Tag Archives: Sermon

Don’t pray like either the tax collector or pharisee

Luke 18:9-14
Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, `God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, `God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

*Note: Sermons are posted in the manuscript draft that they were preached in, and may contain typos or other errors that were resolved in my delivery. See the Sherwood Park Lutheran Facebook Page for video

For the past several months, we have been hearing Jesus’ thoughts about discipleship. We have heard parables and stories that Jesus has been telling his followers about what it means to serve, about what it means to trust and about what God is up in the world. As we round the corner toward the final few weeks of this liturgical year, Jesus provides a parable seemingly about humility. About two very different people and their prayers to God. Prayers that maybe sounded a bit like this:

“God, I thank you that I am not like other people: proud, haughty, self-righteous, or even like that on-fire-for-Jesus Christian. I bow my head when I pray silently, and I cover the amount on my envelope with my thumb when I slip it into the offering plate”.   

Have you ever prayed that prayer? Or had those thoughts? 

“God, how could you love someone like me. I am not like those other people who have it all together, who give more than I do, who volunteer more than I do, who are better people than I am. Have mercy on me, because that’s all I have”

What about this prayer and these thoughts?

It is easy to hear this parable and think that it is a lesson about the value of humility. There is the Pharisee, incorrectly dividing the world into categories. Thankfully we are not like him. And there is the tax collector. He knows what this is about, he is a good Lutheran. All sin. The only hope he has is for God’s mercy.

To our ears listening centuries after this story was first told, the details of this parable can just fly over our heads. We don’t know what it was like to stand in the temple of Jerusalem, the grand centre of Hebrew religion and power. The term Pharisee in our world is a derogatory, not a position of honour and importance. Imagining a haughty religious type praying this prayer in an opulent setting can make it seem easy to identify the villain. Yet there is so much we don’t know, images and symbols we miss, we have not heard the standard prayers of the Hebrew faith.

Understanding the context, as always, is very important. The temple of Jerusalem would have been grand sight to behold. It was big and it had rules. The people believed that it was where God lived – in the inner sanctum, the holy of holies. The temple was the place where you had to earn every inch of God’s favour. Whether you were a Pharisee or tax collector, you knew where you stood in the eyes of God when you were inside the temple. 

The Pharisee knows that he is righteous. He prays a Benediction that every Jewish man was to pray each day. Thank you God that I am not a Gentile, a sinner, or a woman. The Pharisee modifies the prayer, but the point is still the same. He is genuinely thankful for who he is. The pharisees sees those around him and looks down on them because they are truly less righteous than he. 

The tax collector, on the other hand, knows that he cannot expect anything from God. His job requires him to break the rules of Judaism. To charge interest, to handle money with graven images on it, even to steal or assault. He is not righteous and his only hope is God’s mercy. The tax collector is so wrapped up in himself, that he doesn’t see the world around him. 

But both the Pharisee and the tax collector are quick to divide people into categories. It doesn’t matter if one places himself in the good category and the other in the bad 0 the effect is the same. Both are acting as judge on God’s behalf. The Pharisees judges himself righteous, the tax collector judges himself unrighteous. 

And when slow down and look at ourselves honestly, we are often guilty of the same.

Whether we are thanking God for not being thieves, rogues, adulterers or tax collectors, or whether we are thanking God because we are not arrogant, self-righteous, or prideful, the issue is the same. We divide humanity into categories, justified or unjustified, saved or unsaved, loved or unloved. 

In fact, being divided into tribes and factions has become so pervasive over the past few years that we argue about everything, politics, culture, science and more. 

Human beings are constantly looking for the ways that we can identify who is in and who is out. We might not be standing on the street corner, boldly thanking God in prayer for our certain salvation. But have we looked down on others, the homeless, those in financial trouble, those hold differing views about the pandemic, about the war in Ukraine, about climate change and even those who are sick, and we thank God that we are not them. “Therefore by the grace of God, go I”. 

But we are also often the ones thinking that we are worthless compared to those around us. That we unworthy, while everyone else seems so perfect. We are certain that no one has it as bad us, or that others have their act together while we are struggling to get by. 

Whether we are intentional about it, or whether we do not know that we are doing it, we too place ourselves in the same categories that the Pharisees and the Tax Collector do. 

Now, here is the problem with that kind of thinking. It is a trap of our own making. 

One that the parable today gets us to fall for again. 

We so easily identify ourselves with either the Pharisee or the tax collector, or both. But this parable is not about pride or humility, and it is just as much not about pharisees or tax collectors. 

The parable is about the storyteller. 

The parable is about Jesus.  

While we are busy trying to make things about us, God is reminding us that it is God alone who justifies. God alone decides who is good enough for the Kingdom.

According to the law, the Pharisee came into the temple righteous, and left the temple righteous. But Jesus says something about the tax collector that should grab our attention, 

“I… tell… you,  this man went down to his home justified”. 

There is nothing that the tax collector did that earned his justification. His prayer did not make him righteous. 

Rather, it is Jesus who says that the man is justified. It is Jesus who decides. 

In the world of the Jerusalem temple, there were those were in and those were out. But everything changes with Jesus. 

Through birth, life, death and resurrection, Jesus comes to tear down the categories we try to build. Whenever we try to make categories, God will stand on the other side, because God wants all to be included, all to receive grace, all to be loved. God has only one category – the Kingdom to which we all belong. We are God’s beloved children. 

The parable that Jesus tells is not a parable on how to act, or who to be like or how to pray. This is a parable about God. A parable that shows us God’s motives and shows us the way that God chooses to act in the world. That shows us that God wants to be with and care for the least, the lost, the sinners and the alone. God wants to care for us… because we are the least, the lost, the sinners and the alone.

Neither the Pharisee, nor the tax collector, nor us, want to see or admit, that being justified, that being saved is something that God does for us. Yet, that is what is told to us today.  The trap is laid that we try to divide humanity into saved and not saved. And it is God who alone who knows the way out. Through love and mercy God chooses humanity. God who chooses those who truly cannot be righteous on our own, God comes to us as Christ who lives and dies, with us, with imperfect and flawed human beings, God sends us the Holy Spirit to bring us into the resurrection and into new life. 

Perhaps our prayer today should be:

“God, we thank you that we ARE like other people: Pharisees and tax collectors, sinners and saints.  We are justified by your righteousness; we are saved by your love.”

Image source: https://canadianmennonite.org/sites/default/files/article_photos/07-01A-pic-4-the_parable_of_the_pharisee_and_the_tax_collector_2017.jpg

Why do churches do visioning? – Pastor Thoughts

VISIONING.

It is a word that gets used a lot by church leaders, and I am sure by those in the business world and public sector, too. 

The first Visioning event I attended was for the Mulhurst Lutheran Church Camp Board on which I was serving at the age of 22. We had a facilitator provided by the Province of Alberta (free to charities!) who came to help our board work through the process. The camp had been floating along in a middling way for years, if not decades. They could only afford a part-time director, their weeks of summer camp were never completely full, and their ideal property with picturesque cabins and dining hall overlooking Pigeon Lake just 35 minutes south of Edmonton could never quite live up to its potential. 

So on a mid-winter Saturday we sat in the dining hall and tried out the Visioning process. Right away the questions that we were being ask sparked my imagination: 

    What is the most important thing we do as a [community of faith]? 

    Why do we exist? 

    What is our purpose? 

    What are our values? 

    Who are we as a community? 

I loved stepping back and contemplating the big picture. My mind was set alight by pondering these questions, helping me to sort through just what the camp and our job and role was in the ministry of Lutheran churches in the Edmonton area. 

At the same time I could see that other board members were struggling. They seemed frustrated by having to step back from their usual modes of serving. The facilitator kept having to pull them back from trying to make concrete decisions and action plans. The struggling board members in this case were faithful old German-Canadians (men mostly) whose commitment and service was expressed in hammering nails, fixing things with their hands and putting in their time and energy for the camp. It was difficult to step back and ask about the identity and purpose of this place they had spent years and years caring for and serving. They didn’t want to ask ‘why?’ They didn’t want to interrogate their motivations or priorities. They wanted to remain in a world where they could believe everyone was on the same page about that stuff. 

Of course, they weren’t on the same page and that was the problem! The camp had had a succession of directors come and go. They wanted to add to their facilities, but could never raise enough money. There were conflicts about what was most important and for which projects or staff they should use the available resources. 

Though it took some hard work together to unpack what our Vision for the camp actually was, once we slowed down to understand our values and priorities, we were then able to have much more focused conversations about how to use our resources. In the years that followed (with more Visioning and strategic planning), the camp was able to build new or upgrade facilities, have longer-term directors and staff, and grow in some important ways. 

Does that mean that Visioning is a magic cure-all for the challenges that we face? Certainly not. 

But what Visioning does is provide a venue to have important conversations about who we are as a community, about what our values are, about where we are going and about where God is calling us to go. 

Visioning can be hard work, especially if you are the sort who prefers hammering nails, fixing things, making things or staying behind the scenes. It can mean questioning our past and our decisions, it can mean realizing that we need to change our present choices in order to move into a vibrant future. Visioning is discerning work, it is important work. It is the work of following God’s call for our community and living together faithfully. 

Now is an era for Visioning. Now, as the world changes rapidly around us and as we struggle with how to use our limited resources, coming together with a common Vision will be essential for us, as it is becoming for every church and faith community. It is hard work but holy work

Lost Sheep, Lost Coins and Lost in 2022

GOSPEL: Luke 15:1-10
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to [Jesus.] 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3So he told them this parable: 4“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

8“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

*Note: Sermons are posted in the manuscript draft that they were preached in, and may contain typos or other errors that were resolved in my delivery. See the Sherwood Park Lutheran Facebook Page for video

Today we get to hear some familiar parables about the Lost – the Lost Coin and Lost Sheep. There is something deeply familiar about the shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the one lost sheep, about the woman who tears apart her house to find her one lost coin. And if we were to continue after this, to hear the story of prodigal son. 

But just maybe this year, there is something different in the way we hear these parables. Something helps us identify different and see our selves differently in the story. 

If I am honest, I should confess my own bias in preaching these stories before. The previous four times I have preached on these parables, I have always found myself identifying with the 99 sheep, the 9 coins or more importantly the grumbling Pharisees. I have found it hard to see myself in the lost thing. Before, I tried to redefine what I meant to be lost or just preached about grumblers. In my sermon from 3 years ago, at the time a father of a 5 year old and 3 year whose whose whole life was chasing after lost people and things, I gave lost things and people a bum rap. 

But this year in 2022, as I read this story of Jesus and these two parables again, and it was almost like hearing them for first time. Since the last time this gospel lesson was read in church, our whole world and lives have been turned upside down.  We have known an experience of being lost and alone, all experiencing it at the same time, that probably many of us had never before endured. We all know today, in new ways what is means to be alone, to feel lost, to be surrounded by danger, and to long to be found and rescued in new and profound ways. And if you don’t, what were you doing during the past two years?

In the old world of 2019 where feeling lost and alone, abandoned and forgotten was a foreign, or at least private experience… this new world that we are now living in has plenty of loneliness to go around. It doesn’t take much to remember how recently the walls of our homes kept us in and others out, or that the streets and walkways were emptier than we have every seen. We have felt the danger of simply being with others, we have seen the rage of protest and frustration, we have welcomed the refugee fleeing a war that feels too close for comfort.

Just this week, we have born witness to tragedy in James Smith Scree Nation and Weldon. We got the alerts on our phones, TVs and radios. We grieve the violence and loss of life. And we are reminded of the complicated history that Canada bears with indigenous peoples and communities. 

And if that wasn’t enough to endure, the news came on Thursday that Queen Elizabeth died. After 70 years on throne, she is the only monarch that most of us have known or remember well. Her death is not only the loss of a wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother whose life was dedicated to service in an role that was not of her own choosing, but she represents in many ways the end of era that spans the time from the Great Depression and World War II all the way to our 21st century pandemic world. We have known that that time late 20th century world was ending, but now it feels even more like we have transitioned fully to a new 21st century existence.

Now with all of that on our plates this week, we know understand now that feeling lost and abandoned, alone and in danger, has been a common experience for human beings through the ages. Being lost seemed like it was just a thing for those on the margins, those who fell into lives of abuse, addiction, and crime. But certainly as Jesus preaches to the Scribes and Pharisees, tax collectors and debtors, we can now understand the ancient world was full hardship and struggle. Feeling lost, hoping for salvation was common place. The people who hear Jesus preach would have known what it was to be lost, at least most of them. 

Their world was not one where there was much mercy and grace to be found. Sinners, debtors and the unclean rarely found help and care, rarely were they able to escape their circumstances. Once in debt it was nearly impossible to get out, once unclean it was a whole process to become clean again, once a sinner the whole community turned its back to you. 

So these crowds following Jesus, listening to his preaching about discipleship would have heard these parables of lost things as radical and unexpected, as stark contrasts to the image of a judgemental God that they were so often warned of. 

