30 September 2018 Building Barns MartinBaker
The New Testament is the part of the Bible written aboutJesus. The Book of Luke and the Book of Acts are written by the same person,and make up a two volume set. Together theyrepresent more than a quarter of the whole New Testament. So the Gospel of Luke is about Jesus’ birth,life death and resurrection, and the book of Acts tells of what happened afterthat. And especially the forming of the early church.
The readings from Luke, scholars tell us, were always meantto be read aloud to a group of Jesus followers.
So we can imagine ourselves as a group of Greek speakingearly followers sharing food and drink together and having someone read outpart of the Gospel. Not so much as a history lesson, but to tell us whatfollowing this Jesus is all about.
In the Gospel of Luke we also especially find a series of parables.Stories, which Jesus used about everyday life, which are meant to help build onour understanding of the nature of God’s love for us.
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell mybrother to divide the family inheritance with me." 14 But he said to him,"Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" 15 And hesaid to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; forone's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions." 16 Then hetold them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 Andhe thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store mycrops?' 18 Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and buildlarger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I willsay to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat,drink, be merry.' 20 But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your lifeis being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will theybe?' 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are notrich toward God."
Let Us pray
Two weeks ago my wife bought me a coffee. We were waitingfor the Island Navigator to go out to the Barrier.
Down at Wynyard wharf there is a café that opens early, and it’salways been nice to get a coffee as we wait for the boat to go.
And Sandy bought over this coffee and the coffee she got mewas a flat white.
Now a decade or two ago I wouldn’t have known what a flatwhite was. Back then, if someone askedyou if you wanted a coffee it would be a simple request. But now. .. In fact it is more interestingthan that. Flat White is a contentious name. Like Pavlova, both New Zealand andAustralia argue that they were the first place in the world to not only inventthe particular coffee but also use the name - flat white.
So she gets me a flat white. A coffee with a wholecontentious language about it. But the most troubling thing is that I stoppeddrinking flat whites about 5 years ago. I went from flat whites to long blacksand now I drink just short blacks. Sometimes also called expressos.
And now I’m troubled.
Even talking about something as simple as a coffee and wehave this new language - but I think there are limits - a double shot trim soya latte. Is that still acoffee or has it moved into something else?
Do I look like a Cold Foam Cascarra Nitro Grande - which youcan now order from Starbucks?
And we realise that it’s not just language but language thatconveys choice, experience, even identity to some degree. Out in the kitchen Ihave my own small cup. So why am I talking about this, this morning?
Those gentile people who gathered to listen to the Gospel,were people who had grown up in families where the God’s of Greece and Romewere being worshipped. That’s what was normal then. They would have had prayersand rituals associated with the worship of these other gods. Those early evangelists knew that followingJesus meant learning a new language.
When we enter the world of the Gospel we are entering thisworld where a whole new language is being spoken. A language that was nevermeant to be about a new religion as such, but a language that gives us a newsense of identity, of history, of place, a sense of purpose and future. A language too that gives us a new way ofseeing ourselves in relationship to God. A new way of seeing each other, andalso a different way to see those important things, property, money, what weown.
Jesus in the parable today. He is addressed as teacher bythis person in the crowd. This person wants to understand a different way oflooking and speaking about important things. Inheritance. A Jesus way. It’s a property dispute. I don’tknow about you, but for me there is nothing like a property dispute to the getthe blood flowing.
What do we have to learn that’s going to enable us to lookat things, even things as important as property, as inheritance, in a differentway?
The old language can be such a powerful thing. We can findourselves trapped in a certain way of thinking. It’s mine! What have they done todeserve that? The feelings around ownership, security, protection. The giftswith hooks attached. The power or owing someone. The unseen powers and principalities that Paultalked about. Forces that seem so overwhelming – that can seem to take away anysense of choice, deprive us of new ways of being in the world.
Worries that can so overwhelm us that they prevent us fromliving with any sense of joy, or where our default position relates to understandingsof security based on what we own or possess. Some of us will go from here todayand think about some problem, some worry, some fear on which to feed our heartsand perhaps make ourselves, or worse still, those we love, just a little more miserable.
Jesus talks to us today about these things.
Walker Percy, a Christian and philosopher in his book Lovein the Ruins put the issue in rather strong terms “Why is the good life whichwe have achieved, so bad that only news of world catastrophes, assassinations, planecrashes, and mass murders can divert us from the sadness of ordinary mornings?
The power of Jesus’ stories and parables is that they inviteinto a new way of thinking and speaking and listening.
Jesus tells a story. He tells us a story to help us learnthis new language of the Gospel.
The rich man in our gospel builds and builds bigger and biggerbarns, more and more - a simple formulaand isn’t that unfamiliar to us. We understand that language of accumulation.That’s a powerful language. Buy more, have more, own more. And one night a new language, a new wordintrudes - appears. God whispers in this rich man’s ear and saysto him you fool this very night your life is demanded from you. And the things you have prepared, whose willthey be? It’s one of the scarieststories that Jesus tells. Here is this crowd gathered around this teacher,story teller Jesus. An important matter to do with property and inheritance.
Filled with our years of worry and anxiety and fearsurrounded by our money, stock portfolios and share certificates, bigger andbigger houses, our concerns about who owns what, even our inheritance, we’vedone okay, and then that voice whispered in our ear, one night will that voicesay to us, you fool this very night your soul is required from you.
We are here this morning to learn a new language. We arehere this morning trying to make sure that the last whisper we hear in our headsis not ‘you fool’. We are here to makesure that those aren’t the last words that any of us hear whispered in our ear.
The simplest questions, what are we on about. What is lifefor, what makes a difference? What doesit mean not to live or die foolishly? I believe that the Good News that Jesusspeaks to us makes all the difference in the world. The gospel speaks words tous not that we are fearful of hearingbut words that we long to hear.
God as shepherd will lead you by the still waters. God asloving, forgiving, restoring father will welcome you home. You will be searchedfor when you have become lost. You do not need to be afraid any longer. I havegone to prepare a place for you, Jesus says.
The way that the Greek language is used in our text thismorning. Your soul is required of you. The rich man in our story has become apossession to his possessions. When adollar amount is put on everything, we all become commodities.
We need to learn a new language. We find that our Gospelredefines foolishness. And it’s a surprise to everyone.
The foolishness of God. Who washes the feet of hisdisciples? Who dies on a cross as a result of fear and greed and injustice? Andeven these powerful, evil things do not have the final say. Humbleness.Service. Sacrifice born of love. Calling us to follow him. To die to the oldformulas so that we can live, truly live. Live eternally. A new language ofhope. Joining in the proclamation ofresurrection hope.
Three things this morning
First of all discernment. To whom are we listening? We aresurrounded by images of wealth, success and achievement – but what is Jesus’word to us today? What does it mean for us to ‘seek first the kingdom of God?’
The second question from our Gospel today is a toughquestion. If we find we are accumulatingmore and more, if we are building bigger and bigger barns, why are we doingthat, and what ends do we want to achieve?
And finally, we hear a word of judgement today. You fool! Thisvery night your life is demanded from you. Are there areas in our life where weare being foolish? And what do we need to change?
A new language. Not a foreign language but a new language.Not about coffee, not about technology. But about our understanding of our life’spurpose. Jesus tells us that one's lifedoes not consist in the abundance of possessions. Instead he calls us on ajourney Jesus says come, take up your cross, and follow me.
Would you like to share in our purpose and mission? We believe that good relationships, open discussion and a genuine desire to seek God’s calling allows us to grow as people and a community together.