THE 8TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem.  And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.  I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.
I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me,  and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.  So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun,  because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.  What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?  For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.
 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,  for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?  For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  On account of these the wrath of God is coming.  In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.  But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.  Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."  But he said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?"  And he said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."  And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man produced plentifully,  and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?'  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.'  But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'  So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."
Every so often I get a notice in the mail from Lutheran Church Canada’s Worker Benefit Plans, that gives me an estimate of what my income might be when I retire. I’d be lying if I didn’t confess that the number normally gives me some pause, even causing me to gulp and mildly panic. Of course there will be a little bit more than what’s on that paper, but with no home of my own, having lived in a parsonage all my life, even with what I’ve managed to put away in RRSP’s and extra contributions to my pension plan every dollar is going to have to stretch pretty far.
Having reached the age of fifty this year and passing the milestone of the 20th Anniversary of my ordination this week the number on that letter is beginning to give me ever more pause. I’ve recovered well from my stroke and I hope to have a few good years left in me, perhaps even another 20 more. But the reality is, that there will come a day when work simply will have to be left behind and another age of life begin. As I look forward to that day, I put my hope in the One who can take five loaves and two fish and feed five thousand. No question about it the Lord will provide.
The good thing about that letter though, is that reminds me that I need to be mindful that there is a day that draws ever nearer with every sunset, that I need to prepare for because, like it or not, it is coming and will arrive one day. Of course there is an even bigger day, that is approaching with every sunset as well, that our Lord sends us Word about today to warn us to prepare for, as He makes us mindful of it. On that day all earthly labour and life will come to an end, because our souls will be required of us. The Lord will ask us to return our lives to Him and He will be looking for an account - a return on what we did with what He gave us.
The rich man in our Lord’s parable for today forgot this truth. He thought he had everything taken care of. He had his Freedom 55 package all sown up. Retirement lay ahead, with its rest and relaxation, eat, drink and be merry, but he didn’t even make it to the next day before he died, that night his soul was required of him. Suddenly, without warning all that he had worked for… all he had stored up for himself was given to another. He couldn’t keep it. He couldn’t hold on to it. His treasure was all left for another, who had done nothing to earn it. It was all vanity, a striving after wind.
Our Lord isn’t preaching against hard work. He is not condemning success. He is not putting down planning for the future. In fact He is preaching for it all. The man’s problem and our problem is that so often we are far too short sighted. We forget about eternity and live for the moment instead. We don’t plan for that day when our souls will be required of us. We live rich toward ourselves and not rich toward God. We forget that the only things that we will keep for eternity are the things that we give to the Lord. The only treasure that will remain after we pass away, after earth passes away, is our treasure in heaven.
If you want to keep your riches, beloved, our Lord warns us, then give them away. Be rich toward God and you will by no means lose your reward. A friend of mine and his family, in the days before digital photography and the icloud, used to always get doubles of their pictures and give them away to family and friends. When their house burnt down and they lost everything they had, all those precious family pictures that they had given away came back to them. He told me he learned then, that the only things you keep in this world are the things that you give away. The man who dies with nothing will keep everything, while the man who dies with everything will lose it all.
Yet, our Lord’s warning is not just for those who have a lot, but also for those who have only little. After all, Jesus tells this parable not to the son who got the inheritance from his father, but to the son who didn’t get it. Whether we’re rich or poor, the danger is the same for all people, to live for our own gain and getting ahead with our hearts set on earthly things, instead of being content in times of lack as well as in times of plenty. Teh danger is ever to live for ourselves rather than to serve the Lord… to advance the Kingdom… to feed Him when He is hungry… clothe Him when He is naked… visit Him when He is lonely… care for Him when He is sick.
Set your mind on the things that are above, not on earthly things. It’s the key to living a life rich toward God instead of ourselves, but for poor miserable sinners it’s a lot easier said then done, and so that’s why almighty God turned His eyes down to us and sent His Son to us as we were lost amongst the earthly things, where we had fallen into worshipping the treasures of the world. He came amongst us. He became one of us, so that He could grab our attention and lift our eyes upward, as He was lifted up on the cross… as He rose from the dead… as He ascended into heaven.
Our Lord Jesus’ body and blood are lifted before you in the Sacrament today, beloved children of the Father, to lift your eyes up from the things of the world to the lasting treasure of eternal life. They are given out to you today as the richest gifts of heaven to bring forgiveness, life and salvation to you. The Lord gives you everything that is His, as surely as He stripped Himself down to nothing on the cross, so that He could keep you for all eternity. He reminds you here, that He gave everything away so that all might come back to Him… so that you might come back to Him.
No, beloved, as baptized children of God your lives do not consist of the abundance of your possessions, it consists of the one priceless treasure that your heavenly Father gave you in the font and renews you in this day. It consists of Jesus. As He comes to you in His body and blood this day He comes to enrich you in this truth so that you will not foolishly live for the passing treasures of this world, whether by hoarding them up or by pining away for them, but be at peace instead, with all that you have and will ever keep in Him. Indeed all things will come and go but Jesus will last forever.
With nail scarred hands He invites you once again this day to entrust your life to Him... your treasure to Him, with those wounds standing as an eternal assurance that nothing that you give to Him will ever, ever, be lost. Amen.