Legacy - Sermon on Luke 12:13-21

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You can't take it with you. So what is your legacy going to be? And what if you have no legacy, what will you do then? God has a legacy. 

his sermon is quite a bit different from how it was written, therefore, please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The sermon notes which are included for convenience.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

July 31, 2016 - 11th Sunday after Pentecost

"Legacy".  Text is from Luke 11:1-13

Click here for sermon audio  

 



May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer.  Amen.

Good morning to you my sisters and brothers, saints and sinners, disciples of Christ and children of God.

What have you done in your time here?  Will you be remembered when you are gone and for what? Can you take it with you? 

Where has Jesus come on his journey now that people are calling after him to ask him to mediate in other people's affairs? We are already beginning to witness the kind of person that many of these people were beginning to attribute to Jesus, and there is this person in the crowd, who we assume it was a man, because no woman would be entitled to an inheritance in those days. This man has certain expectations of Jesus, and one of many expectations that the growing number of people following him would have of him, judge, like the judges of old before the period of kings. But Jesus is no judge, at least not as a man walking the earth. But it does lead to another question, and if any of Jesus's companions were surprised by his response, well, they must have not been walking with Jesus for very long. 

Because as we have come to know, material possessions are nothing. Jesus expects us to drop everything when we follow him, leaving nothing to tie us to home and hearth, and the expectation of earning an inheritance from one's deceased forbears is nothing more than the outward symptom of a greed, a hope for entitlements to which one own's self is not entitled. But Jesus goes even further this day on his pronouncements, it's not seeks to take on this idea that there is a goal in life of earning material possessions of storing up goods and things. 

This parable that he tells, is also commonly known as the parable of the rich fool, and it is in the telling that Jesus underscores a well understood catchphrase: You can't take it with you. 

Silos, Acatlán, Hidalgo, México, 2013-10-11, DD 02A rich man has had some lucky years and worries as to what will he do with his abundance. His idea is to store more of it, in order that he be able to have a well earned retirement.  But Jesus goes on to remind us that the best laid plans of all of us are still subject to the plans that God has in store for us, and this man's life ends the very night he has decided to store up his abundance. What is implied, particularly in Jesus's closing statement about those who are not rich toward God, is that the decision to take this abundance and store it, being stingy on his own, when we read in the old books that God intends for abundance to be shared with all. This man is doing nothing for the poor (and there are always poor) or needy. His crops will be given to the needy as he doles them out, and inevitably at a profit, because he intends to live on them until his ripe old age. 

And God laughs. 

And just cannot talk about this reading without also giving some kind of lip service to our first reading which comes from Ecclesiastes. Vanities of vanities, all the work we do in the earth, all the toil and all the effort inevitably comes to naught. All people inevitably die, in just a generation or two we are inevitably forgotten. Of course you may see this and say, but really we have all this technology today, we have pictures and records and data and information, surely the things we do now will have some meaning and relevance long after we are gone from the earth. And while that might be true, indeed, for each and every one of us living today there will be some permanent record. But I can only wonder what kind of person will be scanning through our Facebook a hundred years from now, rummaging through the innumerable photographs and status updates. Will that person say, oh, look, that Michael was an interesting person, or say I wish I'd known Dennis, he seems like an incredible musician. Or will they be collecting data, trying to figure out what sort of people were around a century before, who would have put those candidates forward to election. Will they be trying to search for ways to prevent history from repeating itself once again? 

And as I think about these things, I realize in less than 40 years there will be 9 billion people on earth. And even if I am still alive at that point, at 89 years old, will all the things I've written and all my photographs be in the least bit interesting or will they have been covered over by the innumerable people who have come along in the interim?  

Andy Warhol...for those of you who remember him, once said that in the future, everyone would have 15 minutes of fame. But once that fame passes, what then? Who even thinks about the Octomom anymore? Or the family that tried to convince us that their kid had flown off in a stray weather balloon. I even had to strain to think about that one and it was all over the news some ... what, 5 years ago? And these are just the people who are trying to be famous. Trying to make themselves known. 

I wonder what the Ecclesiastical writer means when he says, "sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it." Surely we leave a legacy on earth and we leave things for those left behind, but once our bodies are firmly planted in the ground our control over our names and our legacy vanishes. I have no children, myself, and can hope that my nephews and nieces pass stories about their wonderful Uncle Cary on to their kids, but I cannot stake anything on that happening. 

And so what is a legacy anyway? What would it be like for you to live the rest of your life, knowing that no matter what you did, within twenty years after your death, it would be forgotten. Would you make up your mind to go off the rails and seek out pleasure from every quarter, regardless of consequence? Would it depress you so much that you would hide away in your room, not able to accomplish a single goal? Maybe you decide to live in the day, in the hour, in the second, giving your life meaning at the moment and making room for God in our lives. 

When we live with the idea that our lives' meanings are derived from the things that we do, the body of wealth that we store up, the litany of written work that we claim, then we fail to give God credit for giving us meaning. But to live from day to day, from deed to deed, living out the good work that God calls us to live out, without worrying about whether or not human pens will remember that work gives us the freedom to be the good people that God calls us to be, to not focus so much on our own will but on God's. 

Now, don't get me wrong, my sisters and brothers, there is nothing at all wrong with having accomplishments in your life, my sisters and brothers. It is only human to want to be remembered for the good that you did along the way after you go. But Jesus is reminding us that all of those things are ephemeral. And while we may be able to set up the people who live past us to continue to do the good work that we do, whether we've made advancements in engineering, brought people together to come up with new ideas, broadcast a message to entertain and bring joy to people all throughout the earth, in the end, our names are little more than footnotes, bibliographical mentions and archival footage. But the work we do that belongs to God, that we do guided by his spirit, that we do while imparted by Jesus Christ's gift of grace to us as human beings, and filled to the brim with his holy spirit, we are given a free will to make decisions, reminded that our individual accomplishments are just things we did while we were on this earth.

And the good news, sisters and brothers is that in God's kingdom, we'll remember each other, sharing the wonder of God's whole creation, and praising God's name. 

Amen

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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on July 31, 2016 7:18 PM.

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