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Sermon - 8/4/19
2019.08.04 22:38:52

Proper 13/C [Pent. 8] (2019): Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-26; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21  

 

Seek,             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 (vv. 1, 2). 

 

St. Paul exhorts us to Life’s proper object. I did not say “our life”, which is the point Jesus makes by the parable of the Rich Fool.  Rather “our life” is gift of God; it is his and redeemable at will.  Therefore, it is not without significance how we manage “our life” in this time of church, or the “ecclesia”. 

 

To trust in anything other than God concerning our gifted life, and in the case of the Rich Fool—possessions, is idolatry and boorish ingratitude. Abundant possessions, power, worldly wisdom, esteem, force of personality, physical and mental strength, attractive appearance and natural ability, alliances enhancing us toward our neighbor; all of these or the lack, credits us nothing at heaven’s call.  All that is accounted to us is our fear of the Lord, a life of faith.    

 

The irony of the Rich Fool was that at the pinnacle of his self-satisfaction, God called his soul forfeit. All things are the Lord’s and of the Lord; we possess the things of the earth for a time on loan, then they pass to another (Eccl. 2:18).

 

Mary, the sister of Martha, treasured the “good portion” from God, Jesus’s word; and it would not be taken from her (Lk. 10:42) but remain hers into eternity; so also, Jesus urges us to be “rich toward God” (12:21), and St. Paul, “seek the things that are above.”

 

Let’s be clear about the Rich Fool; his heart’s desire was much as King Solomon in his youth; and if we are honest, so are you and I in seeking worldly wisdom and its abundance.

 

We toil to load-up retirement accounts; are miserly toward brothers and sisters in shielding our wealth; and today in a world of falling interest rates we hoard cash, precious metals, invest in stocks, all with goal of retiring with “dignity”; very often a euphemism for “eat, drink, and be merry” (v. 19) in the security of the things we have stored-up. 

 

Is there anything wrong in this; well not if we receive all things, extravagant or simple, as gift of God. But when our goal is as the Rich Fool, to eat, drink, and be merry for its own sake, the question of our stewardship comes into play.  

 

How do we employ what time God has given us; in frivolous and continual entertainment or do we generally engage the things above?  Is our dominant attention given to worldly endeavors, political discourse, or obsessively out-thinking markets, or wrestling with God to hold onto that which is ultimately his?  These are all distractions from trusting in “our life’s” proper object, Christ come to his ecclesia in word and sacrament, leading us to grasp God’s love at the cross in repentant faith. 

 

In worldly terms, King Solomon was history’s wealthiest, most intelligent, and wisest man. On ascent to the throne of Israel, Solomon prayed, “[Y]our servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen…Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil…” (1 kgs. 3:9). 

 

Ever since Adam and Eve desired to know “good and evil”, man has been, so to speak, “in the soup”; for it is only in the doing of evil that man can “know” evil.  Good and evil are not abstractions.  They are experienced in “fallen man’s life”; in body and soul.  Good and evil, justice and injustice, love and hate, faith and unbelief, truth and lie, all by sin are relativized in the self-idolatry of man’s original corruption toward God.

 

Notice how Solomon prayed for understanding to enter the so called “broth of sin”, albeit, on behalf of the “ecclesia” to discern the ways of a cursed world.  But even such “understanding” Solomon would conclude to be “vanity”. 

 

Last Sunday Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them to pray. In this, we discern the beginnings of divine Wisdom for the “ecclesia”, faith’s “fear of the Lord”, a higher wisdom than that for which Solomon prayed.  Jesus taught his disciples, “Father… Give us each day our daily bread…” (Lk. 11:2a, 3). 

 

After modeling the prayer, he elaborated, “ask” and receive; “seek” and find, “knock” and the way will be opened (v. 10).  it is in God’s gracious giving and our grateful reception of his Bread from heaven and earthly sustenance that we are being made wise toward God.

 

In Christ, we seek “the things that are above…”.  We don’t pray for understanding, wisdom or anything apart from Christ (cf. Eccl. 2:25), and so trust in God, rejoicing in all that he determines for us; that by Baptism, “Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11). 

 

King Solomon, was an imperfect type of Christ. In these last days Jesus comes as the fullness of Torah wisdom.  God honored Solomon’s prayer for worldly wisdom, saying; “Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you in all your days…” (1 Kgs. 3:12, 13). 

 

As man of worldly affairs none has or ever will exceed Solomon in worldly wisdom and understanding. Still throughout the OT period, God was a hidden God.  Solomon applied his heart by human reason seeking and searching all that God had done under heaven; yet despite nonparallel human wisdom, Solomon lamented, “it is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with” (Eccl. 1:13).

 

When we, whether student, laborer, artisan, philosopher, theologian, social worker, pastor, laity, business people, or politician, seek after worldly wisdom, then we set our minds on earthly things with Solomon and in this endeavor, we also despair that, “all is vanity and a striving after wind.” (v. 14). 

 

But Jesus, by his word and taught prayer would have us trust in God alone, putting despair aside as we seek wisdom from above that God reveals as gift of the HS in Baptism. The ancient Rabbi’s identified the Torah of Moses as God’s wisdom; this is true.  But in Christ, the incarnate Torah of God, we the ecclesia possess in his flesh and blood the fullness of Divine revelation.  Jesus crucified is the fullness of God’s Torah Wisdom, no longer hidden from men; yet the world calls our gospel, “foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:18-21). 

 

Jesus and St. Paul exhort us to seek him who is Wisdom enfleshed, who by the HS gathers us into a prayerful discipleship, looking to God for all things and an “understanding” that grows from faith to faith in Christ. 

 

The world reasons that dying is evil; but by heaven’s Wisdom we know that evil and the grave have been put to death in the crucified body of Jesus for the forgiveness of our foolish sins. The world says, quality of life is all about length of days with stored-up earthly wealth; but Wisdom invites that we, who are evil by nature, follow Jesus: “knock” on the wood of the cross; “seek” to daily die in him on account of sin; and trust God will “open” heaven, as for Jesus, raising us to inheritance and priestly service in the new creation. 

 

By faith Solomon, at the end of his days, anticipated this gospel enlightenment from above; putting-off despair generated by human reason “under the sun”, proclaiming that not “all 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?” (Eccl. 2:24).

 

By our baptismal grace we keep-on seeking incarnate Wisdom. We “knock” to receive in thanksgiving God’s word and sacrament, and are joyously admitted into communion with the Author of Life and brothers and sisters that the world’s vanity no longer dominates our life from above.  Amen.

 

pem.




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