“Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
Last Sunday as we examined Jesus’ teaching on prayer we heard the words which we are well familiar with, “and lead us not into temptation.” Well, today we are confronted with what is perhaps the temptation for all of us, a fatal temptation, and that is the temptation to think that by further, better, and more aggressive living that we can have life. That is to say, the temptation to think that we can have life by getting our act together and securing our life in an abundance of possessions.
I want to suggest instead this morning that the only way to have life is to be confronted with the revelation that life is an utterly gratuitous gift that no amount of possessions can make greater or more secure and then, upon realizing this, to give that gift away.
So, Jesus is approached by a man demanding that he settle a family dispute having to do with an inheritance. Jesus will have no part of it. He engages the man but only to tell a parable which he begins with the words, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
We learned last week that one of the things that God uses to re-order our love and thus the world is prayer. Christians are called to a life of prayer by which we grow in the knowledge and love of God our Father through and with His Son Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit who is poured out into our hearts. And thus, God takes our disordered, bent lives and straightens them out as Jesus takes hold of us and makes us his brothers and sisters. And so if you have been baptized I want you to say with the Apostle Paul: I have been raised with Christ. Now say it like you believe it: I have been raised with Christ.
And here in our gospel reading we are confronted with the crookedness of our lives: Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed. Greed here really means a sort of covetousness. We might think of the vice of avarice which means “to crave.” That is, what Jesus is warning against here isn’t simply the accumulation of material things but rather the inordinate love of things, the craving that drives us to always be wanting more and seeing this as a purpose in itself, as something worth living for. But you see what avarice misses is that things are valuable only as we use them to nurture a good and harmonious life, ordered rightly towards the love of God and neighbour.
One of the things that is so tricky about avarice is that it can often be cloaked as a virtue rather than a vice under the pretext of making wise and careful provision for the future. Is that not the case with the rich fool in the parable that Jesus tells? He falls upon a massive harvest and he thinks to himself, “I know, I’ll tear down my old barns and build bigger barns to store all of my grain! Then I’ll sit back and enjoy what I have.” He examines his life and he says to himself, “Life, you have ample goods laid up for many years.” Sound, prudential wisdom, no?
Not an unfamiliar image is it? Perhaps we can identify. We are after all, every one of us, thoroughly formed in a world that has set itself against God. And as human creatures we are made to desire. But in a world that has set itself against God we have long forgotten that what we desire is God Himself and so we busy ourselves scurrying around trying to acquire lesser goods thinking that life itself lies in the acquisition of such goods. And we come in the end only to the poverty of death. We forget that God is better than the best thing that the world has to offer because God is not a thing that the world has to offer. And in our reading from Colossians this morning Paul calls this what it is: idolatry.
But sisters and brothers we are in church this morning. And we know of a better story. We know of a truer story. We know that it doesn’t matter what you have or what you don’t have because life consists in more than all of that. We know that a chasing after worldly goods is but a chasing after the wind.
Tear down those barns and build bigger ones a thousand times over at the end of the day vanity! Vanity of vanities, all is vanity! “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
And we know all of this because we know that on the third day God the Father raised His Son Jesus Christ up out of that grave and that forty days later the risen and living Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven from which he reigns and rules over all the world and from whence he has promised to return as judge to set this rickety old, broke down, sin loving, death dealing, God rejecting world right.
And furthermore we know that God has raised us up with his Son. That’s what the Apostle Paul said, isn’t it? “So if you have been raised with Christ,” and in baptism you and I have been, “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Indeed we seek such heavenly things in the bread and wine of the Eucharist and we will find that which we seek, we will find Christ there and we will receive his body and blood that we might live. And having received his life he will in turn make us living sacrifices.
“Set your minds on things that are above,” Paul continues, “not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. If the world could have lived its way to salvation, it would have, long ago. It can, in fact, only die its way there, lose its way there. And this is not at all bad news for Jesus “made his grave with us in the death of all our possessing, and there he turns all of our pointless pursuing and sad incomprehension into good. He waits for us in our deaths.”
This week a priest in northern France, Fr. Jacques Hamel, had his throat slit during the mass by a couple of Muslim extremists with, allegedly, ISIS sympathies. We said mass for Fr. Jacques here on Wednesday. Let me say that in his humble witness over his 85 years on earth, in his rejection of amassing worldly goods, his humble generosity towards the poor, his faithful proclamation of the gospel even in the face of resistance, and ultimately in martyrdom Fr. Jacques was a rich man indeed who stored up imperishable treasures in heaven. And now in death as in life he is Christ’s.
So we can say with confidence then that our life—that the life of the world—cannot be found outside of or apart from the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.
Any attempt to find our life or secure our life or grasp our life apart from our death in Jesus and our being risen with him is what? Vanity! A chasing after the wind! We grasp on to it only to open our hands and it is gone.
So stop your striving after that which can not give life and seek after God’s kingdom which he has given to us in his Son. Because when you seek first God’s kingdom do you know what happens? Everything else is added unto you. You don’t have to worry about a thing because in Jesus Christ God has given you everything. You are God’s own creation, you do not exist apart from His loving gaze which sustains you in each and every moment, you have no life but Christ’s life apart from whom you can do no good thing, no holy thing, but in whom and through whom you can do all things.
This is our witness to the world friends. In such a time as this the world needs desperately to be reminded that we are creatures of a good God—with all of the limits and bounds that this entails—who has given us all things in His well beloved Son—the only rich man there ever was—and that with him and in him and through him God sees fit to make us holy, not by any effort of our own but as we lose our life with Christ only to find it there anew, raised up, transfigured, free.
Free from the bonds of sin and death, free for holiness with God in Christ; free from an insatiable desire for more, free for contentment and happiness with God for ever—free for love!
Sisters and brothers, this is the spiritual inheritance that we have received. This is the deposit of faith that we have been graciously given. This is our very life! Let us not be stingy with this life! Let us rather be “rich toward God” by sharing our material inheritance with the poor and our spiritual inheritance with the spiritually poor.
A brother approached Jesus looking to get his hands on an inheritance. Let us do the opposite, let us approach Jesus looking to give our inheritance away to our brothers and sisters who are poor or without Christ in the world. Like it or not, you and I are missionaries and if we fail to understand ourselves as such we will be swallowed up. Worse yet, we will have withheld from those who are most in need the healing balm that God has given for such a time as this. So then, let us store up eternal treasure in heaven rather than fleeting treasure on earth for where our treasure is there our heart will be also! Amen.
 Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus
 Ephraim Radner, No Safe Place Except Hope: Global Struggles and the Anglican Vocation (http://livingchurch.org/covenant/2016/07/30/no-safe-place-except-hope-global-struggles-and-the-anglican-vocation/)