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So, as I mentioned in a sermon before, I’ve had many of my possessions in storage for over a year. Finally, a little over a week ago, I got all my things out of storage, and moved them into a home I settled on in Mount Rainier, MD. It was a long journey, selling and finding a home, and reuniting with all my stuff, so I’m happy to be settled. I truly missed some of prized possessions, but not so surprisingly, I really didn’t need all that stuff I’ve been paying to store for over a year. Taking stock of all that stuff kinda made me sick! How do we accumulate so much?! Moving made me think about what really gives me comfort, and what I can truly do without. Also last week I went without cable TV for 6 days. Now, that might not sound like much, but for me and my family it was a sacrifice. I felt like I was on a silent retreat in the house. But, once I got internet service I took advantage of a wonderful gift – Pandora Radio! You can choose exactly what music you want to listen to online with Pandora, and I found the most fabulous station called, “Relaxation.” It was suggested to me online given my age, gender and demographics, and now I just love it! I put it on while I prepare for bed at night, and before I say my prayers. It puts me in the right frame of mind to truly rest, and get a good night’s sleep. I have struggled with insomnia all my life, and this radio station is God sent! That music before prayers and retiring for the night puts me in touch with God in a way I hadn’t experienced before. So, moving has been a real spiritual experience for me, and made me mindful of what Jesus was talking about in today’s Gospel.
Now, who knew the famous saying, “eat, drink and be merry,” was a biblical quotation?! Well, it isn’t provided in the most positive terms in today’s gospel. Jesus tells this parable after a rich man asks Jesus to make his brother divide the family inheritance. Heaven knows, I’ve seen family squabbles over possessions and how nasty they can be, so Jesus nips this right in the bud, and says emphatically to the man, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Ain’t it the truth! Jesus then goes on to tell the parable of the rich man who has been blessed abundantly with the fruit of his land. The man is gloating over all he has accumulated, and says to himself he will tear down his existing barns and build larger ones, and then sit back and relax for years – ending in the famous, “eat, drink and be merry” line. Jesus says that after the man resolves to live on “easy street” for the rest of his life, God steps in and says, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” This man dies just as he’s figured out how to live his life in luxury! Jesus ends the parable with this cautionary line, “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” Whoa, Jesus, now you’re getting personal!!!
Certainly, as I mentioned with my own possessions, we all struggle with accumulating things, and I don’t think Jesus is telling us to go without. Nevertheless, he is, in very poignant terms, cautioning us about obsessing over our possessions, and putting too much emphasis on them. Jesus is asking us what we truly need in life, and what we should do without. Jesus is challenging us to think about how we might be living excessively, and how we might redistribute our wealth for more godly purposes. Jesus is telling us to strip away that which gets in the way of our relationship with God, and to focus more on being rich toward God.
Now, what does it mean to be rich toward God? We might ask ourselves how do our possessions glorify God or bless others. Do we spend so much on our things we don’t have the resources to give to others? Do we work so hard and too much that we don’t have good quality time to spend with our spouse, our family, or pray? I went to a rental truck place Saturday before last, and a woman said to me being married was not what it was cracked up to be. I don’t know why, but she just started pouring out her soul to me (and I wasn’t wearing my collar.) She said, her husband’s priorities were church, work and their son. I asked her where was she in the list? She said, “Thank you!” Even church work can draw you farther away from God if, like Martha in the gospel story from two weeks ago, you are just staying busy and not focusing on God and your neighbor. The question becomes, what are you storing up, and what does that say about your relationship with God? I know for one, I made a trip to the thrift store with a bunch of possessions yesterday, being mindful to be less rich toward myself, and a blessing to others. Moreover, that alone time with Pandora’s “Relaxation” station has allowed me to focus and enjoy more of my “God time.” We all have to look at what truly gives us comfort and draws us closer to God, then move toward it so we can be rich with God.
We can start this quest by taking an inventory of ourselves – our possessions, our relationships, our mental and spiritual capacities. Life is not just about eating, drinking, and being merry. We need to get rid of that which gets in the way of our relationship with God and our neighbor and focus on what helps us to be rich toward God.
So, what do you treasure? What do you need to get rid of – both physically and spiritually? Assess, take stock. Throw out or donate what you don’t need. Be rich toward God.