Sermons 2007

"How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Proper 13C 2007 Luke 12:13-21

Leo Tolstoy once wrote a story about a successful peasant farmer who was not satisfied with his lot. He wanted more of everything. One day the farmer received a tempting offer: For 1000 rubles, he could buy all the land he could walk around in a day. The only condition was that he had to be back at his starting point by sundown.

Early the next morning he started out walking at a fast pace. By midday he was very tired, but he kept going, covering more and more ground. Well into the afternoon he realized that his greed had taken him far from the starting point. He quickened his pace and as the sun began to sink low in the sky, he began to run, knowing that if he did not make it back by sundown the opportunity to become an even bigger landholder would be lost.

As the sun began to sink below the horizon he came within sight of the finish line. Gasping for breath, his heart pounding, he called upon every bit of strength left in his body and staggered across the line just before the sun disappeared. He immediately collapsed, blood streaming from his mouth. In a few minutes he was dead. Afterwards, his servants dug a grave. It was just over six feet long and three feet wide. The title of Tolstoy's story was: How Much Land Does a Man Need? (1)

There are important things in this gospel passage. The things that are really being asked here begin with questions such as
-- "How much is enough?
And such corollary questions as
-- What is the purpose of wealth?"
-- What is the relationship between my Christian faith and my wealth?"

All of which lead in the economic sense to the question that Jesus always asks us -- or afflicts us with -- depending on the state of our consciences, the question "What is really important to us?"

How much is enough? Real poverty kills the human spirit, weakens the body, and threatens the soul. Prolonged poverty beats people down so that they cannot recover. That's not what our Lord is asking of us. Our task is different.

Our task is to work in the context of an economic system that has the resources to meet the basic human needs that God intended for all his children. To the extent our economic system fails to provide that, it fails the test -- and we fail to love our neighbor as ourselves. And an economy that generates unrelenting poverty at the same time it encourages unrestrained material consumption fails doubly. And then we have failed doubly to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength and our neighbor as ourselves.

Do you remember the great gas shortage crisis of the summer of 1979? I remember the drum beat of dire predictions in the news media, fueled by the announcements that OPEC was cutting back on crude oil production so that the price per barrel would rise. And some of that was true – and still is.

I was being reassigned from Kansas, to Washington that summer, and I was fearful that I would not be able to make the long drive. The news media were full of reports of rationing, of odd numbered tagged vehicles being filled on odd numbered days only and of even numbered tagged cars being filled on even numbered days only. And, predictably, fuel prices rose significantly.

But what was interesting was that, despite my fears, all along my route, basically Interstates 70, 64, and 81, there was no fuel shortage at all. There were no lines at the pumps -- and no restrictions on filling the tank of my car. Only when I reached Warrenton, within the Greater Washington DC commuting area did a fuel shortage suddenly appear. 15 miles farther back on the road, there was no shortage in the nearest small town in the Valley of Virginia. But there wasn't enough in Warrenton -- or in many other places east of the Appalachian Mountains.

How much is enough? Let's turn the question on its head: How much is not enough? It's like the old bumper sticker: "Whoever has the most toys wins". You still see it around occasionally, but it was especially prominent in the 1980s.

The rich fool is like any person who thinks enough is never enough. His answer is always, "More is better." The rich fool kept building bigger and bigger barns and stores his wealth for himself alone. He hoarded it and didn’t use it.

I do not think it is possible for most of us to find in the material possession -- the ownership -- of wealth or of a thing, or of any thing or of many things the joy that comes from those moments when we feel closest to God, when we feel closest the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, when we feel most the strength of Christ's love for us.

And those are the times that can't be bought. And those times are what is most important of all for us and for our soul's sake.


1. Adapted from Bits & Pieces, November, 1991, eSermons Illustrations for Proper 13C.