When the sinners and debt collectors hear the pharisees and scribes grumbling about Jesus caring for the lost, the expected response would be for Jesus to shape up and start following the rules. It simply wouldn’t track that a shepherd might risk the 99 for the sake of the 1. It is a waste of time and energy to tear apart one’s house just to find a single coin, when you still have 9.

So imagine the crowds hearing Jesus tell the story of the shepherd that leaves the 99 behind to go and find the one lost sheep. The story of the woman who takes apart her whole house in order to find a lost coin and then throws a party to celebrate. And finally the story of the prodigal son, the child who has lost to the world seemingly for good, returns home to the joy of his father and of course the jealous older brother. 

These stories of the lost things would have been radical to the ears of the crowds because they revealed a God far different than the one they had been taught to fear. They tell the story of a God who loves so deeply that God will search and find the lost and forgotten, God will go out to meet those who are alone and abandoned, God cares not just for the whole, the community, the herd, but just as much for the one, the individual, the personal. God who knows us as the family of faith called the Body of Christ, and who knows us that the beloved baptized child in whom God is well pleased. 

And this Shepherding God who goes out for the 1 sheep this finding God who searches frantically for the 1 coin, this loving God who runs out to meet the lost son on the road and goes out to me the resentful son in the field… this God is the One whom finds and gathers us up. Gathers us up from our scattered and separated lonely places, who brings us together in to one Body, one congregation, one family, who rejoices that we have been found, that we have been retuned home, that we are reunited in Christ. 

This same finding God continues to meet us in our world this week. As God weeps and mourns with the communities of James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon, God promises that death is not the end and that there is New Life found in the Shepherd who search for the lost. As a commonwealth grieve’s the death of a beloved Queen and matriarch, while wrestling with the legacy of colonialism, God joins us again and again to a community, a Body and Kingdom in Christ that spans all time and space. As we contend with change that do not know how to manage, God reminds us that God has walked this journey with God’s people before, and God will show us the way now. 

This week, this year, more than ever before in our lives, we may have needed to hear these parables of the Lost as a church. We needed to be reminded of the loving finding God who doesn’t just look for those others that we consider lost, but loves and finds us, all of us. Because God knows knows that we are just as much the one lost sheep as we are the 99. God knows we are just as much the one lost coin as we are the 10 found ones. 

And the God who seeks, finds, knows and loves us is exactly who we need. 

When Jesus interrupts our summer chill

Luke 12:32-40
Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

*Note: Sermons are posted in the manuscript draft that they were preached in, and may contain typos or other errors that were resolved in my delivery. See the Sherwood Park Lutheran Facebook Page for video

*Thanks to Feedspot for putting my blog at #3 on their Best Canadian Pastor Blogs list!: https://blog.feedspot.com/canadian_pastor_blogs/

We are getting into those long summer days now, where finding a nice patio to sit on, or a shady tree to sit under with a cold drink, a good book and lots of sunlight and gentle summer breezes is about as good as life can get. As Canadians know, we like to put life on hold in the summer as much as we can, to enjoy the warm weather. School, sports, work, hobbies, and other activities are suspended as much as possible while we do whatever summery things we can fit in to life.  

So when Jesus offers advice about being prepared and on guard… it is hard to get into the spirit. He gives us different images: Give away your possessions. Pull up your sleeves. Attend to your house for the coming of the Son of Man. Keep watch and wait… These aren’t normal summer activities. They don’t really fit our summer schedule of afternoon naps and long evening sunsets.  

While we don’t read this today, Peter follows up Jesus’ commands with a question. He says out loud what many of us are thinking,  ‘Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?’ Like a good Canadian in summer, Peter is hoping that these commands to be diligent are not specifically for him, but more of a general warning, a take it or leave it kind of idea. 

Peter makes a good point. Are these commands really for us? Is it even possible to do fulfill all of these demands? Giving away all our possessions just isn’t realistic in today’s economy. Waiting up all night for the master to return from a wedding banquet… well that image is outdated because none of us are slaves. And protecting our house from the thief is what locks, guard dogs and alarm systems are for. It is like Peter is saying, “Come on Jesus, its Folklorama. Can we we just give the discipleship talk a rest for a few days?”

Jesus throws so many images at us that its easy to get lost in them. They are overwhelming and sorting through the meaning of each one may or may not provide answers. To figure this out we need to step back, take a breath and consider what the big picture is. 

