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Sunday, 31 July 2016

For Tomorrow We Die

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “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.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God. (Luke 12:13-21)
So the crowds are after Jesus. And they're pressing forwards with all sorts of stuff. People needing healing. People needing healing for their family members. People who want to hear his words. People who want to argue with him - maybe opponents. And one bloke who - completely randomly - wants to talk to him about an inheritance issue.

And Jesus stops off and spends time with him. But he doesn't answer his problem, doesn't give him a judgement. Instead he tells him a story.

And it's a story about someone who puts his trust in things that don't last. In this case, a barn full of grain. Because the biggest barn full of grain in the world is worth nothing when you die. When you're alive it's lovely to have lots ready to eat - plenty of security. But when you're dead it's as much use to you as a barn full of sand.

There's nothing wrong with money itself. It does good things. Nothing wrong with having a nice meal, with contributing to keep the church going, with catching a train to see a friend. Nothing wrong with a thing that you can use to buy a malaria net to protect someone, or sponsor a child in the two-thirds world. Nothing wrong with having a well paid job. Nothing wrong with having a farm that produces a terrific crop.

But - as we all know in these Brexit days - it's all about the exchange rate, innit? What is money - or a barn full of grain - worth compared to the love of God? To a human relationship? Answer - it's worth nothing. And so God says to the rich fool - this day when your life will be lost - where's your heart? Is it with the things you have saved up? Bad luck - they're going to other people. So what do you have to bring with you into eternity? Where's the Faith, Hope and Love that are the things that will last through fire and death? Oh - you had a big barn and hope that you could take it easy.

Last week Fr Jacques Hamel died while in the sanctuary of his church, at the hands of somebody who thought that hatred and a loser's frustration with the world were worth more than love, or life. I don't suppose he left much. But it wouldn't matter if it did. Because he has been rich to God - gave up his time, cared for God's people, praised God's name and - at the end - gave up his life to the love of God and his Church. His priorities, it seems to me, were right.

Meanwhile in the latest in a long stream of prophecies of the end of the world, some people were predicting that the world would end as a result of the magnetic poles flipping.

In one of the better headlines I have ever read, the Independent said "End of the world will happen today when magnetic poles flip, say people who are almost certainly incorrect." Don't know why the Independent used that "almost certainly", to be honest. Because if the End Times Prophecies people had been right and the world had split open, nobody would have been around to laugh at the Independent.

Jesus, it seems to me, puts us into a place between those two - the man who trusted in his own riches was a fool, because he had no control over when his life would end. Those who spend all their time worrying about the future - whether their future here on earth or one day when all comes to an end - they are wasting their time. Isaac Newton spent more time on apocalyptic predictions than he did on physics. Just imagine if he'd spent more time on physics...

But the one who accepts with gladness and humility what God gives. Who takes what they need and shares the rest. Who loves God, and sees God in their neighbour, and then treats their neighbour accordingly. Who loves the things that this world offers - but holds onto them lightly. They're the ones who, on the night God says their life is required, will find their treasure in the right place

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