Once someone in an inheritance dispute with his brother wanted Jesus to make his brother divide the inheritance. Jesus responded, “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?” Then he said, “Take heed and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” It was after that when he told the parable that is the focus of my sermon this Sunday:
“The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; 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; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
This Sunday is Father’s Day. I celebrate fathers and those who are like fathers to many. I celebrate grandfathers and great-grandfathers. But as a father my temptation on Father’s Day is to preach to myself about fatherhood. Not strictly in celebration — although there is most certainly plenty of that — but also in challenge. This parable challenges me to pay attention to my own tendency to live in the future to such an extent that I miss out on important moments with those most important to me. It was my father’s tendency and I have worked hard to avoid that. He died at age 58 when I was 16, never quite getting around to living in the only place to live — the present.
When Susan and I got married, my mother said, “Don’t save all your money for some future time. Don’t live for some future time. Live your life as you go along.” I imagine she said that to us because of her experience with my father. He provided for us and planned and planned for the future, but missed a lot of living because he was too busy to live in the present. To use the words of Jesus’ parable, he built “bigger and better barns” so he could “live at ease” — and then he was gone. The fact is, the present is the only place we can live. Without question the past is important and certainly planning for the future is important — but the only place we can live is in the present.
Considering all this made me think of the 1938 Thornton Wilder play, “Our Town.” In an especially poignant moment of this play, a character named Emily, who has died during childbirth, comes back to relive her 12th birthday. The memory proves too painful for her as she notices that no one stops and really looks at one another. She asks the unforgettable question: “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? — every, every minute?” So, going back to our parable, what does it mean to be “rich toward God?” I think it’s about living in the present and paying most attention to what’s in front of you. It’s so easy to get caught up in always looking toward the next thing to do — to get locked into that future focus — and to follow the notion that when we get to that next place or do that next thing or achieve that next milestone, then we’ll start really living. But when we really examine this parable, we see that Jesus is telling us otherwise. Live in the now — it’s really the only place to live.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster