First Lesson: Hosea 11: 1-11
Responsive Reading: Psalm 107: 1-9, 43
Second Lesson: Colossians 3: 1-11
Gospel Lesson: Luke 12: 13-21
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“The best things in life are free
But you can keep 'em for the birds and bees.
Now give me money (that's what I want.”- The Beatles-
In 2014 The Oakland A’s Baseball team was at a crossroads. Oakland had made the playoffs in half of the first fourteen years of the 21st century. Oakland had not made the World Series during these years. 2014 seemed to be Oakland’s best chance to make a run for years. Oakland decided to put all their cards on the table. Oakland had a shortstop in the minor leagues named Addison Russell. Russell was considered to be one of the best prospects in the game of Baseball. The thought was Russell would soon develop into one of the baseball’s best players for the A’s. Every Baseball team would love to have Addison Russell. The A’s decided to do the unthinkable by trading Russell though to acquire a couple of pitchers to help them hopefully win a title in 2014. Oakland’s risk didn’t work out at all. Oakland lost in the first game of the playoffs to the Kansas City Royals and they seemingly gave away Addison Russell for nothing. There is something we can learn from Oakland’s risk.
What Oakland did was proclaim something important to everyone else in the world about the game of Baseball even if their risk in hindsight seems foolish. The reality is “Flags Fly Forever.” What the fans of the Oakland A’s and any baseball team for that matter what more than anything else is something permanent to which they hold.
Baseball fans at the end of their life don’t want to say “you almost won a championship.” People want something that defines their experience as a success or failure onto which they can latch.
For a sports fan, they dream of a championship above all else. For many of us, we dream of a big bank account. We see these measures of success or failure as being that which ultimately defines us not only before each other but also before God.
Today’s Gospel lesson seeks to answer this question further of “What defines us?”
Today’s Gospel lesson begins with a young man approaching Jesus with a problem. The young man’s father had just died. The inheritance system in Jesus’ day was patently unfair. The older brother by the virtue of being born first would get a double portion of the father’s estate. The younger brother asks for Jesus to intervene in this family dispute. Jesus decides this family squabble teaching over money would serve as a chance to illustrate a point about the Kingdom of God.
Jesus tells a story about a farmer. The Farmer is not a bad guy. He has not gained his wealth illegally or by taking advantage of others. The Farmer is smart; he decides after a bumper crop that he is going to set some aside to use in future years. The Farmer isn’t doing anything different then what Joseph advised Pharaoh to do after a really good Egyptian harvest. The Farmer, in fact, isn’t doing anything all that different than you do putting aside savings account in the bank. So you hear this story it makes you wonder why the story ends with The Farmer being called a “fool.”
David Lose points out the problem with The Farmer though; let me read a couple of the key verses emphasizing certain words. “And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear 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; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”
The reason The Farmer is called a fool is that of how he defines his life merely regarding the possessions that he accumulates. The Farmer is a fool because he only saw life regarding his “I.” “I” did this and “I” earned that. When the “I” is at the center of one’s universe, then faith is merely an accessory. The Farmer thought that merely living life in the here and now is what guarantees happiness.
Here’s the catch as pointed by Phillip McLarty. “Money is not the root of all evil. What the Bible exactly says “The Love of money is a root of all kinds of evil-”1 Timothy 6:10.
Money ultimately has limited value. Money cannot embrace you. Money can not guarantee safety from all risk. Money’s value is finite rather than infinite.
There was a woman that recently died in Lindstrom. She worked as a telephone operator. Her husband worked as a custodian. They never had any kids. They lived in simple houses over the years. They never spent extravagantly. After the woman had been widowed, she moved into a basic apartment. She ended up living till one-hundred and four. People who knew the woman wouldn’t have thought she died with more than two cents to her name. Her estate ended up containing $1.4 million dollars. Her will gave away every dollar and cent that she sat on for years and years. No one could ever question whether this woman saw money as “defining” her in life.
Let me compare this to another story. A couple of weeks ago, a guy from in-town stopped me on the street. The guy had a request for me to do a send-off for one of his friends. His friend had alienated his family. His friend had alienated nearly every one of his friends. The last years of his life were spent in a nursing home with nary a visitor. The request that I was given was that he didn’t want a funeral, and hardly anyone would have come if he did. So we gather at 1:30 on a Tuesday afternoon and go through the committal prayers before this man’s ashes could be dumped in anonymity. “To dust we are, and to dust, we shall return.” I don’t know what was in this man’s bank account, but what this encounter drove him to me is what Jesus is getting at in our Gospel lesson for today that a man’s life is not merely just defined by his possessions.
