Friday, July 29, 2016

Sowing What We Have Reaped: Reflections on Luke 12.13-21 (RCL Proper 18C, 31 July 2016)

Sowing What We Reap
Reflections on Luke 12.13-21

The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
31 July 2016

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC
         I grew up where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains.  Although I grew up a city boy, I knew that my home was surrounded by people who were either ranchers or farmers or both.  Most of the produce we bought came from local farms and there is no sweeter melon in the world than a Rocky Ford cantaloupe fresh from the farm.  My childhood left in me a deep appreciation for farmers and an awareness of the hopes that farmers have for each season and for the risks that they take.

         Today Jesus tells us a story about a farmer who has won the agricultural lottery.  His crops have prospered and neither the Roman nor Jewish authorities have seized his produce for their purposes.  He has more than he needs, but he knows how things can change in a moment.  So what does he do?  He prudently builds bigger barns and looks forward to the comfort of having more than enough to face the months ahead.

         Let’s be honest.  We all want to make sure that our futures are secure.  In few months’ time our banks and other financial institutions will begin their annual campaign to encourage us to put more money into our RRSP’s.  At least once a week you and I are likely to see an advertising message from a company that promises to help us with our debts.  Do you remember the last time you saw a television message about ‘reverse mortgages’ or life insurance policies that require no health examination?  Recently even I’ve been quietly reminding my own children about the importance of saving for retirement!  And there are moments when I quietly accuse myself of not having done enough for my own family.

. . . the man in the parable is not a bad man.  He doesn’t make generous decisions, but he has what he does because his farm was very productive that year . . . . A successful person or a financially successful congregation isn’t made evil by their success. [1]

         So why is this farmer a fool?  Why does Jesus, probably speaking to an audience with plenty of successful farmers and merchants present, paint this man as having lost the plot of life?  I think Jesus knows the farmer for a fool because the man has given into the fear that consumes many of us:  the fear of scarcity.  We all are prey to this fear, that there will not be enough.  But to his audience and to us Jesus says, in so many words, that ‘to be anxious about money and power is to give them an authority they don’t deserve’. [2]

         Now don’t get me wrong.  Exercising good stewardship of the resources God entrusts to us is not the same as anxiety.  Good stewardship is characterized by generosity rather than hoarding, thoughtful planning rather than frivolity, a preference for sowing what we have reaped in order to help God’s reign of justice, compassion and humility to grow wherever we live as disciples of Christ.

         This attitude of stewardship rather than anxiety runs throughout the gospel according to Luke.  Luke doesn’t often fall into the stereotype of ‘poor equals good and rich equals bad’.  Rather Luke is constant in asking those who have resources to consider how they use these resources in God’s service and the obligation that the possession of resources places upon any individual disciple or Christian community.

         We here at Saint Faith’s are just this sort of community to whom Jesus is speaking.  We have been fortunate to sell the rectory at a time when housing values and interest rates were high.  Over the last year and in the months ahead we will be the recipients of the generosity of beloved members of our congregation who have left bequests to the Parish.

         Our task, in the months and years ahead, will be to discern how we are to use these resources wisely and generously to continue the work of ministry God has entrusted to us, whether in our neighbourhoods, our Diocese and our world.  We have a history of just such wisdom and generosity.

         There are times when I ponder the future of the way you and I have chose to follow Jesus as his disciples.  I am sure that each one of us knows or has known someone, whether friend or family member, who has questioned us about our commitment to this way of life.  And I doubt not that each one of us, from time to time, has asked that question of ourselves.  And then I think that we have been raised with Christ and seek the things that are above.  We have set our minds on God’s justice, compassion and humility.  Our life is hidden with Christ in God and each day a bit more of that hidden life is revealed in us.  And when that life is revealed in us, we transform the lives of others, whether they acknowledge this or not. 

         So let us sow what we have reaped wisely and generously, confident that the One who has given us seed to sow will bring forth the fruit of justice, compassion and humility in the fields of our lives.

[1] Sundays and Seasons:  Preaching (Year C 2016), 215.

[2] Sundays and Seasons:  Preaching (Year C 2016), 216.

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