The Sanctuary Sermon for 5/24/20
The Sanctuary Sermon for 5/24/20
“Ebb Tide” Luke 12:16-21
Here’s a question for you as we begin this morning. What is demanding and taking your life today?
Let’s put that into context as we look at our text,
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
So, what is demanding and taking your life today?
That’s the question I want to begin with. It’s the question that runs through what I’m about to share with you. And I hope it’s the question you’ll think about when you ‘go’ from here today. It’s a central question not just in this text, but where we live at every day.
Let me be clear about what I am asking. I’m not asking about your physical health or illnesses. And I’m not asking about the end of our lives, when or how we may die. I’m asking about something bigger and more important than that. I’m talking about how we live. I’m talking about the way our life can ebb away from us, being particularly reminded of it during the current Covid craze.
When an ebb tide reaches its greatest distance from land, the water in the tide experiences a period of no velocity. This is called slack water. Have you ever felt like your life was ebbing away, receding, diminishing, slack or stagnant? Have you ever felt like the tide of your life was going out?
Sometimes we experience that ebbing away in our relationships with a significant other, our children, a friend, even God. Sometimes, we experience it as the absence of meaning, purpose, or direction in our life. Sometimes, we feel it in regard to ourselves when we aren’t living the life we want to live or being the person we want or know ourselves to truly be. Sometimes, we experience it as an absence of enthusiasm and vitality and we’re just going through the motions. Life is on autopilot. Sometimes, it’s feeling like we’re trapped in the life we’ve created for ourselves. We might finally have what we want, only to find we don’t really want what we have. Sometimes, there’s nothing really wrong or bad about our life but there’s a restlessness and sense that something is missing. Sometimes, it feels like we’re a human gerbil in the wheel of life, running, but not getting where we want to be.
Last week, a friend said to me in a Corona conversation, “Man, I’ve got to get some color back to my life, it’s gone gray scale.” He’d recognized that his life was ebbing away, as he keeps waiting, storing up. In what ways might your life be ebbing away today?
I think that is what’s happening to the rich farmer in Jesus’ parable. He is storing up and storing up and storing up without any attention to, or awareness of what, or Whom really gives life, and the substance of his life is just slipping away.
The great danger and tragedy of a life ebbing away is that it reaches that slack water point, a point beyond which one cannot remain buoyant. The life-tide has gone out and we’ve been left grounded on the shore, the point at which our life is claimed and taken from us. “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you,” God says to the rich farmer.
Now, some will hear or read these words as God demanding the man’s life. But that’s not what the text says. It simply says, “Your life is being demanded of you.” So, here’s what I wonder. What if God is not the one making a demand on the man? What if the demanding of the man’s life is neither God’s judgment nor punishment? What if, God is simply naming what happens when we store up - and store up - and store up without any attention to, or awareness of what, or I should say Whom really gives life?
What if – and this is a key one – what if the stored-up grain and goods are demanding the man’s life?
Here’s why I ask that. The Greek words that have been translated as, “is being demanded” can also and more literally be translated as, “they are demanding.” “You fool! This very night they are demanding your life from you.” The grains and goods he has stored up are demanding his life.
You see, what we store up eventually demands and takes our life. It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be anger, grudges, resentment. It could be guilt or regrets. It could be pride or arrogance. It could be a need for approval, attention, or recognition.
It could be perfectionism, the need to be right, the need to have the final word. It could be criticism, condemnation, or judgment of others or ourselves. It could be fear, worry, anxiety. It could be money, possessions, wealth. It could be power, position, or control. It could be success, reputation, or winning.
The list goes on and on, what else would you add to it? Whatever we store up for ourselves eventually demands and takes our life – emotionally, spiritually, and sometimes physically. Think about a time you stored up anger or resentment and the way it began to eat away at your life. Think about a time when you stored up judgment or condemnation of yourself or another and how it eventually sucked the living water right out of you. Think about the ways that stored up fear or worry keeps your life quarantined.
If our life is ebbing away, maybe it’s time to look at what we’re storing up. And it’s not only about us as individuals. I’m afraid our life as a nation is ebbing away – what are we as a nation storing up? Toilet paper? Bottled water? Sani-wipes? Masks? Control? Fear? Intolerance? Isolation? Petty partisan politics?
We were not created to live storing up lives or to be storing up people. That simply is not the way or teaching of Jesus.
And when you pray say, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” Not bread for a week, a month, or a lifetime, but bread for a day. In the wilderness the Israelites were to gather only enough manna for one day, they were not to store up for the next.
Meditate on these lyrics from Woody Guthrie’s song, God’s Promise:
All that I promise is strength for this day,
Rest for my worker, my light on your way,
I give you truth when you need it, my help from above,
Undying friendship, my unfailing love.
I promise you power, this minute this hour,
The power you need when you fall down to bleed,
I give you my peace, and my strength to pull home
My love for all races all creeds and all kinds.
Storing up is about more than just quantity. It’s a way of being, a way of living only for ourselves, a way of distancing and cutting off from others. When we store up, life becomes all about us. Listen to the man’s conversation with himself. Eleven times he uses the words, I or my. There’s no mention of, or care or concern for anyone but himself. His storing up has blinded him to what really matters and what life really consists of.
Life does not consist of what we store up. The things of life that hold the deepest meaning, value, and purpose – faith, hope and love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness cannot be stored up. They can only be given away. That’s what we see in the life of Jesus. No one and no thing demanded or took his life. It was not a stored-up life. It was a life given to others, for others.
“If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.” ~ Jesus, Luke 17:33 NLT
So, back to where we began. What is demanding and taking your life today?
Be rich toward God and others.
Live your life.
Let it go.
This is the Word of the Lord for the day.