The foolish man is trying to make life certain through possessions rather than embracing faith.
Ed Markquart tells the following story from Fredrick Danker’s Book Jesus and the New Age:
“In 1923, a group of the world’s most successful men met at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Assembled there were: the president of the largest steel corporation in America; the greatest wheat speculator; a man who was to be the president of the New York Stock Exchange; a member of the President’s cabinet; the canniest investor on Wall Street; a future director of the World Bank for International Settlements; and the head of the world’s largest monopoly. A few years later, this was their fate: Charles Schwab died in debt; Arthur Cutten died abroad in obscurity; Richard Whitney did time in Sing Sing prison and was blotted out of Who’s Who; Albert Fall was pardoned from prison in order that he could die at home; Jesse Livermore, Leon Fraser, and Ivar Kreuger, all committed suicide. .. All these people knew how to make money; none of them learned how to live. All the bulls became lambs, and Schwab’s bleating in 1930 was the most pitiful of all: “I’m afraid; every man is afraid. I don’t know, we don’t know, whether the values we have are going to be real next month or not.”
One of the major themes of Jesus’ parables is that of reversal of fortunes to paraphrase Ethan Richardson. The rich man dies only to end up in torment, whereas the poor beggar Lazarus ends up in comfort. The blind end up seeing and the lame end up walking. The Good Samaritan receives words of praise. The savvy farmer is called a fool. The Prodigal Son’s older brother hears that he is too responsible for his own good. Jesus invites to the party all the outcasts because the cool kids have better things to do with their time.
Here’s another key reversal from our parable for today: Wealth is fleeting, but hope it is eternal.
I went to Concordia with a guy named Vladimir. Vladimir grew up in the Soviet Union. What I will always remember about Vladimir is right after he started there, I was with him on a car tour of Fargo. We were driving down Fargo’s main drag called Broadway. As we were driving down Broadway Vladimir, keep seeing bigger buildings and kept marveling at how beautiful Fargo was.” Growing up around the Twin Cities having seen all kinds of big buildings, it took me a minute to realize the Vladimir was serious. Whereas others merely saw steel and concrete, Vladimir saw hope. Vladimir had been around hopelessness his whole life, so when he saw something that pointed to a bigger, better world being possible, Vladimir saw the hope. Perhaps Vladimir’s story has something to teach us.
Last weekend, I was driving around Duluth listening to the radio when I came across a preacher. The preacher made the following point: “When we look to define ourselves as a people of “faith”, one word shall come to the tip of people’s mouths and that word is “hope.” People may find our beliefs strange, people probably will disagree with us, but what if above all else Christians were known for bringing “hope” out into the world.
So this leads to the question if hope doesn’t come from possessions then where does hope come? Hope comes from faith. Hope comes from death. Hope comes from the promise of resurrection that guides us on days when everything in this life seems to be out of reach. In the words of Robert Farrar Capon: “He waits for us in our death. Quite literally, there s nothing that Christians need to do to inherit hope other than die”.
The Parable of the Rich Fool is about how a person responds when they are under duress. In duress, you can either be defined by all you can gather in this world or in duress you can embrace hope. Flags alone do not fly forever! Faith endures forever! Faith carries us into the darkness of the grave, only to see the light shining on the other side.
The question that Parable of the Rich Fool forces us to confront is what defines you on this day? Does wealth define you? Does pain define you? Or does the embrace of one's savior define you? Does this hope define you? Amen
 Luke 12:13-21.
 This plays itself out in the story of Esau and Jacob in Genesis 25 for example.
 Lose, David. “Commentary on Luke 12:13-21”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul, MN. 01. Aug.2010. Web. Jul.27.2016.
 Luke 12:17-18.
 McLarty, Phillip. “The Parable of the Rich Fool.” Lectionary.org. 2004. Web. Jul.25.2016.
 Genesis 3:19.
 Markquart, Edward. “Bigger and Bigger Barns.: Pentecost 10: Year C” Sermons from Seattle. Web. Jul.25.2016.
 Richardson, Ethan. “The Gospel’s Steady Work of Reversal.” MBird(Mockingbird Ministries). 28. Apr.2016. Web. Jul.26.2016.
 Hornsby, Emily. “New Research on Wealth Confirms What Jesus Said 2,000 Years Ago.” MBIRD (Mockingbird Ministries).05. Sept.2013. Web. Jul.26.2016.