Scripture Reading: Luke 12:13-34
Like many people around the world, I was glued to the news on Thursday and Friday of this past week. Glued because of a monumental moment in US politics around the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States, one of the most power courts in the entire world, and a with it a lifetime appointment to one of the most powerful positions in the entire world.
Normally this process is big news, but this year was even bigger. Judge Kavanaugh has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, in 1982. Both Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford spoke to the Judiciary Committee which is tasked to determine Kavanaugh’s suitability for the Supreme Court position.
What I found interesting… or maybe frustrating would be a better word, is the partisan politics which played out on the international stage. We saw, on both sides, the Republicans and the Democrats use party politics to split, not only the room, but the entire nation.
As I was working on this sermon on Friday, Kavanaugh passed the first step, sort of. He has been recommended to the full Senate, but only on the condition that there be an FBI investigation into the assault allegations.
Yet, outside the room, as Senators made their way to microphones, you still saw party politics at play, although slightly less in our faces.
There’s no question there are party politics at play in this process. There are huge voter implications if the “right man” gets onto the Supreme Court. And I will stress that they want it to be the right MAN.
Honestly I don’t know why I watch the news any more. Politics drives me crazier than pretty much any other news. The fact that, what is often, older white men who control our governments, who work tirelessly and ruthlessly to not only keep the power they have, but to consolidate even more of it, drives me bananas.
The fact that the party is far more important than the real needs of citizens, to the point where elected officials are not able to vote freely, seems to fly in the face of what democracy stands for.
Maybe I need to cancel my cable package… I don’t know.
This isn’t just happening in the United States either. We are seeing this fight for control and power in Canada as well. We see it in our own province, we see it in Ontario, we are seeing it in our Federal politics too. All of these people are seeking to set up their own legacy, their own towers of power with their own faces on the top of the statue.
Politics of personalities over people is concerning to me.
One key quote from Friday afternoon sticks in my head. Republican Senator Kennedy quoted the Bible in his closing remarks. He quoted from Matthew 16:26, and he directed it toward the Democrats. The passage says, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
Bev made a very appropriate comment, “Was he asking that of himself?”
Lost in all of this power grab is the fact a woman has been carrying a great deal of pain for 36 years. Did Kavanaugh assault her? Hopefully the FBI will shed some light on that in the coming days. But, her pain, her story is being lost in all of this, all because people are trying to gain influence and power in the most powerful and influential nation in the world.
So isn’t it interesting that today we’re talking about the story of a man in the Bible who is so rich he needs to build a huge new barn so he can fill it and put his feet up and enjoy his wealth for the rest of his life.
This man has put all of his trust in his own treasures, and then Jesus tells us that while he storing up all this wealth for himself, he was not making himself any richer with God.
This is quite a powerful parable Jesus is telling us today. If we store up treasure for ourselves, we will not be with God.
I will confess there have been times in my life when I have sought to store up my own treasure. And it doesn’t usually end well when I realize I haven’t been living as Jesus asks us to live.
And my stuff is pretty small compared to what it looks like when people seek the store up the treasures and powers of entire nations into their fancy government offices.
And this frightens me.
We see it happen in the Bible over and over again, stories of kings and nations who seek to build up their own powers and wealth and then lord it over the people they are supposed to be taking care of.
Let’s take a moment to see if we can get into the minds of some of these people. Why do they keep grabbing for power and influence? Why are they so protective of it that they will actually dismiss stories of significant harm being done to others?
Because it terrifies them they might lose something they have.
It’s as simple as that.
For example, rich, older, white men have ruled the United States for a very, very, very long time. Since the very beginning really. And now they are seeing people try and take some of their power away and give it to people who have never had it before. People like women and people of colour. People who have very different views of life than they have. People who will bring in policies which will impact the white man’s wealth and influence of power. And they are scared to death.
I’ve even seen it in the church. I’ve been to denominational meetings where older white men get up and angrily shout down ideas from young clergy or women or minorities. Is this the sign of a healthy church or community or society? Of course not!
Yet we saw it happen between Senators this past week, played out on international television. They shouted about how disgraceful it was that a middle aged white man, they have spent years grooming for the office he was being interviewed for, was being dragged through hell for something he might have done years before. Forget that there are more and more concerning stories coming out from people who have witnessed other acts which contradict his testimony.
When people enjoy a privileged life, a life of riches and treasures, from the time they were born; when they are used to being looked at as powerful leaders and having great influence their whole life, what happens when this is challenged?
Exactly what we saw on TV Thursday and Friday. They get angry, and shouty, and demand everyone bows to their authority, no matter what anyone else says. Even if it’s a woman who carries decades of pain inflicted upon her by people just like them.
At some point all of this has to come to a crashing halt. And it will. How do I know? The Bible has example after example of people who got to the exact point these men have risen to, only to see it all come crashing down around them. What causes the fall?
