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08.12.18 God’s Gift and Ours Luke 12.16-24 Sermon Summary

by on August 13, 2018

Some people spend their whole life waiting or working. They say to themselves, “When I’ve done ______,” or “When I have this much in retirement,” “THEN I’ll volunteer, or give, or spend time with my kids.” Such people are waiting or working to say, along with the rich man in Jesus’ parable, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years. Relax, eat, drink, and be merry.”

The hitch is, at any time our lives can change. There are variables beyond our control and influence. In the narrative of the parable God says, “This very night your life is demanded of you!”

The man is called a fool by God, not because he WANTED to relax, eat, drink, and be merry. He’s a fool because he assumed he had more time. Note that he was ALREADY a rich man. He could have, at any time, relaxed, eaten, drunk, and been merry. But he didn’t. In classic narrative style, Jesus’ parable has the rich man receive a bumper crop merely to exaggerate the situation so we don’t miss it.

So the first meaning of the parable is this: Don’t wait to enjoy life. For me, for I am constantly working on this. The biggest motivator presented herself about 14 years ago: Parenthood. I have known many parents who live with regret, much of which could have been avoided. I don’t want to die a rich man—no matter how you define “riches”—with no relationship with my kids.

As the parable unfolds, Jesus cautions us to be “rich towards God.” Cleary part of what he means is to live in the present. Enjoy life now. Relax, eat, drink, and be merry now.

The second meaning, much more popular, is revealed with the question, “All for which you have prepared: Whose will they be?” The answer obviously is, No longer the rich man’s! He’s lost control of his riches.

So a second aspect of being a fool is trying to control things that we can’t. And a related matter: When circumstances outside our control change things, a fool isn’t able to let go. To be able to let go takes practice, and so a second meaning of this parable is to live generously, practicing letting go throughout one’s life so one can let go when life requires it.

This past weekend I officiated a “destination wedding.” Guests flew in from all around the country to attend. The ceremony was to be held on a hillside next to a resort lodge. The only problem was, moments into the ceremony it began to rain. We made the decision to suspend the wedding, reconvene in the lodge lobby, and conclude the ceremony there. All of us had to let go of our visions and live in the present.

There are two practices that prepare us to let go and live in the present. They are trusting God (which is why Jesus directs us to the ravens), and being generous in the present, for if we have a habit of letting go in the present, we will be able to let go whenever circumstances require it.

The hymn “Take my Life” instructs us on how to live in the present and be prepared to let go when required. It was written by Frances Havergal in the 19th Century. She was the daughter of minister, and has over 60 hymns still published in hymnals today.

There are several arrangements of the verses Frances wrote. The first half of one is combined with the second half of another, for example. Nevertheless, the thrust of the lyrics encourage us to trust God, live in the present, and be generous.

The theme of “Take my Life” is the life consecrated to the Lord. The first verse recognizes that it starts with “moments and days.” This is because small units become larger units. If we give God our moments, then days, eventually we will have given God our entire lives.

The following verses offer various body parts as metonyms. Our “hands” represent our work and service. Our “feet” represent our impulse for ministry. Our “voice” is an instrument of worship. Our “lips” indicate our offering words of encouragement.

We are consecrated, according to the hymn, by trusting God, living in the present, and being generous, moment by moment, piece by piece.

Is it at once easy—just moment by moment, day by day, one small part of our lives after another. But it is also very hard. Only three times in the hymn do we DO something on our own. (For grammar geeks, the times a first person active verb appears. The first is, “not a mite would I withhold.” The second is, “I pour my love at your feet.” And finally, “I will be ever, only, all for thee.”

Even this third example is contingent. It is in the future. It depends on God’s “taking.” The whole hymn is built on God’s “taking.” The reason this is important is because it is so hard for us to give up. It’s much easier to hold on, to assume and wait for more time, to be the fool. But Jesus calls us to trust God, to live in the present, and to be generous.

Recognizing how hard this is for us, “Take my Life” asks God to do it for us. And in this is grace: That God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Grace is the message of Christianity, from baptism to the Table: God gives us life; God gives us new life.

It was grace that came to the rich man that night. It freed him from his foolish assumptions. And this grace will come to us as well. God will say to us all, “This very night your life is demanded of you.” But in fact grace comes to us in all our moments, in all our days. May we have the faith to let go as God takes our lives.

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