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Calvary Episcopal Church
667 Mount Road
Aston, PA 19014
|667 Mount Road, Aston, PA 19014 610-459-2013
10 Pentecost - Proper 13
August 5, 2007
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
|667 Mount Road, Aston, PA 19014 610-459-2013
|Small Parish - Big Heart - Inclusive
Come and worship with us!
All are welcome!
I was toying with the notion of speaking to you again this week about last week’s lessons.
They’re such great selections that I could easily keep going on them for weeks!
But if I had been thinking seriously about it, I would have decided not to do it, anyway,
when I took note of a silly little coincidence, during the week.
Early in the week I ran across a well-worn, witty aphorism that does its job of catching your
attention with its absurdity while tweaking you with it’s absurdity. It made me think, briefly,
about this morning’s Gospel.
Later in the week, in a very different circumstance and different intention, I heard the
same remark – and I thought once more of our Gospel.
And finally, yesterday, still uncertain of what I wanted to talk about it, today, I was look at
one of my usual sources for commentaries on the lectionary, when there is was, again:
this time, applied directly in relation to the Gospel.
So I finally decided I really wanted to preach on today’s Gospel!
And the witty aphorism? “The one who dies with the most toys wins.”
Our Lessons, this morning are an unpleasant lot. I always feel a little bit sorry for
whomever gets stuck reading the first lesson – Ecclesiastes: it’s not a pleasant
experience! Ecclesiastes is a strange book – undoubtedly, in it’s way, the strangest in the
Bible. The opening claims the writer was King Solomon, but that claim is soon dropped
and forgotten – and the work is about 6 or 7 centuries too late to be by that overrated
king, anyway. Rather it seems to be by a very secular philosopher who has been
impressed – and depressed – by 3rd Century BCE Greek Philosophy, and it has virtually
nothing at all to do with – or to say about – God or faith or God’s people! It’s certainly not
surprising that most people know nothing about the book, except, perhaps, the part made
very familiar by Judy Collins’ rendition of Pete Seeger’s song, “Turn, Turn, Turn”: “To
everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” And I don’t
suppose today’s lesson is going to send many people out from here determined to read
Our Epistle, today, is also not nearly as well known, I think, as others of Paul’s letters. It
was written to the Christians of an obscure little town in Asia minor, to combat a heresy
threatening to take root there that bore some similarities to the teachings of the Jewish
Essene sect in Judea. That heresy has long-since disappeared, but the Christology of the
Book can still serve as a good short course in, and a reminder of, Paul’s developed
Christology. (Just don’t get too hung up about the verse that immediately follows this
lesson, where Paul says “wives be subject to your husbands….”)
And then there’s the Gospel.
Reading this whole section of Luke can be a little strange. A couple of chapters before,
Luke had declared that Jesus had “set his face to go to Jerusalem,” meaning he was
beginning his final journey that would end outside the walls of that city, on the cross! But
Luke takes a long time to get us there, and in between he crams a sometimes seemingly
random series of events and teachings. Our lectionary completely skips the 52 verses
from the close of last week’s gospel to the opening of today’s, but most of what comes in
between appears anyway, in one form or another, sprinkled through the Gospels of
Matthew and Mark. But if the change from last week’s Gospel to this week’s seems abrupt,
So today we come to this strange little section, unique to Luke’s Gospel – that is, a part of
Luke’s special source that the other Evangelists didn’t have.
The scene opens with a man asking Jesus to tell his older brother to divide their
inheritance with him – under the Law, in Deuteronomy 21:17, the elder son should get 2/3,
and the younger, 1/3 – but Jesus refuses to get involved: “who made me the judge?”
But the situation makes him think about mankind’s tendency toward covetousness – that
is, from the dictionary: marked by extreme desire to acquire or possess* - and he tells his
people the Parable of the Rich Fool, in which the rich man has so much wealth that he can’
t store it all, can’t keep it safe. So he makes plans to invest whatever it takes to secure
the means to protect it all – and more and more and more – all the while envisioning the
day when he will have “enough,” at which time, he tells himself, he will finally be ready to
relax, to have fun, to “eat, drink and be merry!”
And then he dies.
And God asks him, “Okay, so who’s got all that wealth you piled up, now?”
What a bleak picture Jesus paints – as bleak as the one the preacher paints in
Ecclesiastes. And what a sad picture.
But it’s the picture of the world we live in. A world that’s run by rich fools who believe life
is all about running up riches and protecting them. A world of “elder brothers,” who want
to keep it all, rather than let their little brothers have their fair share – the share the law
What law is that? The law that says “thou shalt not covet!”
It’s the Law that says, thou shalt not be ruled by the extreme desire to acquire or possess
more than you could possibly need; the law that says thou shalt not refuse thy little
brother – and refuse him not only his “fair share,” but enough to supply himself with the
basics of life, and the basics needed to provide his family with the life they deserve; the
law that says “thou art thy brother’s keeper!”
And it’s the law that says thou shalt feed thy brothers and thy sisters when they are
hungry; that thou shalt give them drink when they are thirsty; thou shalt welcome them
when they come to you as strangers; thou shalt clothe them when they are naked; thou
shalt visit your brothers and sisters when they are sick or in prison!
