Sermon for Sunday, August 4, 2019 + Lectionary 18C
Trinity, Worcester
Text: Luke 12:13-21

Photo: Elm Park Urban Ministries Day Camp enjoying the beach at Hopkinton State Park. 

(Watch Here … Minute 25:07)

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

If you have spent any time at the beach this summer, and after a bus that wouldn’t start, and with a thunderstorm shaving a few minutes off the end of the day, I was delighted to spend time with the Elm Park Campers at Hopkinton State Park on Wednesday this week when the campers went swimming and fishing, it might be hard to believe that we are running out of sand.

One expert, who has studied such things, reminds us that our modern society is built on sand. Sand is used in concrete and asphalt for buildings and roads, sand is used in glass for windows, sand is even used in the microchips that run our smart phones. Our society is built on sand and usable sand is running out.

People around the world have died fighting over usable sand. Organized crime has entered the sand market because there is money to be made in buying and selling usable sand.

Now you might think, like I thought when I first heard this:  What about the desert?  Isn’t there an endless amount of sand in the world’s deserts? And you’re right, there’s lots of sand in the desert, but desert sand, with its grains  shaped over time by wind, instead of water, is useless in modern society. Because of its shape, desert sand doesn’t hold together – it’s like trying to build a tower with marbles, instead of bricks.

There is some measure of good news, however. According to the expert, we will run out of fresh water before we run out of usable sand … if that makes you feel any better.

So, what are we to do?  What’s the point of this warning. The expert suggests, that the same solution on sand, is the same solution we need on a variety of other issues facing human community.  He points out that we as humans are not only using too much sand, but we are using too much fresh water … we are cutting down too many trees … we are using too much oil and gas … in general, we are consuming more in the short run than is sustainable in the long run.

The answer, on all these things a more, says the expert, is that humans must come together and work together to find solution. The answers lie in thinking with, and thinking about, others –  turning from thinking just about ourselves and our needs, comforts, and conveniences, to thinking with a community and with a global mindset – listening and learning from others about solutions and possibilities.

The answer, in light of today’s Gospel reading, is to turn from greed – greed that would focus our attention only on ourselves, turning instead to hospitality where we would think about others.

In today’s gospel reading we hear these words of Jesus: “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

Be on guard against all kinds of greed.

We might not think of ourselves as greedy – especially if we come from modest means and especially if know that we try to be as generous with our time, talents, and possessions. A big thank you to all of you who have so generously supported Elm Park Day Camp, your generosity with donations of time, transportation, food, money, and this space for the use of the camp has led to another successful camp this year.

But the warning in the gospel is a warning about all kinds of greed. Perhaps the danger is less about overt and personal greed – and more about systemic greed.

I wonder today …

… if our western, capitalistic lifestyle, in which we prize individuals and reward individual ingenuity and accomplishments

… in which privilege and comfort is defended by targeting and scapegoating people of different ethnicities and skin colors

… and when individual rights are defended, when a Constitutional Amendment becomes more important than people, even as people are slaughtered in a hail of gunfire in night clubs and Wal-marts and Garlic Festivals and houses of worship and schools and movie theaters

are all the many faces of greed Jesus warned about?

In his warning about greed, Jesus told a parable about a rich man who had an abundance. He had a bumper crop, he had a windfall. Showered with this abundance, more than he needed, he decided instead of giving it away, instead of making sure others around him had enough, he simply built bigger barns so he could store it for himself. And then he relaxed, and partied, and thought he was set.

But, that night, his very life was demanded from him. One scholar suggests that it was his very possessions that demanded his life –that in clinging to his possessions, it was those possessions that demanded his life, and demanded his soul. Another scholar asks: was he going to die anyway?  What difference did it make if he kept his crops for himself or gave them away? Either way, was he going to die anyway?  Was the point of this scripture that he could have prevented his death if he was generous?

While we might debate that point, for humanity on planet earth, this is not a rhetorical question. The truth is, people die because of greed.  People die when those who have do not  live in generous relationships of hospitality with those who have not. Be on guard against all kinds of greed, said Jesus, all kinds of ways that living for self, and forgetting the neighbor, leads to death.

Into this world of greed, of all the ways we live for self and fail to practice hospitality, the Gospel speaks.

The Good News is the generosity of God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ, our salvation and hope, the generosity and the hospitality of God. The Holy Spirit, active and mighty, joins us to the hospitality of Christ and turns us from greed, turning us to live with each other.

Today, Roman Catholic Seminarian Brian Ashmankas is here. Brian is serving as the summer intern at Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Parish and he is here today because Father Richard Trainor at Blessed Sacrament, noticed that hanging in the narthex of Blessed Sacrament Church, is the Covenant that this congregation and Blessed Sacrament signed three decades ago.  Trinity’s signers were Pastor Paul Kennedy, Bob Hill and Judy Olson.

That covenant promised a level of sharing and hospitality that is truly inspiring. The Covenant defines its purpose as a response of the prayer of Christ for unity among Christ’s disciples. Responding to this prayer of unity, that all disciples may be one, the two congregations pledged: That we shall freely share our ministries and resources in prayer and worship, in learning and in service, and in striving for social justice and the common good.” 

That we would freely share our ministries, not with reservation, not with hesitation, not with suspicion and fear, but freely, lavishly, generously share all that we have as Christian congregations in the city of Worcester. And then the covenant shares what will happen because of this sharing:  “so that we all be mutually enriched.”

That’s the point of the generous sharing, that’s what happens when we turn from greed: mutual enrichment, mutual blessing.

Think about the possibilities that might exist today, if Trinity Lutheran Church, and Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Parish, recommitted today, to freely sharing our ministries, to freely sharing our resources, to freely sharing our striving for social justice and the common good.

In a world of greed, of people turned in on themselves, think of the powerful witness we could make, in radical hospitality and partnership across theological lines that have long scarred the church of Christ!

That’s the promise and the good news of God’s generous hospitality announced in Christ: mutual blessing … mutual enrichment … among the communion of saints.

Greed is the work of sin that creates winners and losers, divides community into haves and have nots, and leads to death … Hospitality is the work of faith that creates winners and winners, unites God’s children in mutual enrichment, and leads to life.

The Good News today, is that in the risen and living Jesus Christ, God freely announces and gives away God’s unconditional love, mercy, and grace. Jesus Christ is the hospitality, the generosity, and the compassion of God for each and every one of us today.

There is no place for greed in God’s love, God doesn’t hold anything back from any of us for any reason, but in water and word, in bread and cup, here God gives us all that God has.

In Jesus Christ, in the generous outpouring of God’s love, is our life, our hope, and our salvation. In the work of Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, is mutual enrichment, is blessing, is healing and life for the world.

May the Holy Spirit give you the courage to both recognize and turn from greed that leads to death in all of its many forms.

May the Holy Spirit, fill you with the strength to live as people of generous hospitality that leads to life, life for us, and life for the world.

May the Holy Spirit, working in people, communities, and nations dedicated to sustainability, bring healing, and health, and life to the world.

Indeed may it be so.