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Colossians 3. 1 - 11
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
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 towards God.’
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
By David, Reader at St Mary's.
“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 towards God.’
These words which end our Gospel reading are hard hitting. They can be thought of as a bad news text. One which will challenge us and provoke us to reassess our own priorities and life choices. It’s definitely an uncomfortable text to hear, particularly if we are one of the barn owners.
The acquisition of wealth is a defining human characteristic. We are beings who need material things to survive. Food, drink, clothing, shelter. All of these are essential to life. Because we need them we are naturally concerned about where they are coming from. When is our next meal? Do we have clothing to wear? Will the roof over our heads survive the coming weather? All of this is perfectly natural, especially when we have others depending on us. But we as a species, and particularly in western culture, have a tendency to take this to extremes.
The rich fool in our Gospel passage is a prime example. He clearly has enough for his needs, so much so that he cannot store it. We are told his land produced abundantly. Which is interesting. His land produced abundantly. Not him, his land. The implication here is that he wasn’t particularly involved in ensuring his land’s productivity. Perhaps it wasn’t through his own hard work that he was rich, but due to the luck of owning the right sort of land.
Land doesn’t tend to produce abundantly without some care. We aren’t told if he employed other workers, but given he already had more than one barn, I don’t expect he did all the work himself. There will almost certainly have been hired hands and day labourers. Worth remembering in a time of increasing wage disparity within organisations and with the increasing prevalence of the gig economy.
Going back to the agency of the rich man, his ability to make his own choices, we can see how he views himself. “What should I do?” “I will do this” “I will pull down” “I will store” “I will say to my soul”. His is the will which will decide what is to be done. At no point does he enter dialogue with anyone other than himself. He exists as an island apart. In doing so he believes that, through his own will and acts, he has control over the path his life will take. He believes he has complete agency. He is, as we hear in the Gospel, mistaken. In this respect it is a parable tailored for our times.
That we have complete agency is the modern world’s biggest lie. We cannot control everything that happens to us. Even the most powerful of us. None of us is completely self-reliant, we are interdependent and exist best when in community with God and each other. The complete opposite of the rich fool who doesn’t engage in dialogue with God or other humans.
Being in community with God and one another is the answer to our natural inclination to acquire more and more things to keep us fed, safe and sheltered. God calls us to remember that provision is made for us as it is for the lilies of field and birds of air. Our fellow humans in community remind us to not draw inward and become self-absorbed. Instead, we are drawn into dialogue with each other.
The outworking of this process is that we do not store up treasures for ourselves, but are instead generous towards God and those around us. As Jesus said, when asked which of the commandments is the greatest responded with “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
What does this generosity and love towards God and our neighbours look like? Well, it depends. Each of us has different gifts, different talents, different amounts of time or money. But we all have something to be generous with, even if we haven’t discovered what it might be yet.
We are called to spread this generosity widely, not just exercise it with in the church, though there is work to be done here. We are called to join with God in the world to generously share his love with those we meet, to enter dialogue with them and learn from them. For “When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.”
Prepared by David.
Holy Trinity, one God, in you we live and move and have our being.
God the Father, your will for all people is health and salvation.
You are the Lord who does mighty wonders.
Restore to wholeness whatever is broken by human sin,
in our lives, in our nation, and in the world.
Grant to all who minister to those who are suffering
wisdom and skill, sympathy and patience.
Hear us, Lord of life:
heal us, and give us rest.
God the Son, you came that we might have life,
and might have it more abundantly.
Grant to all who are lonely, anxious or depressed
a knowledge of your will and an awareness of your presence.
Mend broken relationships, and restore to those in distress
peace of mind and serenity of spirit.
Sustain and support those who seek your guidance
and lift up all who are brought low by the trials of this life.
Hear us, Lord of life:
heal us, and give us rest.
God the Holy Spirit, you make our bodies the temple of your presence. Lord, grant your healing grace to all who are sick or injured, that they may find peace.
With you, Lord, is the well of life.
Grant to the dying peace and a holy death,
and uphold by the grace and consolation of your Holy Spirit those who are bereaved.
Intercessor Hear us, Lord of life:
All heal us, and give us rest.
Rejoicing in the fellowship of Mary, Mark, John and all your saints, we commend ourselves to your unfailing love.
Accept these prayers
for the sake of your only Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.