It’s the law that says you are to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your
soul, with all your mind and with all your strength; that you are to love your neighbor every
bit as much as you love yourself; and it’s the law that says that who your neighbor is, is
whoever you see in need, whether a Samaritan or a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim; whether
an American or a Mexican, an Israeli or an Iraqi or an Iranian, Chinese, Russian, Cuban,
Sudanese, Congolese, Argentinean or Canadian; whether from Aston or Chester, or the
Main Line; whether white or black, red or yellow; whether male or female, gay or straight;
whether poor or rich!
It’s the Law! It’s the Law, which means it’s the way God designed the world to be: a world
where God’s people care for one another so much that they take care of one another.
It seems so strange to me…. It seems so strange that every year the cry gets louder and
louder that this nation was founded on Christian Principles, that we are a Christian Nation.
But every year I wonder, more and more, what are the Christian Principles that guide this
nation? And when I look at what “Christian Principles” demand – the principles, the Laws
our Lord said were to be fulfilled in him, I have to wonder.
I wonder: how can a Christian nation – a nation guided by Christian principles – have
700,000 people without a place to live, today, or any given day – over 350,000 of them
homeless families with children, lone women and lone children; have 4 million who will be
homeless at some time during the year, year after year.
I wonder: how can a Christian Nation have in it 34 million people who our own government
classifies as “food critical” – meaning they haven’t enough food to eat and that they run
the gamut from being hungry to being undernourished to starving.
I wonder, how could a Christian nation watch poor, elderly and infirm people die during
heat and cold spells every year in every city because even though they may have a place
to live they can’t afford to keep the heat or the electricity on?
I wonder, how could a Christian nation watch its hospital emergency rooms fill up, day
after day and year after year, with people who can’t afford to pay for regular medical care
and have no insurance – many of whom, unable to pick up a phone and make an
appointment with a private doctor, don’t get to the emergency room until it’s too late to
find an answer?
I won’t bore you any more with my wonderings, or with statistics we all know, but would
rather not think about. We already know what things are really like for the poor, the
homeless, the destitute, the sick in this country – let alone in the world.
But lest I give you the idea I’m laying all the blame and guilt on you and me and people like
us, let me cite just a handful more statistics and “news snippets” that illustrate another
part of the problem – a large part of the problem – both in this country and beyond:
• I saw a segment of a TV show on Thursday that was about mattresses. Ever watch
a show about mattresses? I did. This one talked, toward the end, about
mattresses that sell for $40,000, each – mattresses decorated with gold and
• Donald Trump broke a barrier of sorts late last year when he sold one of his
houses for over 100 million dollars.
• Last January, Wall Street investment houses paid out bonuses of up to $60
million to top traders, with hedge fund managers getting even more.
• By the same time, last year, Goldman Sachs had handed out $ 16.5 Billion – that’s
BILLION – to its bankers, traders and brokers.
• United Health Group Inc got its failed top dog to leave the company last year –
fired him, in other words – by paying him a lump sum of $6.5 million with $5.1
million more to come each year for the rest of his life! )This arrangement was
approved, or course, by a Board that, I strongly suspect, would have strong,
indignant words for anyone who suggested a small boost, perhaps, in
unemployment benefits for hourly employees!)
• CEOs at large U.S. corporations on average earn $430 for every $1 earned by
the average U.S. worker, while just a few decades ago the average CEO–to–
worker ratio was 10 to 1. From 10 to one to 430 to 1 in a handful of decades; how
nice for the CEOS.
• It’s sad that some Exxon stockholders were upset a few weeks ago when
second-quarter profits came in down, year-over-year. The second quarter profit
was only 10.3 Billion Dollars, this year, as opposed to the $10.4 billion profit of the
2nd quarter last year! (And that’s after paying dividends.)
There’s something wrong.
Something sadly wrong with the people who grow obscenely rich in today’s world,
certainly – a world in which Forbes Magazine counted 946 billionaires, back in March – a
world in which they are happily afloat in a sea of hungry, homeless, sick and stricken
Something wrong when – unlike what Jesus was trying to tell us about the rich man in
Jesus’ Parable – the world and this Christian Nation have become a place that seems truly
to believe that the winner is the one who dies with the most toys!
But – more importantly, perhaps – there’s something sadly wrong with “the rest” of us – us
“non-winners, us “losers,” as well as those who don’t care to win that, particular race –
who allow all that to happen, simply shrugging our shoulders, or perhaps nod, silently
wishing we could be amongst those winners!
‘Twas ever thus, of course. There have been periods of obscene disparity between rich
and poor throughout history – as in the late 19th Century.
But doesn’t it just seem to you, as a Christian, that 3300 years after Moses, and nearly 20
Centuries since Christ, it’s about time it stopped? About time the $40,000 mattresses and
the $100 million mansions were turned into…, oh, I don’t know…, maybe food for the
hungry? Or how about medical care for the sick? Isn’t it about time?
In Jesus Christ’s Name, I ask – isn’t it time? Amen.
* The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright
©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin
Company. All rights reserved.
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