Every single time it’s the same thing. Sin. Pride. Greed. And often it’s sexual sin too. Which is usually the result of pride and greed.
Could it be that the #meToo movement is the start of this fall? The #meToo movement which is bringing to light the alarming and heinous atrocities that women have had to deal with for generations as they experience various degrees of sexual assault in their lives.
When the #meToo movement started, what was it, about a year ago? Maybe longer. I was shocked by the number of women I know who shared their own #meToo experiences. I was also heartbroken. And this past week some of them shared some more details about what happened as Dr. Ford was brave enough to appear on international television to recount what had happened to her as a 15 year old in 1982.
SHE WAS ONLY FIFTEEN!!!
When I was 15, my biggest challenge was just trying to find my way to my science class and remember my locker combination. She was dealing with the memories and affects of sexual assault from a 17 year old who grew up being told he was going to rule this world some day, and lived like it all his life.
Maybe it was Kavanaugh, or maybe it was someone else. Again, that’s still to be determined. But either way, she, and many other young woman should never have to deal with that. Personally, I believe her, and Kavanaugh should live with that shame. Maybe the FBI will find something else.
Soon all the towers of power will come crashing down. But until then, the privileged white man will keep fighting for control because he’s too scared of what might happen if he loses it.
Jesus says this in our parable from today… God turns to the rich man and says, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20)
“Tonight your soul is required of you…”
You’ve built up all this stuff, you’ve hoarded it away in your barns, you’re expecting to live high on the hog for years to come. Well guess what? Tonight it’s over. Your life is done. So now what’s going to happen? Was it worth it?
After the parable Jesus goes onto to share with his disciples that they should not worry. Don’t worry about food or clothes. Don’t worry about your life. He says there’s something more important. Life is more than these material things.
It’s more than power and influence. It’s more than getting a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. It’s more than all of these things you can imagine. So don’t worry. Don’t be afraid.
God knows what you need, and he will provide, when we put our full trust in him. Jesus says, “… seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” (Luke 12:31)
Then there are some words we need to remember ourselves at times. He says, “Fear not.”
“Fear not, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Fear not… “Sell your possessions and give to the needy.”
Fear not… “Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.”
Fear not… “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
On top of all that is going on in this world of chaos around us, this is also the final week where we are looking at emotions which impact our generosity. In some ways, I may have gotten a little off topic with all that’s happening in the news, but I believe the actions of a few older white men in Washington are examples of what it looks like when we let fear of loss impact our generosity.
We lose touch with the world around us. We lose the ability to see how our own treasures can be used to sustain the earth and the people who share it with us.
We can’t let fear rule us and impact our ability to follow Jesus. We can’t let that fear control us, the fear that we won’t get our share. Fear that I won’t have enough. Fear which is centred on our greed, our need to fill our own lives with riches.
What did Jesus say again? Fear. Not!
When we are generous, when we give up some of our own personal comforts so that others who have no comfort can find some, that’s how we build up real treasure, the treasures of the kingdom of heaven.
A friend of mine shared yesterday morning the scripture from Matthew 10:42 where Jesus says, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
Serving others in the name of Jesus Christ will in no way, ever cause you to lose your reward in heaven.
Is there something in your life you are afraid of losing? Is there something you fear might happen if you were more generous in your response to Jesus’ invitation to follow him?
What would it take for you to be rich toward God instead of yourself? That is, to orient our focus outside of our own needs and desires, and trust in God to provide for us, so that we may provide for others in their need.
Fear, like worry and grief that we’ve looked at in recent weeks, separates us from God and is an enemy of generosity.
The appropriate response to this fear is praise. We’ll turn to Psalm 51 again this week and hear these words, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” (Psalm 51:15)
Putting our full trust in God is to declare our praise to God every time we open our mouths. It means given up our fears and letting God love us and provide for us.
Praise puts God first. It puts us at God’s service, to the benefit of our neighbours.
Praise is the answer to all that keeps us from fully connecting to our Father in heaven and being generous in his name, allowing us to be good stewards of all God has entrusted to our care.
When we serve God, we offer all we have to him. Our lives. Our skills. And even our money. All these things can be agents of God’s service in this world. When we trust in him and his love for us.
Let us pray,
Fear is a emotion that can freeze us up completely. Fear of loss makes us very uncomfortable and we wonder how we could ever live without that which we are afraid to lose.
But you know the plan. You know how our Father in heaven longs to provide for us all our needs. You know how God sees beyond our things, our treasures, our riches, and how we can serve him more when we simply trust.
Speak to our hearts, Lord Jesus. Show us how we should live as your disciples, following in your footsteps, trusting in God to provide.
We want to be with you, we want to inherit the treasures of heaven, and experience life with our heavenly Father for all eternity. We are doing our best, and we know you are walking with us.
Take away our fear and give us hearts and mouths of praise, and may your work be done here on this earth, as it is in heaven.
We pray this in your strong and glorious name. Amen and amen.