Luke 12:13-21(Pentecost 8C)

St. John, Galveston 7/31/2022

Rev. Alan Taylor

+ In Nomine Jesu +

Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

This morning’s message is based on the Gospel reading from Luke 12. It’s a parable that is unique to Luke’s Gospel, but it’s also somewhat unique within the Gospel itself, because of it’s final outcome. Often in the parables in Luke, the main character comes to a turning point (for example, the Prodigal Son, the Dishonest Steward, and the Unjust Judge) and he decides to take a different course of action. But here, in this parable, the rich man’s words to himself express his decision to continue on his present course of action, accumulating more and more resources to put them away in barns. His expectation is that his comfortable life, lived without any thought of life beyond this world, will continue, only better organized, with a more secure future. Nothing, however, could have been further from the truth.

The fool says in his heart, “there is no God.” Fools have, of course, come and gone throughout history. Some have certainly been more notable than others. Perhaps though the parable before us this morning, about this one particular fool, a man who denied God for the sake of an earthly inheritance, is more relevant to us today than it has ever been before. 

I say that because, in modern times, fools, it seems, have multiplied in unprecedented numbers, as men and women grasp hold of the various godless worldviews that have emerged in a futile effort to answer life’s most basic questions. Chief among those questions is, how did we get here and what is life ultimately all about? Christian theism, the belief that God created the heavens and the earth and that He is intimately and lovingly involved in sustaining and saving His creation, which has been held for many thousands of years, has been abandoned by many people of late for other supposedly more learned and “reasoned” ways of looking at the world and at life itself.

Deism spread rapidly around the world in the 1700 and 1800’s. at least tried to keep God in the picture. The deist believes in the existence of God, but he also believes that God can’t be known. Many of the founding fathers of our own country were deists. God, as many came to believe, was no longer involved with His creation. Rather, everything held together and worked on it’s own. The world, at least as it relates to God, began to be understood much like a top, the little children’s toy, that God wound up and tossed out onto the floor to watch it spin. One day it will run out of energy and come to an abrupt stop, but until then, God simply watches it as it spins, uninvolved in any day to day activity, and frankly, uninterested in the events of people’s lives.      

It wasn’t long before naturalism came along. God had to go. He was no longer part of the picture at all. The world, says the naturalist, exists of itself. It is a closed system of laws and of principles. Perhaps the saddest thing about the removal of God from the picture in naturalism is what followed it. Frederich Nietzsche, a German philosopher of the 19th century, gave us Nihilism, which tells us that life has no meaning at all. Alan Moore, one of the more well known and “enlightened” contemporary nihilists, offers us tidbits of the nihilist doctrine of “comfort” in short little quips of wisdom. “Why do we argue (he once asked)? Life’s so fragile, a successful virus clinging to a speck of mud, suspended in endless nothing.”   

The fool says in his heart, “there is no God.” Denying the existence of God, the fool, as you might well expect, ultimately deals in folly, the folly of thinking that meaning can be given to life apart from God. And also, the folly of thinking that the future brings with it some sort of implied temporal or earthly certainty or guarantee.  

A man came to Jesus one day. He wanted Him to settle a dispute between him and his brother over the family inheritance. Lord, he said, make my brother give me what is mine. The saddest part of this whole parable, at least in my estimation, is right here in the beginning. The man had his sights set on an earthly inheritance because he thought it would give his life purpose and meaning, even fulfillment. Worse yet, he thought that he could be fulfilled in life apart from God. “I will tear down my barns and build larger ones (he said), and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “ Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’

The man was, of course, sadly mistaken. I will relax, he said, “eat, drink and be merry.” The problem is, there is a God sized hole in our hearts that can only be filled with the divine. St. Augustine said it’s that hole that leaves us restless until we find our rest in the Lord. It’s a hole that can’t be filled with riches, even the current billion dollar plus power ball lottery wouldn’t and couldn’t fill it, nor will the happiness we so firmly believe that riches can afford us. 

The fool deals in folly, the folly of thinking that meaning can be given to life apart from God, and most especially, apart from the God who communicates with and who loves His creation. “I tell you (says Jesus), do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

As a pearl of great price, God discovered you, not as one who shined with it’s own luster and brilliance, but as one whose luster and brilliance is found in Him, He who became like you, that you might become like Him. As Luther so eloquently reminds us in his Small Catechism, “(God) has redeemed me, a lost and condemned human being. He has purchased and freed me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocentsuffering and death. He has done all this in order that I may belong to him, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as he is risen from the dead and lives and rules eternally.” So it is that the God sized hole in our hearts is filled with the divine. 

“Fool, Jesus said to the man in the parable, 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.” We are no longer caught unaware, as is the fool, by the uncertainty that the future brings. Our future, your future, is set as surely and as dependably as is Christ. Though tomorrow is unknown, you have nonetheless been baptized into Christ Jesus, into both His death and His resurrection. As such, you have died with Him and you have been raised again with Him in the likeness of His glorious resurrection. As such, you are an heir of the Kingdom of God and all that the King has to give is yours. 

The purpose and meaning of life cannot be found apart from God and His blessed gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation, apart from the God who remains intimately involved with His creation. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (says the apostle)! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they find their rest in you. “So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +