“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)
A couple of Sunday’s ago Sharon and I were up in Ogunquit, Maine on vacation and we went to church in York, Maine. I was surprised to hear the Minister of that beach town church talking to her congregation about chances to get away and relax, not on the beach, but at the lake.
I thought people who lived in beach communities were there because they loved being on the coast and by the beach. But in the sermon, these beach people were connecting the thought of vacation not with the shore, but with some lake up in the mountains.
We had driven about 150 miles to get to that very beach to relax. We hauled a car and a roof-rack worth of stuff 150 miles to vacation. They were hauling their stuff away from the beach for theirs.
I guess it isn’t so much about the place as it is about the attitude we bring to the place, whatever the place may be.
I think this is part of what Jesus is trying to tell us this morning with His parable of the rich fool. The man has done very well for himself. He makes plans to store up so much wealth that he can lead the rest of his life leisurely, without a care or concern.
He’s packed his proverbial car and added a trailer behind because he’s figuring all he needs, is stuff he can buy. That’s the “tear down his old barns and build bigger ones” of the parable.
You can see that with wealth. Sometimes it never seems to be enough. There’s always the desire for more. Wealth can become addictive and addiction can become abusive. Then it doesn’t matter how the wealth is gathered. It doesn’t matter that others have less and some have none.
It doesn’t matter that there is a grotesque divide in our country and throughout the world between the rich and the desperately poor. This kind of wealth is not 401K-planning for retirement. This kind of attitude toward wealth is an addiction and it’s abusive.
And Jesus asks us today in His parable to consider the way we think about wealth. Jesus wants us to ask ourselves what happens when the place changes and the stuff is no longer valuable? Where is our worth found then?
What do we bring on our life’s journey that doesn’t depend on place? What do we care about that has value here in this life and also will transfer to the life to come when we move from one place to another?
Jesus is using wealth to convey the comparison between how much we think about and prepare for this place, and how blind we seem to be when it comes to our immortal place. Jesus even uses the word fool to describe this one-sidedness, this expectation that the purpose of life is to fill bigger and bigger barns.
So this past Monday I had the pleasure of doing my prep for a regular colonoscopy. You must be all excited to hear about this. On Tuesday Sharon drove me over to Cooley Dickinson. I’ve done these procedures before, so I know what to expect. I think it’s kind of cool the way the anesthesia works. I remember looking up at the clock. I recall the staff starting to put on their blue gowns. Then I remember it getting cloudy and I knew I was starting to go under.
The next thing I know they’re waking me up after everything is all done. I don’t remember what the anesthesiologist said to me, but he was trying to wake me up. When I came around, I was startled and the first thing I said to him was, “What are you doing in my bedroom?” I think that experience is so interesting. One second you’re here, the next you’re gone. There are all of these people working on your body and you’re just gone.
Another friend of mine, just saw him Wednesday, had a much more eventful trip to the hospital. He actually died on the table. He told the story to us at a religious gathering a number of years ago. He floated above his body and he watched the doctors work on his body.
When they revived him, he was able to tell the staff about what was going on when he was clinically dead. When they gave me the anesthesia, they could have had a marching band come through the room and I wouldn’t have known. This guy died on the table and he told the staff what they were doing.
We are all going to “fall asleep” as Paul so casually refers to death in First Thessalonians. And we are going to wake-up on the other side. I hope I don’t embarrass myself by saying something like, “What are you doing in my bedroom?” I don’t want to start off eternity like that. But there is another truth, another reality, another future. And to not give that other life any consideration is the reason behind Jesus’ parable of the rich fool. What do we value that isn’t dependent upon place, that means something important here and now, and keeps that value in the next place?
Bill shared with us a reading from the Epistle to the Colossians. What I love about this reading is that it connects the here-after with here. They’re not as separated as we tend to imagine.
Clothe yourself with a new self, says Colossians. And when we do, all of a sudden, those differences that we think are so darn important, the differences that separate us whether they be the colour of our skin, the places we were born, the differences of gender, the different choices we make on how to love and to vote and to worship, and the amount of money we have or don’t have, all of these are stripped away, and instantaneously in our new self we can see the lasting truth that “Christ is all and in all!”
That’s a vision that has value here and after-here. It’s a message of unity that transcends place. It gives us meaning wherever we are.
Let’s heed both Jesus’ warning about the rich fool, and let’s celebrate Colossians uplifting message that we are born anew so let’s live like it already.
Now let us gather around the Lord’s Table to share in the sacrament of Communion, a table set both here in front of us, and simultaneously in front of Jesus in heaven. Let this boundary-breaker remind us that we are in this world and also of the next, already.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
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