When it comes to faith and sorting out how all this God stuff applies to us, we are quick to look for the tasks that we think we need to do to make God happy. What do we need to get out of the way, so that we can get on with life, so that we can get to the real business of summer? This is at the root of Peter’s, and our question. If all these demands really do apply to us, what is the fastest and easiest way we can get them finished. How many times do we need to come to church? How many prayers do we need to pray?  How much money should we give? What else do we need to do to make Jesus happy? 

We hope that completing the assigned tasks will satisfy Jesus, but that isn’t really what he is getting at today. Its not about the details, is not about breaking down faith into tasks and to do lists. The impossible demands that Jesus lists are just that — impossible. Faith is not something that can be reduced to simple instructions that we follow. Rather, faith is that relationship that finds us and grabs on to us. Faith comes from our gracious God who claims us and marks us in baptism. God pulls out of the details and our need to just complete the tasks that make God happy, and God does it with the first words that Jesus speaks today. 

Do not be afraid. Words that echo throughout the bible. Words that always come before the announcement of the good news. 

Do not be afraid. And we are standing with Sarah and Abraham as God calls them to be the mother and father of a nation. 

Do not be afraid. And we are standing with Daniel as God promises to be with him in a foreign land and even in a den of lions. 

Do not be afraid. And we are standing with Mary as she is told that she is pregnant with the Messiah, and that he will be Emmanuel — God with us. 

Do not be afraid. And we are standing with the disciples in the upper room hiding in fear, and Jesus appears among us bringing peace, showing the holes in his hands and the mark in his side. 

Do not be afraid. And we are standing here, and Jesus is telling St. John, that it is the Father’s pleasure to give us the Kingdom of God. 

Its easy to overlook these first few words at the beginning. Its easy to get stuck with the details, stuck with trying to figure what exactly it is that Jesus is telling us to do. 

Do not be afraid, these words, always accompany God’s promise. Do not be afraid. They come to us in big moments, important moments of faith. Moments when God is going to change the world. When God turns everything we know on its head. Do not be afraid, God speaks these words to us in moments that are confusing and terrifying, moments that give hope in the darkness. Moments when all seems lost and destroyed. Moments of promise that remind us first and foremost that God is doing something amazing in our world. Do not be afraid. 

With these words, Jesus’ impossible demands to give ALL we have to the poor, to be ALWAYS on guard and ALWAYS watching for the return of the master, and to be CONSTANTLY alert for the unexpected coming of the Son of Man… with these words, Do not be afraid, Jesus reminds us that all those instructions coming next have less to do us and more to do with God. 

And even more we hear today in this place that it is God’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom… whether we are ready or not. God gives us a treasure more valuable than any and all possessions: Grace and forgiveness… whether we are diligent or not. God comes from the heavenly banquet to bless and serve us with water, with bread and wine… whether we are watchful or not. As the Son of Man, God is breaking into our world, into our lives… whether we are waiting or not. 

God pulls us out from all these impossible details. And in the midst of sunny days and olympics, Jesus says yes, these words are for you. Do not be afraid, for it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom!

The parable of God tearing down barns and giving grain away

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 toward God.”

*Note: Sermons are posted in the manuscript draft that they were preached in, and may contain typos or other errors that were resolved in my delivery. See the Sherwood Park Lutheran Facebook Page for video

We have been hitting a highlight reel of the gospel of Luke lately. We have heard very well known and familiar stories like the story of the Geresene Demoniac and Jesus exorcizing the demon called legion. We have heard the parable of the Good Samaritan. We stopped in for dinner at Mary and Martha’s. We learned the Lord’s Prayer along with the disciples who wanted to know how to pray. 

But today, we step off the highlight reel to touch on a much more taboo topic. No, not sex. Not even politics. 

Today, Luke has laid upon us the issue of money and how we value it. The way we understand money and wealth in the Church has a varied history. Some have said that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing. Others would say wealth that is not used to help the poor is one of the greatest sins imaginable. Either way, money and its place in our lives and world elicits strong feelings for all of us. We know that money holds power over us, and we also know that putting money in its place is something we struggle with. 

Jesus is standing in a crowd teaching his disciples when two brothers come forward and ask Jesus the teacher to settle a dispute over inheritance. Inheritance was a complicated issue in the ancient world, like it is now. The eldest son of the family received a double portion of the wealth, compared to other sons. And the assets, the land, the buildings, the servants would belong more the clan or tribe than the particular  landowner.

But what passes us by quickly, is that most people wouldn’t be landowners in Jesus’ day. Most people were day labourers, or might have been lucky enough to have the skill to make something to sell. Landowners were wealthy, and often they were the economic drivers of a community. Their land produced food, jobs, provided places to live. They were responsible for their communities. 

