Yard Sale vs. Estate Sale
Proper 13, Year C
Church of the Good Shepherd, Knoxville, TN
August 1, 2010
Collect for the Day
Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your
Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without
your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
In the name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Well, seemingly for my first sermon at Church of the Good Shepherd, Charles has given me an easy intro. The gospel lesson is one we have heard all our lives. In my copy of the scripture this section is titled, “The Parable of the Rich Fool.” Now, who couldn’t preach a sermon on that topic? All you need to do is think stewardship, right? After all, the vestry is just back from their trip to Indianapolis where they attended a two-day Grace, Gratitude, and Generosity Conference. So, I can imagine they are all thinking, “O. K. David, just get up there and show us how we are to NOT put emphasis on our possessions. Tell them to give a tithe to the Lord and all will be well.”
How many of you regularly watch that show about Hoarders? You know the one where the camera person can hardly get into the front door for all the stuff that is packing the hallways, dining table, countertops, even the bed in the bedroom. Isn’t it amazing how we, middle-class Americans can accumulate so much stuff? Even back in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, George Carlin was doing his comedy routine on “stuff.” That is what we all work for. We are driven to accumulate stuff.
Did you happen to see the article in the News Sentinel a couple weeks ago about the treasures that can be found in storage sheds? I dare not ask for a show of hands today to see how many of us pay rent every month on a storage shed for all those things we need to save.
Actually, I can boast today that our family no longer pays extra to store our stuff. We have gone so far as to line our garage walls with shelves so we can store our stuff right at home where we can get to it when we need it. However, we never need it. It just continues to accumulate. Of course, though, I have to park my car outside. We do buy new storage boxes and shift things from one to another to consolidate the stuff. I have finally started using my Sharpie to try to list everything in each box so we can at least know where to start looking for what we want.
Of course, this is the stuff that is left over after numerous yard sales, garage sales, and basement sales, in the homes where we have lived before. Surely we will need it someday. And, as sure as you sell it, give it away, or throw it away, then you will really need it. Right? So, what choice do you have? You MUST accumulate stuff. Otherwise, when it is time for your estate sale, what will there be for the auctioneer to sell?
Well, let’s look at the parable for a minute. Could this parable just as easily be called the parable of the narcissistic fool, the parable of the lonely fool, or the parable of the greedy fool?
The narcissist is one who thinks only about himself. In the parable itself, there are 120 words that Jesus speaks. 12 words are either literally stated or implied to say, “I” or “my.” One-tenth of the words are about his own self-focus. I know what I will do. I will build bigger barns. Then I can store my grain and my goods. So, the parable of the narcissistic fool?
Then did you notice that he only talks to himself? Thus, the lonely fool. He seems to be a self-made man. When it comes time to make decisions, he does not talk to his spouse, his parents, his children, his partners, his neighbors, or even his God. He thinks to himself, what will I do? Doesn’t that seem like a lonely life to live?
So, what about the greedy fool? Some of the commentaries suggest that any person hearing this parable at this time in history would have known that God instructs us to care for others. Remember the passages in the Hebrew scriptures about leaving enough grain for those less fortunate to glean for their existence? If this man has so much that he has to tear down and build new, what about those around who have nothing?
Then what about the context of this parable? Remember back about a month ago when Charles preached about Jesus setting his face toward Jerusalem? In Luke 9: 51, Jesus realizes that “the days drew near for him to be taken up.” He was on his last trip. He was preaching and teaching for all he was worth. It would not be long before they would have his estate sale. He wanted to be sure he left behind everything that would be necessary for salvation.
Now, right in the middle of this final trip to Jerusalem, this man comes up to ask, “Jesus, I know you are on your way to die, but, could you take just a few minutes out of your schedule and tell my brother to divide up with me the things our parents have left from their estate sale?” And, Jesus gently answers, “I am sorry, that’s not my job. Every person has to decide what is going to be his or her own inheritance. Let me tell you a story about one man’s choices.”
Now, I hope you will hold that place in your text as I go jumping around the lectionary readings. Our first reading today was from Hosea and is really a story about a man who has made his decision regarding his estate sale.
