11 Pentecost Proper C13
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 12:13-21 Sermon
July 31, 2016
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NOTE: Since this is a "Fifth" Sunday, we have a congregational hymn sing. The following hymns were selected by the congregation
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal & With One Voice):
WOV 780 "Leaning On The Everlasting Arms"
WOV 771 "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"
WOV 734 "Softly And Tenderly Jesus Is Calling"
TLH 249 "Isaiah Mighty Seer In Days Of Old"
TLH 200 "I Know That My Redeemer Lives"
LSB 588 "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know"
TLH 458 "Our Father, Thou In Heaven Above"
TLH 648 "I Am Jesus' Little Lamb"
A LIFE OR DEATH SITUATION
TEXT (vs. 20-21): “But God said to [the rich man], 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
On Thursday of this past week, I had to take a class. It was a four-hour class on CPR, or cardio pulmonary resuscitation. As a police chaplain, I am required to be certified in CPR, and every so often I have to be re-tested and re-certified.
It's a good thing really, because there have been some changes since I was first certified some forty years ago. The newest thing I had to learn about is how to use a defibrillator. You might have seen some of these devices hanging on the wall in various public buildings and places of assembly.
To use this device, there are two pads that are placed on a person's chest. Then the unit charges and it applies an electrical jolt to the patient to restart their heart. And it's fairly fool-proof; it assesses the patient, and it won't deliver a shock unless it is needed.
Virtually anybody can use one; and if a person follows the directions, it is relatively fool-proof. However, there are things we can learn about them that enable us to use these devices more efficiently. That's to everybody's benefit.
The training we receive as chaplains enable us to respond and act in life or death situations. And it has paid off too. Because of training people like us have received, there is a 60% survival rate in Lincoln. What that means is that when somebody has a medical emergency and somebody trained in CPR attends to them, they stand a better than a 50/50 chance of coming through it alive. And we want to make sure that we do everything within our power to make sure those odds are in a person's favor.
In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus presents us with another life or death situation. However, it brings to light a whole different set of circumstances, and it's a situation that can't be cured by doing CPR or applying a defibrillator. It's life or death of a person's soul, and the situation that makes it so crucial.
The story is not difficult for us to understand. We have seen it repeated time and time again in society. And even in the Bible, we see numerous versions of this same situation. Let's look at a few of them.
In 1 Kings 21 we read the story about King Ahab, his wife Jezebel, and a man named Naboth who owned a vineyard. Ahab, even with all his power and wealth, wanted this vineyard, and he wouldn't rest until he had it. Jezebel had Naboth killed so the king could have it.
Of course the Lord found this detestable, so he has Elijah deliver his words of judgment. Verse 19: "Thus says the Lord: 'In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood.'" And continuing in verses 23-24: "And of Jezebel the Lord also said, 'The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel. Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.'" The Lord certainly wasn't pleased with Ahab's or Jezebel's sins. They brought all of this on themselves. In a life or death situation, they chose death.
In Ecclesiastes, just a bit beyond our Old Testament Lesson for this morning, chapter 5, verse 10 reads: "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity."
In the New Testament, Jesus addresses this matter a bit further on from our Gospel Lesson this morning. In Luke 16, verses 13-15 he is teaching much the same lesson: "'No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.' The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And [Jesus] said to them, 'You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted amongst men is an abomination in the sight of God.'"
The Apostle Paul also addresses this type of attitude when writing to Timothy. In 1 Timothy 6 verses 6-10 he writes: "But godliness with contentment is great gain; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs." Good advice, don't you think?
Satan is really having a field day, isn't he? The illustration Jesus uses with the rich man and his barns shows us just how much of a life or death situation we have. Regardless of how much earthly wealth we have, it's like the old saying goes, "you can't take it with you." Or, like one older woman once told me, "There's no such thing as a U-haul behind a hearse."
To bring this back to the story in our Gospel Lesson for today, a death is actually the basis for the argument between 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?
And there we have it. Greed is the issue. It affects us all doesn't it? The Bible calls it "coveting," which is a lusting after something, a burning desire to have something we shouldn't have. We can look at sin after sin after sin, and see how it all started with a motivation or desire.
The Apostle Jude is well aware of this. Listen to the advice he gives in his epistle, verses 17-23: "But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, 'In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.' It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh."
Snatch them out of the fire. This is a life or death situation. And we have the tools at our disposal to bring the soul saving Gospel to those who are trapped by the devil in a sense of values marked by greed and lust.
Any time this subject comes up, I always think of the 1980's sitcom "Family Ties," that starred Michael J. Fox. Fox's character, Alex Keaton was a person that literally worshipped money. If there was a dollar to be made, he was there. Money ruled his life.
The situation was supposed to be comedic; the ultra fiscal conservative growing up in an ultra liberal home. It made for some interesting exchanges. Money and wealth dominated everything, more so than other people, even family and friends. That was Alex Keaton's moral standard.
But like so many things, there was a lesson to be learned. It showed just how empty a money lover's existence could be. Hyperbole can be a great teacher sometimes.
The Prophet Isaiah writes with unmistakable clarity 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. 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?
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 placed ourselves in a perilous life or death situation with our very souls?
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.
But now listen once 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 are in a life or death situation, don't we want the option that guarantees life?
I believe that all of us want to be standing on a 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 upon which we’ve built our security shall never be taken away from us, even when all of the earthly securities are left behind. At that time when our souls are required of us, we want life that will last for an eternity.
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. Jesus has indeed taken us from a life or death situation and has given us life.
In John chapter 6, verses 68-69 Simon Peter hits the nail on the head. He says to Jesus, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."
When it comes to the life and death of our souls, earthly things are meaningless, or vanity as Solomon writes. Eternal life doesn't happen by somebody doing CPR or from a jolt from a defibrillator, but from Jesus himself. So we put our trust in him alone, and we know that we will endure throughout this life, and be assured of our eternal life to come.