Proper 13 Year C 7/31/2022

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23; Psalm 49:1-11; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21

Rev. Mark A. Lafler

During World War II, Winston Churchill was forced to make a painful choice.
The British secret service had broken the Nazi code.
They informed Churchill that the Germans were going to bomb Coventry.

He had two alternatives:
One, to evacuate the citizens and save hundreds of lives at the expense of revealing to the Germans that they had broken the code…
Or, two, take no action, which would kill hundreds but keep the information flowing and possibly save many more lives.
Churchill had to make a very difficult decision…
He decided to follow the second course.

Life is full of difficult decisions… It’s not easy…
Life is full of tension…
Choices that define us…

Often, we must live in the tension…
between both sides…
or multiple sides…
In fact, I believe God has called us to a life of tension.

We find this tension throughout our theology…

On the one hand, God is sovereign over all things and knows all things, And yet, on the other hand, he gives us the power to choose.

Again we understand God is Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Yet we also confess that God is one God.

Any good Episcopalian… any Anglican would say that’s right… and we would call that tension – a mystery.

Well, our readings today highlight another one of these mysteries or tensions that we live in…
We can put it in a question:
What is our place on this earth?

In our Gospel reading, Jesus tells the story of a wealthy man with more harvest than he knows what to do with.
So he decides to tear down his barns and build bigger ones…
More room for his possessions…

And then he can relax…
Eat. Drink. Be merry.
Counting on his earthly goods…

In our second reading from Colossians, St. Paul warns us against setting our minds on the things of this earth…
Giving in to our worldly passions…
Naming some of the sins found in scripture:

Fornication, impurity, evil desire, and greed…
anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language…

These early Christians in Colossae did not grow up in the church… Their lives were transformed by the grace of God and they still had areas that needed the Spirit’s ministry…

So, we see in Luke… that we are called to resist the distractions of our possessions.

And in Colossians… we are called to resist the distractions of living it up in the world.

Finally, in our first reading from Ecclesiastes we discover that the author believes “all is vanity” and “chasing after wind.”
In fact, he has little hope for the future…
He suggests leaving his possessions for future generations is foolish because who knows if they will take care of it…

So he turns to despair and all that remains in life is “vanity” or “emptiness.”

So… if life is empty, and not about possessions, and we are to resist worldly passions, what are we to do?
Should we go build a little commune somewhere up north of Lake Yale? Where we focus on ourselves, resisting the pulls of this world… Becoming hermits and loners…

With no interaction with other people.

Of course not… and this is the tension we live in…

To be on the earth, yet not live on the world’s terms…

To be present with what is going on, yet not living in fear, hopelessness, or worry.

That is why St. Paul wrote to the Colossian people
(this from The Message paraphrase):
…If you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it.
Pursue the things over which Christ presides.
Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you.
Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is.
See things from his perspective.
Your new life, which is your real life is with Christ in God.
He is your life.

And this isn’t something we just try to do… or try to achieve…
Why?
Because we can’t do it on our own…

Only by God’s grace through the Holy Spirit can we truly live with the mindset of the Kingdom of God…

And it begins when we die to ourselves and realize that our life is hidden with Christ…
because of the power of the cross.
That our real life is found in the hope of our future resurrection,

which means that we live in this hope even now…

Being dead and risen with Christ, we are to seek that which is above, not that which is on the earth.

This is actually what the sacrament of Baptism calls us to.
A life where we are in union with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is not a recipe for a super-spirituality which ignores the real earthly issues.
We are not to walk around on cloud nine…
Not caring about the peoples of the world…

Not caring about the good of God’s creation…
We should care very deeply about all of God’s creation…

You see the problem is not living on earth… but living on earth’s terms.

Make this earth your only reality…
If you make it your god…
you end up with lies, anger, greed, and immorality.

Our Creator, meanwhile, serves notice of a higher calling: a full, true humanness, remade in his own image.

In Christ we become sons and daughters of God.
In Christ we become the new creation.
In Christ we become ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. Declaring the goodness of God in this world.
Praying thy kingdom come…
Thy will be done…
On earth as it is in heaven.

We are created to live in this tension… Between heaven and earth.

And sometimes the correct way is what seems the hardest… And living in tension is never easy…

We live in times of great distraction.
The information age beckons us to always stay tuned in…

Plugged in…
To be online.
Every day the politics and drama of the world demands our attention. Not just to inform us…
But absorb us into the ways of this world.

We have racial tensions, injustices, poverty…
We have distractions with TV, the internet, and video games…

An author once tweeted:
“Writing books is 10% talent
and 90% not being distracted by the internet.”

But even in the midst of this great distracting world…
We are called to be people that are present…
Living in the reality of the tension that we find ourselves in…

Not running from the world…
Not putting our heads in the sand pretending it will all go away… Not living life on the world’s terms and trends…
But being ambassadors in this world for the kingdom of God.

When we live in the tension between heaven and earth, we are ready to move when God says go…

If we just hunker down and hide from the world…
we tend to not move when God moves, because of fear.

If we just follow the terms and trends of the world…
our ears tend to become so tainted that we don’t hear God when he wants us to move.

This reminds me of one of my favorite books,
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe –
one of the books by C.S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia.

In the story Lewis writes about three children, Peter, Susan, and Lucy, wanting to save their friend Mr. Tumnus and getting ready to meet Aslan the lion, (who in the allegory represents Christ).
Two talking animals, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, prepare the children for this encounter.

“It’s no good, Son of Adam,” said Mr. Beaver, “no good your trying, of all people.
But now Aslan is on the move –”

“Oh yes! Tell us about Aslan!” said several voices at once; for once again that strange feeling – like the first signs of spring, like good news, had come over them.
“…word has reached us that he has come… He is in Narnia at this moment.
He’ll settle the White Queen all right.
It is he, not you, that will save Mr. Tumnus.”

You see in the story all of Narnia was under this endless Winter…
until Aslan was on the move…
The children were caught in the tension between an endless winter by an evil witch…
and the hope of a coming spring…
It all changed when Aslan was on the move…

Is there tension in this world? You better believe it.

But if we heed the words of our lessons today and resist the distractions of the world around us…

If we truly believe the words of our Lord who said: My kingdom is not of this world (John 18.36)

It is our Lord who also said:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16.33)

When we follow not the earthly kingdoms… Rather we follow the kingdom of God.

When we set our minds on things above, not on earthly things. It is then… that we can truly move when God says go.

That is my prayer for you and our church… That we will be a light in this world…
Living in the midst of the tensions of our day… So that we can point toward Jesus…

I will end with one last bit of scripture from the book of Hebrews
In chapter 12 verses 1-3.
The author writes:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.

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And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,
scorning its shame,

and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

May we not grow weary or lose heart. Instead, may we fix our eyes on Jesus.

Amen.

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