Last week one lectionary choice gave an introduction to Hosea’s family in chapter 1 verses 2 – 10. In that introduction, God said to Hosea, “ I want you to go marry a prostitute and raise a family with her because your life with Gomer, the prostitute, will be a symbol, a parable of my attempts to show my love to the people of faith.” So, Hosea did just that.
In today’s reading from Hosea, we find an example of one of the basic understandings from my business of marriage and family relationships. As a pastoral counselor, I see many couples who are struggling in their marriage. Nine times out of ten it seems one partner is what I call a pursuer and the other is a distancer.
You know how this works. The pursuer tries everything she knows (and I say she because often times it is the woman). She tries everything she knows to get her partner’s attention. All she wants is just some quality time with her spouse. She wants someone to listen to her. She wants someone to talk about those important things like how you feel about certain issues and what are the plans for our future.
The distancer does everything in his power to avoid giving what his partner wants. You have seen that dance. She is begging to have a date night once a month, even once every three months, and he can never find, or is it that he can never make, the time. Are you getting the picture? The more the pursuer pursues, the more the distancer distances.
This is the picture of the marriage between the people of faith and God. Look at those words from Hosea 11. “The more I called them, the more they went from me; . . . I took them up in my arms; but they did not recognize my love. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love . . . I bent down to them and fed them, (but) . . . they refused . . . me.”
“But one day,” Hosea’s message says, “They will go after the Lord . . . his children shall come trembling from the west. They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and (then) I will return them to their homes.”
In the typical pursuer/distancer dance that is what happens. There comes a time when that distancer realizes what he has been missing. It may be at mid-life, it may be during the empty-nest time when all the kids are off to college or married, or it may even be long after retirement, but typically the distancer begins to get the message. Then he begins to pursue.
He is lonely. He begins to realize that he has been narcissistic. He sees that he has been greedy with his time and affections. He now wants something that gives meaning to life. So, he takes the position of pursuer.
If, the partner is not so far distanced that she just can’t find it in her heart to welcome him back, then maybe they can have the joy of the relationship they have both wanted for those final days or years. Unfortunately, often times the pursuer is so tired that she can’t welcome him back.
Thus, the parable of the rich fool, the narcissistic fool, the lonely fool, the greedy fool. . . He finally thinks he has accomplished what will bring him contentment. But, in this case, it is too late. The distance is too far. The pursuer just can’t make that leap. This man’s life is over. There is no further chance. It is time for his estate sale.
The alternate Old Testament reading for today is from Ecclesiastes. The story there is the same. Listen to the words of Solomon, the preacher. “What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This is emptiness. This is hollowness. This is vanity.”
Whoa, David, what are doing to us? We have come today to hear the GOOD NEWS. It seems all you are telling us is bad. We can’t leave like this.
O. K. So, let’s revisit our epistle lesson. Let’s see if that is where we can get the good news. The writer of this letter could not have given us this message at a better time. Listen.
The writer is stating what we will recite in a couple minutes in the Nicene Creed, “he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will have no end.” The way this writer says it is, “When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory . . . there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free (rich, poor, labor, management, union, non, Iranian, Afghani, American) but Christ is all and in all.” This is your good news. This is our estate.
So, this writer says, live your life like this - - - “Put to death . . impurity, evil desire, and greed . . . get rid of wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another.” Ah, and then you will share in the estate sale with Christ.
Well, let me close with a story you may have heard before. There was a news reporter who was in the Wall Street district of New York interviewing people on the street. He asked a young Wall Street broker, on the fast track, what his chief goal was in life. The young man said, "I plan to make my first million by the time I am 28." So the reporter asked, "Then what?" "Well, I suppose I would like to become a multi-millionaire." The news man pressed a bit further and again asked, "Then what?"
By this time the young broker was beginning to get a bit irritated. He said, "Well, I want to have a family and enough money to retire at 40 and travel around the world."
So, do you see the next question coming? "Then what?," the reporter asked.
Exasperated, the would-be multi-millionaire said, "Well, like everyone else, I guess someday I will die!" So, the young man's last answer still begs the question -- "Then what?"
Like the young man who was asking Jesus to make his brother share his inheritance, hear the words of the Lord to us today - - - “Take care! Be on your guard, . . . one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”