Pastor Dan's bunny rabbit
11th Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 12:13-21 Sermon
August 12, 2007
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
401 “Jesus Thy Love Unbounded”
385 “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less”
572 “Children Of The Heavenly Father”
515 “O Jesus I Have Promised”
FROM BUNNY RABBITS TO BIGGER BARNS
TEXT (vs. 16-21): “And [Jesus] told them this parable: The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God.”
This morning I brought something for “show and tell.” As you can see, what I’m holding is a stuffed bunny rabbit (which is pictured above). It isn’t much to look at really, just a bunny with a cotton print body, a pink face and toes, a couple of button eyes, and the remnants of a string mouth.
It’s pretty well worn too. If you squeeze it, it almost feels like it’s filled with Styrofoam beads. But it’s not. It’s just that the shredded foam rubber with which it is stuffed has become dry and rotten and brittle over the years. It wouldn’t be a good idea to run it through the washing machine.
Perhaps by now you’ve guessed the significance of this stuffed bunny rabbit. It is one of those precious remnants of my early childhood. Even though it’s not much to look at, and it shows the wear of years, I still remember it. I remember taking it to bed with me every night and cuddling with it. I remember having it with me when I was sick in bed. It seemed like whatever happened or however sick I was, or how stormy or scary the night, there was that sense of security in clutching my stuffed bunny rabbit. He never changed, he never gave me any grief, and he was always there.
I believe the situation I’ve been describing is true with everyone. If I were to question almost anyone, I would imagine that they could identify with this. People in their early childhood have their own versions of my stuffed bunny rabbit. And I would expect that you know children today who also have that same attachment. And if you were to try to take that stuffed animal away from them, you could expect a conniption of major proportions. Why do you suppose children seem to find this great comfort in stuffed animals?
It all revolves around basic human nature. As we examine the world around us, everything seems to be in a state of flux; that is, constantly changing. We never seem to be able to be certain about anything. And so, the human being begins to search for that which they can find some sort of stability and security.
Everybody of course likes new things and things that change. Life would be boring otherwise. People can even tolerate certain changes with those things in which they find stability and security. But people are always searching for that which is absolutely certain and does not change. For a child, this is represented in many cases by a bunny rabbit or some other sort of stuffed animal.
Naturally, I have no problem with children having their favorite stuffed animal. The problem is, that it doesn’t stop there. What seems to happen, is that as we go along in life, the natural progression of things is to trade in our childhood securities for adult securities. More simply put, we trade our bunny rabbits in for bigger barns. And this brings us to our Gospel reading for today.
In my Bible, this section of Scripture has the heading above it which reads, “The Parable of the Rich Fool.” The basic thrust of this whole parable is a warning against greed, and what can happen with someone who is possessed with the foolishness of a greedy attitude.
As we look at our Gospel for today from Luke 12, we read in verse 13: “Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus], Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Right away, we can see that there must have been some sort of dispute between two brothers over money. We can perhaps visualize this being like two children fighting over the same toy. Adults and children indeed can have the same fights; the only thing that changes are the objects.
But Jesus steps in with a stern warning. He continues on in verse 14: “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” In other words, he’s telling them that he hadn’t come to be a referee in petty arguments about unimportant things.
And then he continues in verse 15: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
In the argument between the two brothers, the most important thing seemed to be the amount of money they would be getting from their father’s estate—forget the fact that their father had died, and that the two of them were brothers. They were more interested in the money. And why would that be? How can people be so greedy?
Quite simply put, the key to greed seems to be this idea of security. In the parable of the rich fool, Jesus talks about a man who sought security in what he had. He looked at his crops and realized that his barns would not hold the yield of his harvest. In his own mind, he had figured that if he tore down his old barns and built bigger ones, then he wouldn’t have to worry about anything for years to come. He could sit back, relax, take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry.
With the security of his harvest safely tucked away in his barns, he no longer would have to engage in the daily battle for existence. His life would be easy and uncomplicated. No worries, just a life of leisure from here on out. This rich man thought that he was absolutely secure by surrounding himself with wealth and possessions.
But then God comes along and really rains on his parade. In verse 20 we read, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” What kind of security did this man have in all of his wealth? For all the good it did him, he might just as well have been standing there clutching on to a stuffed bunny rabbit. A rich fool indeed!
This is nothing new. Scripture warns over and over again about trusting in earthly security and wealth. David writes with graphic detail in Psalm chapter 52 verses 5-7: “Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin: He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. The righteous will see and fear; they will laugh at him, saying, ‘Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!’”
The Prophet Isaiah writes with unmistakable clarity as well in chapter 47 verses 8-9: “Now then, listen, you wanton creature, lounging in your security and saying to yourself, 'I am, and there is none besides me. I will never be a widow or suffer the loss of children.' Both of these will overtake you in a moment, on a single day…”
And what have we been doing? What have we been looking to for a sense of security and stability? Even though the Bible tells us not to do it, don’t we find ourselves doing it anyway?
