Materials for Worship 31st July 2022

Moira writes:  This Sunday if you have time, it is worth reading all four Bible passages set for today.  Each of them is teaching us what we need to do to be ready for the day of judgement and to prepare us for coming face to face with our maker.

In the passage from Ecclesiastes 1, vs 1, 12-14 and 2, vs 18-23) we are shown that the things of this world are nothing but “vanity and a chasing after the wind.”  We are constantly seeking wisdom in all areas of life and often when we find it, we must leave it behind for those who come after us. An example of this is the great scholars who have written books on medical science, research and great religious studies to name but a few.   All their wisdom they left behind for the benefit of others, which leads me to ask, how can this be vanity?  What this passage is trying to teach us, I think, is that things achieved for the good of others and not for ourselves is the kind of “treasure” we should be storing up.

In the Psalm 49, vs 1-12 the writer once again speaks of wisdom and warns that wisdom which is not shared, but used for promoting ourselves in the world, makes us foolish. Then in Paul’s letter to the Colossians 3, vs 1-11 we receive more teaching on how we should be living our lives, to prepare us for the day of judgement.  Paul gives a list of things that we must rid ourselves of if we want to live the Christian life, we must get rid of “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from our mouths….” 

Moving on to Luke’s gospel passage (Luke 12, vs 13-21), we hear warnings about greed and again about storing up the things of this world – storing up possessions which we can’t take with us when we die.  In this passage we are told that Jesus was approached by “someone” in the crowd who was looking for judgement on a family matter.  In Jesus’ day, these types of disputes were usually decided by a “bench of three” from the local synagogues.  But as is his way, Jesus once again refuses to be drawn into any political or semi-political action.  Jesus told this person, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?”  Then he turned to the crowd and gave them a warning.  He said, “Take care.  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”  In the case of this family, Jewish law clearly prescribed that at the death of the father, the elder son would receive two thirds of the inheritance, and the younger son would receive one third.   From reading our story this morning, it looks like it was the younger son who was complaining about the inherent unfairness of it all.   I’m sure we all know that the one thing that can cause division between brothers and sisters is the dividing up of an estate, and so Jesus, quite rightly, refuses to get involved in a petty family squabble.

Jesus was concerned however with the larger implications of the brothers’ preoccupation with the things of this world and warns them that the total of a person’s life is more than how much wealth they have amassed.  Jesus then illustrated his point by telling a story.  There was once a man who had an unbroken run of prosperity.  (In today’s language, he had successfully played the stock market or dabbled in the property market.)  So prosperous was he that his barns could not hold all his crops.   His solution was to tear down these barns and build bigger and better ones.  The, with his financial security in hand, he could sit back and truly enjoy life, at least that was what he thought.   His philosophy was, eat, drink and be merry.  Truth be told, when we hear this story, I expect we may find ourselves envious of this man.   A financially successful man who looks to us as being confident and wise.   Yet, Jesus concluded the story by saying that this man was a fool.  Instead of living a full and rich life, being happy and content, in love and charity with his neighbour and reaching out to those in need, this man was more concerned with how much money, land and crops he could store up for himself.   And that’s the key word here, “himself,” not how much he could store up to help others.  The good news that comes from our gospel passage is that there is a measure of grace in the way that Jesus brings this hard message to all who hear it.   Jesus’ warning to the people of his time was a mark of his love for them as well as for us.

He wants us to know how to store up the kind of treasure we need for the day of judgement. The whole of life is an opportunity to draw closer to God and to grow in the kind of life that he wants for us. If we miss that opportunity by allowing ourselves to be possessed by possessions, by committing ourselves to the things of this world, then we will have missed the point of life and we will stand empty handed before God, when our time comes, with no excuses.

Death and the Rich Man. Frans II Francken (1581 – 1642)

Jesus wants us to live for God and for our fellow human beings, helped by the power of his loving spirit alive within us.  This leads me to the question, “what does this mean for us today?”  Sometime during this week, you may wish to ponder over this question and ask ourselves, “What would fulfil me more, free me more, establish me more as a person?  Acquiring more things, or sharing more of myself with others?”

The love of Jesus seeks to empower us and to free us, he gives us choices and it’s up to us to try to make the right ones.  What would it be like to never realise that we have choices, or not to understand that pure grace from God leads us to know what kinds of choices make us truly rich?  This is a big challenge again this week, but it is one we have the ability to live up to.

“So, it is with those who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich towards God.”  Amen.

As you sit by your lighted candle, you might like to pray:

For wisdom to make the right choices as we grow in our journey of faith.

For a servant heart as we seek to help others.

For those who are struggling to feed their families in today’s world where some have plenty and others have nothing.

For peace in our world and for justice and equity to prevail.

Finally, please pray for those attending the Lambeth Conference and especially for the Bishops in the Scottish Episcopal Church.