August 4, 2013: Me, Myself and I


Homily by Terry Pierce on Luke 12:13-21


Me, Myself and I

"The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And 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. And I will say to my soul, `Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'

Someone has described the unholy trinity as Me, Myself and I.  The farmer said: What should I do.  I have no place to store My crops.  I will do this.  I will pull down My barns.  I will store My grain and My goods.  I will say to My soul...

The unholy trinity of Me, Myself and I.

Last week we had a parish meeting after the service.  During that meeting a parishioner pointed out that we are using reserves to pay our operating expenses and that we need to do a better job with pledging...

I think he had read ahead to this week's gospel.

What is this story saying?  Are we to understand that we shouldn't plan for the future and save and store away enough to pay for the kids college and pay the bills if someone gets sick or loses a job?  Are we to understand that having the capacity to do well, working hard and saving,  is somehow against the Christian ethic?

In fact, this farmer is presented sympathetically.  He seems almost surprised at his good fortune.  There is nothing to suggest that he has gained these goods nefariously.

But what of the laborers who worked in his fields?

What of the earth that provided rain and sun and nutrients in the proportions that foster a good crop? 

What of God who has given us this good and bountiful creation? 

It is not only that the farmer is worshipping the unholy trinity of Me, Myself and I; it is that he has come to believe that it is in his own power to secure his future.  

And that is the trap...I worship myself and my intellect and all the things about me that seem to be the keys to success...until success and money and power, like all earthly things, fail me.  And then I am left with Me, Myself and I - and it is a very lonely space.

 

We are created in the image of God.  We are invited, called, to live into our own divinity.  What does that look like?  What is the alternate story?

 

Basil the Great, a fourth century Bishop, advised:

You are the servant of the good God, a steward on behalf of your fellow servants. Do not imagine that everything has been provided for your own stomach. Take decisions regarding your property as though it belonged to another.

God is a triune community of being; an eternal trinity of perfect mutuality and love.  One God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  To live in God's image is to live in community.   When we live in community, me, myself and I don't disappear but I am one among many rather than one and only.

To live in God's image is to live into God's overwhelming and delighted generosity.  God created this bountiful earth and he created every bird and every animal and took them to the man to see what he would call them and whatever the man called every living creature was its name.  I imagine God watching his creatures with the same delight I watch the young children in my life.

God’s generosity has no strings attached.  He provides our talent and skills and all of his creation for us to use however we choose.  We have harnessed the sun to provide solar power and harnessed the atom to drop the atomic bomb. 

God’s generosity is sacrificial.   In the incarnation, God disrupted that perfect community of being to speak the eternal word into the midst of human life.  Bishop Cate Waynick asks, "what do we suppose it cost that perfect community to have a part of itself take on something far less than perfect; far less than divine - what would it mean to have a part of yourself become something less than human, become vulnerable to what is worst about humanity?".  God is so generous with his being that he is willing to be incommunicado from his own divinity for the sake of us. 

What if the farmer were living into that image? What would be different about this story?  How do you "take decisions about your property as if it belonged to another."

I suspect the story would start with a Thank you.  Thank you God for this good earth and the abundance it has produced.  Thank you God for the workers who helped produce this abundance.  Thank you God for my health and life and all that you have given me. 

Did you know that poor people tithe more often than rich people do.  When I talk about tithing, I'm talking about giving the first fruits of what we have been given back to God and a tithe is ten percent off the top.  Poor people tithe more often than rich people do. 

What people who give generously and sacrificially mostly say they've learned is that what they gain from giving is far more than what they gave. 

The gain is something about being a part of community; recognizing that "not everything I've been given is for my own stomach" in Basil's words.

It is something about learning that it's more important to give so that others can have their needs met than it is to have extra for myself.  It's the recognition that what is essential for me must be held essential for every other human being on this planet.

Finally, it is the extraordinary experience that there will be enough left for my needs to be taken care of; that God truly has provided enough for me. 

What givers know is that we don't give because the church needs our money.  I will tell you that despite anything you hear, the church does not need your money.  God will provide for the church whether you give or not. 

We give because we are created in the image of God and we're made to be givers.  God placed this creation in our care and gave us to be its stewards to care for it and for every created thing in it all the time.  We give because we are called to live into our divinity; we are called to reflect Christ in the world.   

If the farmer were living into the image of God, what would be different about this story?  Perhaps this man would be saying to his soul,

`Soul, we have ample goods ... let us give thanks to God for these gifts.

Soul, we have ample goods ... let us make sure our neighbor has what he needs.   

'Soul, we have ample goods ... let us care for the land so it may continue to be abundant.

Thanks be to God.

 

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