We want security, and we want it in earthly things! We want security in our jobs, knowing that we will have employment from day to day. We want the security of a home, so we will have a place to eat, sleep, and enjoy ourselves. We want security in our finances, and to know that the bank will keep our money safe for us. We might even seek security in other people. Yes, we want security and we look to many things to give us that sense of stability and well being.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with us wanting these things in our lives. The problem comes in when we seek this sort of security as an end unto itself. And as sinful human beings, we will always have the tendency to do this. Greed is our action when we try to build our security with things of this world. We say, “Give me more so that I’ll feel more secure.” And so that’s the way we operate. Regardless of what kind of external security we try to build for ourselves, it will never be enough. It’s a vicious circle. And what becomes of this earthly security?
Remember the first verse of our Gospel lesson today, where it all started with two brothers fighting over an inheritance? The father had died and there was an estate to settle. If that father had been one who had made his earthly wealth his source of security, the only thing it accomplished was to cause his two sons to fight over it. The father was dead. God had come to him and demanded his life from him. And there sat all of his wealth for his sons to fight over. He hadn’t taken it with him. If he was standing before God, trying to find security in what he had on earth, he might as well have been standing before God clutching on to a stuffed bunny rabbit. His sin of greed would have condemned him, thus proving that he could have all the wealth of the entire world, which could not have saved him.
What about us? Have we filled our lives with stuffed bunny rabbits? What do our bunny rabbits look like? A car? Our bank balance? A house? Our health? Our job? Our family? Our good works? Or maybe we could draw long floppy ears on something more negative, like drugs, or a bottle of pills, or alcohol.
Perhaps our search for security is simply within our own selves; and we become overly secure due to selfish pride, and the freedom to go and do our own thing. In our search for security, have we simply gone and traded our bunny rabbits in for bigger barns?
We all know that we have. Far too often, we place such a great importance upon those external securities, that we completely lose sight of that which is absolutely secure and unchangeable. We build bigger barns and chase after the wind instead of seeking and building upon that which is really secure.
It doesn’t take too much logic to figure out that when we die, we leave everything behind. We leave behind everything on which we sought to build our earthly security. When the Lord requires our soul of us, our earthly treasures are still on the earth—everything from our money in the bank to the hacksaw hanging on the pegboard in the garage.
This sin of greed unfortunately has affected us all in one way or another. And if we were to stand before God, clutching on to these so-called “bunny rabbits,” our greed will condemn us quite soundly and surely.
But now listen again to the words of the Prophet Isaiah. In chapter 28 verse 16 he writes, “So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.’”
In Ephesians chapter 2 verses 19-20, Paul writes: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
Doesn’t that sound like real security? A tested stone…a sure foundation…and this is found only in Christ Jesus. Doesn’t it make sense that we build our security on that which is tested, sure and certain? Shouldn’t we seek our security in that which will not pass away from us when God comes and requires our soul from us? When we stand before God, do we want to be standing on that solid rock, or clutching on to a stuffed bunny rabbit?
I believe that all of us want to be standing on that solid rock. That rock is Jesus Christ. All of our greedy and selfish sins cannot touch us when we’re on that rock. When we’re on that rock of Christ, we have absolute assurance that we’re forgiven for all of those sins where we sought to build our security with earthly things. Believe and trust that our sins are forgiven, and we are on this rock of Christ.
And when we believe and trust this promise, then when God comes to us and requires our soul, when he calls us to his heavenly home, then that rock of Christ on which we’ve built our security shall never be taken away from us, even when all of the earthly securities are left behind.
What a promise this is! What a hope! This of course is the blessing we look forward to on our dying day. However it is not only the strength in the hour of our death, but here and now.
Recorded in the book of Job, chapter 11, verses 13-20 are the words of Zophar the Naamathite as he gives hope to Job: “Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear. You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by. Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning. You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. You will lie down, with no-one to make you afraid, and many will court your favour. But the eyes of the wicked will fail, and escape will elude them; their hope will become a dying gasp.”
Such beautiful words for the believer! We are secure because there is hope. That hope is centered in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, and the new life we have in him. As Christians, and as a Christian congregation, that is the hope we not only have ourselves, but the hope we show to the world. When we look to Christ alone as our source of security and salvation, and seek to put that into practice, then we are being rich toward God.
As we look around us and see those worldly things in which we seek security, perhaps it would do us well to picture those earthly securities with bunny ears. We’ve taken that “stuffed animal security” of our childhood and carried it over into our adult life. We’ve traded our bunny rabbits in for bigger barns.
Even though we see so many “stuffed bunny rabbits” in our world around us, there’s only one rock that stands up higher than anything else. That’s the rock of Jesus Christ, which is our only security. That’s the rock of our salvation on which all of our hope is built. As we sang in the hymn before the sermon: “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
There’s another Christian hymn which has appeared in some of the newer hymnals and worship supplements that is based upon Psalm 91 and Isaiah 40. It is a hymn of real Christian hope and promise. The refrain goes like this: “And he will bear you up on Eagle’s wings, hold you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand.”
As we search for security in this world, we know we have it. We have real security in Jesus Christ. And when Jesus Christ and the message of salvation which he brings is our only source of security and hope, then we’ve traded in those “bunny ears” for eagle’s wings; and God promises us that he will hold us in the palm of his hand. That’s the most security any of us could ever know or experience.