Sermon by Frank Moritz-Jauk
Luke 12, 13-21 To be rich in God
Dear community, today we have heard the parable of the rich grain farmer. Many of us do not hear this parable for the first time. It is a well-known parable, even if it can only be found in the Gospel of Luke. For me, this parable is like a mirror. It gives me the opportunity to look at my life. And if I look closely, then this parable is indeed like a very real, real mirror: With something that I see, I agree, and some things causes me a headache. But regardless of whether I like it or not, the mirror does not score, but just says how it is. The mirror does not care who looks into it and what it looks like.
The parable is a parable that Jesus tells. Jesus does not say to his listeners then, nor to us today, „You are the rich corn farmer!“ No! Jesus, like us today, is holding the mirror in the face of this parable in front of his listeners and asking: What do you see? Look, what do you see?
I find that so important because Jesus does not accuse anyone. Just as little as I want to accuse anyone here today in the church service. I do not want that, I do not like it and I hope I succeed. Unfortunately, in such parables, people feel personally attacked and then tie it to the person of the preacher. I mean, I can stand it, but I still want to have said it: the parable is a parable and not an indictment. It is a mirror in which we find ourselves or not. Not at all, not at all or only partially. And even if we find ourselves in whole or in part, it is only to know. It is supposed to lead to what the author of the 139th Psalm asks God to do: „Explore God and recognize my heart; check me and recognize how I mean. And see if I am evil, and guide me in the eternal way. „(V 23-24) For me that is the origin and meaning of this parable: God wants to know us or lead us on a good, eternal way.
So, if we now come to the parable in concrete terms, then first of all the introduction is interesting from which Jesus tells this parable. A person from the crowd asks Jesus, „Master, tell my brother that he shares the inheritance with me.“ That sounds like a simple question, because why should not divide the inheritance among two brothers? But Jesus‘ answer is very clear: „Man, who has made me judge or heir to you?“ That means that Jesus does not want to have anything to do with it, he does not want to be involved or deal with it. Jesus makes it very clear that I am not responsible for that. Your money matters, please regulate alone. What’s more, the issue of inheritance or money seems to trigger something in Jesus, because somehow it comes a little unexpected, this call or warning: Beware of greed! Greed, what is that?
For this one must enter today only the term greed in the Internet. As a first hit you get the following Wikipedia definition: „Greed, greed, greed or craving is the exaggerated pursuit of material possession, regardless of its utility, and closely related to the avarice of over-the-top frugality and reluctance to share. Greed is related to selfishness, jealousy and envy.“Wow, I can only say that. I could not have formulated it better myself. With such an apt, good definition or description, it is easier for us to grasp the context of why heritage issues this message to Jesus. Who of us does not know at least three stories of family dramas that have played or played out just because the term „justice“ is so difficult to inherit. A very common and unfortunately often true proverb says: With the money the friendship stops.
This brings me to the important question of how far we find ourselves in this warning from Jesus. Is that me? Do I have an exaggerated pursuit of material possessions? Am I over-thrifty? Am I unwilling to share? These are the important questions that Jesus addresses. I found a great story about it. It goes like this: Two friends meet over a cozy beer at the tavern and start talking. So, one is asking the other: Gustl, if you would have five cars, would you give me one of these? Yes, of course. And if there were five TVs, would you give me one?
Yes, of course. And when you have five shirts, then may I have one? Then, Gustl shakes his head. Yes why not? I have five shirts.
So, that’s all about wealth. We are inclined to think that the others are rich. We, ourselves, are not really rich. What’s right is that in most cases, it’s true that there are even richer people than we are, no question. But that’s why I find the story so magnificently revealing: Are we ready to share what we have? Or are the five shirts a kind of limit? Invariably connected to the question of sharing are the follow-up questions: with whom am I willing to share and how much?
Recently I talked to a person about the church contribution. Yes, how is it with us Methodists. And I have said that I consider the biblically valid tithing appropriate or at least recommend it when I am asked. Then the person: „That’s really great anyway, the tenth. Then I have nine tenths left for me! „
Another wow experience. Then I still have nine tenths for me. Right. That’s exactly how you can see it. The glass is nine-tenths full and not one-tenth empty. Whatever we find in the mirror of the parable and the warning of greed when we look at our lives, we should not ignore the two concluding sentences or conclusions of Jesus in all things: „No one lives from having many goods,“ says Jesus the parable and he concludes the parable with the sentence: „So it is for him who gathers treasures and is not rich in God.“ What does that mean?
Nobody lives from the fact that he has many goods. Wilfried Nausner once summed it up for me. In terms of the people who are close and important to us and who do not know our life from a history book, it does not matter what we have done. How much money we have earned, how many companies we have founded and how many sailing yachts we can pass on to our children, no. In the end, at the funeral, very different things are important: Was he or she a good person? A good father? A good mother? Could one rely on the person? Was he or she a good friend or a good friend? Loving and kind, generous and compassionate? That’s what Wilfried said, those are the questions that are important then and with which a life comes to an end. But what does it mean, to be rich in God? Here I must put it in a nutshell, but I would say, being rich in God means that the relationship with God is alive and bearing.
If we are constantly busy building new barns and investing our time and energy mainly in the material existence, that can look super successful and happy on the outside, but how does it look inside? The real life is always a steady growth, is the connection of design and spirituality, of action and faith, of work and Sunday, of office and church. Who does not find time for his religious life, who does not grab the Bible for his work, takes time for prayer and goes to church, is a fool. So you could hear the parable, a male fool, because you can not take all the nice money into heaven. A female fool, because she did not realize what really matters and what is supporting in life. To be rich in God is to involve God in my life. To be rich in God means to hope for guidance bythe commandments and the life of Jesus. To be rich in God means to pass on the love, that I have experienced from God, to other people. To be rich in God is to live with God.
Being rich in God can then mean at the end of a life: For all the love of life and without being lifelong, in the end to accept dying and to be grateful for the lived life.