August 4, 2013
11th Sunday after Pentecost
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
What are your dreams?
Who are you, who do you want to be? What is it that motivates you, what is important to you? What do you want most in the world?
This week I read about Alfred Nobel. When we think of him what do we think about? The Nobel Prizes, particularly the Nobel Peace Prize. Nobel was a very wealthy man who invented many things, notably, dynamite. 8 years before his death, Nobel had the unique experience of reading his own obituary. You see, his brother Ludvig had died and a French newspaper mistakenly published Alfred’s obituary. It was titled “The Merchant of Death is Dead” and went on to say “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” Naturally, he was horrified. Having a great fortune did not make him great. During his remaining years, he set about changing his obituary by doing something positive with the fortune he had been blessed with. Thus, the Nobel Foundation and the Nobel Prizes. Perhaps his dream was simply to be remembered in a positive light or perhaps it was to do something to better the world, I don’t know. Whichever it was, he passed the blessings that were bestowed upon him to others so that they could be blessed. This is the nature of Stewardship.
In the passage from Luke that we just heard, Jesus tells us a story which has become known as “The Parable of the Rich Fool”. This man is a wealthy man who has just enjoyed a bumper crop. He has so much, he doesn’t have enough space to store it all. He decides to build bigger barns. He is content that now he can retire and “relax, eat, drink, be merry.” His dream is similar to the American Dream. Work hard, make lots of money, retire in comfort. Jesus doesn’t say that it’s wrong to be wealthy or to save. That’s good, because I think it’s prudent to save. I have a 7 year old daughter, Alice, who will likely need highly specialized and expensive care for her whole life. College is looming for my two teenagers. And yes, my wife and I want to retire someday. The problem for the rich fool is that God never comes in to it. At least, not until the end, when death is upon him. This is why he is a Fool. Never does he acknowledge where his blessings come from. He considers his crops as his own, even though it is the land that produced abundantly. “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops… 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.” No thought of his place in a larger picture. No thought of sharing what he had. No thought of what will happen after he’s gone. In fact, the idea that he might not be around to enjoy what he’s amassed never even seems to occur to him. His possessions have become his soul. His dream is to have stuff. Not what good he can do with the blessings that God has bestowed upon him. His possessions own him. He is not a steward, he is a hoarder. Poor guy, works all his life to retire, and the moment he achieves his dream, Boom….death.
I want to tell you story about one of my own “Rich Fool” moments. For many years, my family had a booth at the Saturday Market and the Oregon Country Fair selling clothing that we had made. One year at the fair, my daughter Mia was 6 weeks old. Towards the end of the weekend, we ran out of cloth diapers. Being committed to using cloth, we had nothing else to change her into. Someone told me that Bring Recycling was offering a diaper service in their booth. I got a loan of 10 diapers for a $25 deposit. On Monday morning, while packing up, I remembered that I had to get the diapers back to Bring, in order to get my $25 back. When I got to the booth, it was closed up and everybody had gone. Right then I saw a friend and lamented, looks like I just spent $25 on 10 cheap diapers that I don’t even want. He looked at me and said, “You know, that money isn’t really gone… It’s just been passed around.”
I think one of the points Jesus is trying to make is that we are all stewards of the blessings God has given us. The money in our checking accounts, it’s not ours. It is on loan from God until others can be blessed by it. By remembering this, we allow ourselves to be generous and caring. We are stewards of our homes, our collections of rare whatever’s, of our individual gifts and talents, of our communities, of our churches, of our planet. As stewards, it is our responsibility to leave what has been entrusted to us as good as or better than we found it.
So… What are your dreams? Where does God come in to them? What is your place in the great Eternity?
I have an exercise for you. Give yourself the same opportunity that Alfred Nobel had. Write your own obituary as if you had died today. Then write your obituary as if you died 10, 20, 30 years from now. You might just find your dreams in the differences. You might discover new dreams.
So let’s get busy dreaming our dreams, living our dreams and dreaming new dreams. But, Lord, help me to not be the Fool.