Sermon – July 31, 2016

Posted on Posted in Sermons

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23; Luke 12:13-21
Title: Big Barns

**Sermons are meant to be heard, so listen along here**  

To start today – I’d like you all to take a few minutes and get out that piece of paper you were handed on your way in, and I want you to write a list:

It’s not a to do list, or a shopping list – I’m calling it a life list.
So close your eyes – and think about the times in your life when you’ve been happiest, most full of life, the most you.

Now open your eyes, and write down who, what, etc came to mind.
Now, add to that list, if you need to, anything else that you might consider the most important in your life.

What kind of things are on your list?

Anyone have a tv on there?
A phone?
A car?
A big house?

Yeah – I didn’t think so.

In my avid podcast listening, I’ve now heard a few interviews with Joshua Becker, the founder of “”

Joshua decided he had too much stuff, and wanted to do something about it.
On his website you can find his journey – but also this list of statistics that are pretty shocking about Americans and our relationship with our stuff.

Stats: (from

  • The average size of the American home has tripled in the past 50 years
  • (and yet) The fasted growing segment of commercial real estate in the past 4 decades is… storage units. (1 out of every 10 Americans has one)
  • 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle.
  • the average 10-year-old owns 238 toys but plays with just 12 daily
  • 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally
  • A majority of homes have more television sets than people.
  • There are 300,000 items in the average American home
  • Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education
  • Shopping malls outnumber high schools.
  • Over the course of our lifetime, we will spend a total of 3,680 hours or 153 days searching for misplaced items.The research found we lose up to nine items every day—or 198,743 in a lifetime.

We have a lot of stuff.
A lot.
And not just a lot of stuff, but a lot of stuff we don’t even use!
And, like we hear in the Gospel, we just keep buying bigger barns and storage units and the accumulation continues.
It’s kind of exhausting isn’t it?
And meaningless.
I mean, it’s just stuff.
In the text from Ecclesiastes this morning the author says “it’s all vanity” – or another way to say that is vapor.  It’s all vapor. Gone in a puff.

If you are thinking (unhappily) this is going to be a sermon about money – you are right.
I know, no one likes to talk about money. Even in the church we don’t like to talk about it.
We reserve a few Sundays in the fall to talk about it and call it “Stewardship” and then move quickly on.
And yet, the Bible talks about money more than almost any other topic.  

It’s important.
And it needs more than just a few Sundays a year.
Jesus speaks so clearly of money today – not using hyperbole or metaphors, just straight talk to make a point.  So we’re going to do the same.

But before we get into it – I want to put up three definitions that I think are important for us to have in front of us: Abundance: an extremely plentiful or over-sufficient quantity or supply
Wealth: an abundance of valuable possessions or money.
Greed: intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.

So now we have those down – let’s go.
Jesus is asked to step into a family arguement about inheritance:
(verse 13) – “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me”
And instead of saying, yes, you’re right, that’s not fair, your brother should totally share with you – Jesus says, stop being greedy – and then turns to the crowd of people listening and tells a parable about greed.
Sucks to be that guy.  

But what we know about parables is that Jesus uses them to clarify a point, to help a lesson hit home in a new way.
And right before he begins the parable, Jesus says
(verse 15) “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
One’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.
Or, when we dig into the Greek a bit there, Jesus says, even when you have an abundance of possessions, that is not where life is found.
Life, Greek word Zoe. (zo-ay)
It means soul, life force, the stuff that makes us alive.
So Jesus says that the thing that makes us alive, our soul, cannot and does not exist in the stuff we accumulate.

And then he tells the parable:
Which I’m going to read from Eugene Peterson’s the message paraphrase, so you can hear it another way today:
“The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’

It’s clear from this parable that Jesus isn’t warning about wealth – that having abundance isn’t bad.  In fact, Jesus doesn’t say that the problem is storing up some of the extra.  That was actually a common thing in those days.  They were in a land that frequently had famines and droughts, so it was not a bad thing to store up some for the lean times.  

So the problem was not with wealth – but with how that wealth was viewed.
Look at verses 17 and 18.
HE thought to HIMself – what should I do for I have no place to store MY crops.
Then 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.
My my my
Me Me Me.

Even the start of verse 19 he says – I will say to my soul – soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years –
This guy is talking to himself.
(Not that there’s anything wrong with that)
but notice not ONE other person enters his mind.
Now there is no mention of a family (which he most definitely has), of a household (which he also definitely has), of any of the workers that helped plant, cultivate and harvest this crop (because no rich landowner is doing this on their own).
It’s all about one guy.

As a professor of mine said: He lives in a first person universe
He is all about himself.

And this is the problem.
This is the reason for Jesus’s parable.
It’s not that this guy is wealthy – but that he is greedy.
He has decided to use his financial gain for himself.
He is all about himself.
The thing he is missing, the thing that is noticeably missing in Jesus’ parable?
When Jesus says that life is not made up of the things we have – and then tells this parable with it’s shocking lack of any other people – he is making a big and clear and not at all subtle point.
Life is about relationships.
Not stuff.
We cannot and will not find life in our possessions.
But we do and can find life in God and in each other.

Now, this isn’t easy.
In fact, finding happiness and life in stuff is kind of the American way.
But that’s not God’s way.
And wooooeeee this is hard to hear.
A few years ago, when this text came up in our lectionary, David Lose said this:

“Moreover, materialism — or consumer-consumptionism or affluenza or whatever else you might want to call it — has one distinct advantage over the abundant life Jesus extols: it is immediately tangible. Relationships, community, purpose — the kinds of things that Jesus invites us to embrace and strive for — are much harder to lay our hands on. We know what a good relationship feels like, but it’s hard to point to or produce on a moment’s notice. And we know that wonderful feeling of being accepted into a community, but it’s not like you can run out to Walmart and buy it. And so we substitute material goods for immaterial ones because, well, they’re right there in front of us and we’ve got a whole culture telling us that this is the best there is.”

Earlier, we all made a list – so I want you to get that back out and take a look at it.
How many of the things on your list are possessions? Stuff?
When we think about the times in our lives that we are the most full of life – it’s rarely about the stuff.
It’s about the people, the pets, the relationships.
Sure – some might have material things attached to them.
But it’s rarely about that thing.

(story about Sonja bunny)

So many stories are wrapped up in this little bunny.
So it’s not about the bunny.
It’s about my relationship Layla
So much of my life is found there – in my kiddo.
In our life together.
And the danger is in thinking that it’s about the bunny.
Because it’s tangible. And physical.
But life isn’t there.

This is the core of what Jesus is telling us today.
That when we look to money or possessions for our life we are missing out.
And we aren’t really alive.
And God wants us to have life and have it abundantly.

That verse in John doesn’t say have stuff and have it abundantly – no – it’s have LIFE.
This parable is often called the “rich fool”
It’s a reminder that fools find their life in their stuff, and the wise know that life, abundant life is found in Christ.
God wants us to have abundant, overflowing, beautiful life.
And that kind of life is found in God and in each other.
That kind of grace-filled, love and mercy and community is found here.
And this morning we’ll gather around the baptismal font and be reminded just where that life begins.
We’ll hear those promises for Aubriella and be reminded of the time when those promises were spoken to us and for us.  
The cross placed on her forehead will remind us of the cross on our own, that we have been joined into the family of God, and given new life in Christ. Not new stuff, new life.

And for that we give thanks.