prophet Hosea tells us something about how God sees the people he thinks of as his children. Hosea uses language that suggests the tenderness and gentleness of the maternal nature of God.

She teaches her children to walk,
She holds them and heals them,
She leads them with love and kindness,
She feeds them.
She cannot stop loving them
even when they turn her back on her.
She just goes on loving them.

This love that God shows to his people, to us, is undeserved. It’s his gift of grace to a faithless people. And it’s as we learn to receive, and pass on, the gifts of grace that we grow rich towards God. If we decide to live our lives in grace we’ll make ourselves very vulnerable. We’re no longer in the realms of bargaining, buying, earning or demanding. We can’t make someone love us.

If someone wrongs me I can demand my rights or compensation but I can’t demand repentance. If I wrong someone else I can’t demand their forgiveness, I can only ask in the hope that they may be willing to give.

We’re dependent on grace, on gift, on free will, on God for the things that we’ve agreed are really important to us.

The God who loves us as his children longs for us to come home, to form communities where we can learn to be that vulnerable. Communities where we can trust in the grace of others and from where we can offer gifts of grace to those outside our community.

Our lives are given to us by grace and we are called to offer our selves by grace, to offer who we are to other people and to receive with grace and gratitude the selves that others offer us. As we learn to do that we are storing up our treasure in heaven. we are growing rich towards God.