So when these two brothers are seeking to divide their inheritance, it is possible that they will be dividing a whole community. The estate that they look after together might not be able to adequately provide for their community once divided. But the two brothers, aren’t thinking about that. They are probably thinking about controlling their wealth themselves. 

And so Jesus will have none of it. He refuses to arbitrate their dispute as a respected teacher. 

Instead, he offers a scathing parable about greed.

Often in Biblical parables, the rich are portrayed as having acquired their wealth in unethical, even illegal ways. But the farmer in today’s parable has done nothing wrong. He does not steal, or cheat, or break the law. He simply is the owner of land that produces abundantly. 

In fact, the farmer’s wealth is not at issue in the parable. It is what the farmer says that seems to be the problem. Listen to his words: “I do, I have, my crops, I will do, I will pull down, my barns, my grain, my goods, I will say, my soul, Soul you have ample”. In the short 3 sentences that this farmer speaks, he makes reference to himself 10 times. It is easy to see that this farmer is rather self-centred, and that he sees the land and grain as belonging to him. 

Yet, the land would truly belong to his family. His wealth would then belong to his community and all of his relatives that would be working the fields along with him. But our farmer only considers storing his grain — his wealth. He does not consider other options like providing for the poor, giving his workers a bonus or sharing with relatives whose land did not produce as well. 

The farmer in this parable is a caricature. He is the extreme version of our human instinct to create security for ourselves.

We know very well the thought process that is being outlined in this parable. In times where there is even a small amount of extra, saving it for when there is not enough is important. Today’s farmers could use some harvests with extra, some years when next year’s crop wasn’t already being used to pay this year’s. 

It isn’t the actions of the farmer in this parable that are brought into question. Rather, as God demands the life of this wealthy farmer today, the issue is about the proper place of money in the world. It isn’t just that those big grain barns won’t do this farmer any good once he is dead. But more importantly, that storing all this grain, all this wealth hasn’t done anyone any good. 

Who is remembered at a funeral for the size of their grain bins? Or house? Or wardrobe? Or bank account? Or car collection?

Jesus is making a point not just about the next life, but about this one. This absurd farmer and all his wealth has missed an opportunity to build something far more valuable than money and wealth. The farmer has missed what it means to build relationships with people. 

People are more valuable than any amount money. Full grain bins mean nothing when there are people starving next door. And yet our world routinely chooses wealth ahead of people. Our world is full of overflowing grain bins and starving people. 

These past two years  we have been regularly reminded of how easily it is forget to consider our neighbour. As people have railed against pandemic restrictions, economic insecurity, as nations have gone to war to satisfy the grandiose visions of man dictators… we have seen money and power being put before people. 

When Jesus scolds these two brothers for wanting to divide their inheritance, it is because when he looks arounds his world is full of people just like our new refugee family. People whom have been left behind by the world in our struggle to have more money and wealth. People who are forgotten by those with riches. People who could benefit from some of that extra and abundant grain. 

But it isn’t just that Jesus reminds these brothers and us that those with more than enough can afford to share with those with not enough. But Jesus reminds us that ultimately, on the night when our life is demanded of us, that we too are refugees with nothing. All the wealth and money and power and security in the world means nothing in the face of death. 

And how lucky are we, when we forget the proper place of money and the value of people, that God does not. That God places people above money, wealth, power and security. That God is willing to give up all those things for our sake. How lucky are we that God is into loving the neighbour and sponsoring refugees in a big way? That God welcomes and provides for us, for us with nothing to offer, with nothing of true value to our names. God gives us the most valuable name of all – beloved child. 

And if we were to retell the parable that Jesus tells today, but with God as the main character instead of an absurdly rich landowner, it would sound very different:

Then [Jesus] told them a parable: “The land of God produced abundantly. And God thought to Godself, `What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then God said, `I will do this: I will pull down my barns and instead of building larger ones, I will give my grain and my goods to those who are hungry, to those who are in need. And [then] I will say to my soul, `Soul, you have ample goods to feed all who are hungry and all who are thirsty; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But then sinful humanity said to God, `You fool! This very night you will be betrayed’ And God said, “Then take my life, take my body broken for you. Take my blood shed for you.” 

And then Jesus explaining this new parable said, “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God, for God does not store up treasures for Godself, but has been poured out for you, and is rich towards all.