Meditation on Luke 12: 13-34
First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown
Pastor Karen Crawford
July 31, 2022
Link to live-streamed video: https://fb.watch/eCz83o4Rv0/
We hosted a funeral for a man named Michael Turrell in our sanctuary yesterday. That’s why for some of us who were here yesterday, it feels like there were 2 Sundays this weekend! Lynne. Bill. Pablo.
He was not a member of our congregation, though his grandparents were members long ago. And I have so many people to thank in our congregation for helping with all the details. Thank you, especially, to those who came to welcome strangers as invited guests to our church family and worship home. Because I asked for help in our newsletter, and you came!
I met Michael’s two daughters by what I would call chance if I believed in chance. They knocked on the door to our church one Tuesday afternoon in May, when I was just setting up my office. I had to ask Dawn for a yellow pad and pen to take notes.
They shared stories of their dad who had just passed away after a 10-year struggle with dementia. He and his wife, Anne, divorced in the 1970s. He was awarded full custody of their two adopted daughters. Desiree was 10. Linn was only 5. A logical man, not overly emotional, he had no idea how he was going to be both mother and father to them.
The man who could fix, make, or do anything, who rebuilt a garage from the ground up and built a model of the Globe Theatre for his Malverne High School drama productions, lived by the Golden Rule. You know what that is, right? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. He taught his daughters to work hard and to be nice. And practical things, like changing the oil in their cars.
The man who had poured himself into raising his two daughters when he was a young man became the one who needed their tender care when he was older.
Some unexpected things happened at the funeral. For one, we were late starting—at least 15 minutes—or was it 20? Because many of Michael’s family got stuck in traffic or got lost on the way here. At 10 before 11, Pablo asked me if he should start playing gathering music. I said, “Sure!” Little did we know that the gathering music would stretch till quarter past the hour. I was afraid Pablo might run out of music!
Another odd thing happened. In the third verse of the final hymn, Eternal Father, Strong to Save, our organ had a cypher—a stuck note that continued to sound loudly long after Pablo played it. It brought the song to a halt. I immediately recalled the story of one of our organ pipes falling onto the seating below. The following Sunday, guest pastor Matt Means came to preach wearing a hard hat—just in case our organ would act up again. Pablo calls it the beast!
After the service, I gathered the family to line their cars to form a procession to the cemetery. This isn’t something I usually do, but I didn’t have help from a funeral home for this funeral. As we were preparing to leave, a man pulled into the front driveway of our parking lot, looking confused by all the cars blocking his way to the back lot. I thought, “What now?” Dressed in my black clergy garb and white stole, I went over to ask him if he were joining the funeral procession.
He said, no. He was coming to AA! I introduced myself, shook his hand, and I never do this… But I asked how things were going on his sobriety journey! He smiled—he wasn’t offended. And he said, “Good, so far! I rely on Him every day.” He pointed up to the sky.
I have a feeling that running into me and a funeral procession on his way to AA was a reminder to the man that God was still with him. It was a reminder to me that our opening our doors for community support groups extends our ministry to people outside our church membership.
Friends, I can see how God is using us, sometimes in surprising ways, to build our treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
We are growing rich toward God.
In today’s passage in the 12th chapter of Luke, the Lord is interrupted in his teaching to the crowd with a man demanding, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” Christ will see to the root of the man’s problem, that he, being the younger brother, isn’t satisfied with what he has. He wants what his older brother has.
The Lord warns him, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
This is consistent with the overall message of Luke’s gospel—that the rich and proud will be brought down and the poor and humble lifted up, such as in Mary’s Song.
The parable he shares is about a rich landowner who decides he needs bigger barns for his abundant crop, so he won’t have to work for a long time. He imagines saying to himself, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” God in the parable—and God is not usually in parables—but God interrupts and tells the man how foolish he has been, wasting precious time. And now his life is over, and what will become of all the possessions he has hoarded?
“So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God,” he tells the man who covets his brother’s inheritance.
This is the lead in to one of the most beautiful teachings Christ shares with his disciples in every time and place. He’s no longer speaking to the man who is wanting more. He’s speaking to us. Notice how the reference to the barn connects the two passages, as we discover the word again in verse 24, “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them.”
This is the teaching that we all need to hear today. We need only look outside at the wonder of God’s Creation when we worry how we will survive as a congregation in this time of declining Presbyterianism and a growing demographic of self-proclaimed “nones”—no religious affiliation at all.
Don’t be discouraged by the nones, brothers and sisters. Have faith that the Lord has chosen us for this mission field. Christ is sending us out to our Long Island communities. And God is bringing to us our neighbors who need encouragement in their journeys of faith and shelter and refuge from the storms of life. That was the funeral that we hosted yesterday at the church–a family without a church that needed shelter and refuge from the storms of life-and encouragement on their faith journeys.
We have all that we need in the God who feeds the ravens, though they neither sow nor reap. We have all that we need in the God who clothes the lilies, who neither toil nor spin.
How much more value are we than birds and flowers to God?!
Those who have chosen to follow Jesus in the 12th chapter of Luke are worried and afraid for their future as his disciples. They are afraid they won’t have food to eat or clothes to wear—the necessities of life. We have worries, too, but they are different worries for our future as Christ’s disciples. What will happen if we take risks in our ministry, do things for the sole reason of building “heavenly treasure” – not necessarily bringing in more members or adding more dollars to our general fund?
What if we do things the Spirit leads us to do just to be rich toward God?
“You of little faith,” Jesus says to them, affectionately. Our gracious and kind Savior wants to lay their fears and our fears to rest. Which of us by worrying can add a single hour to our span of life?
God knows all our needs, dear sisters and brothers.
These moments, when the Lord leads us to serve in surprising ways and touch the hearts and lives of people outside our circle of friends, family and our church family, I can say with all certainty that we are building our treasure in heaven—where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
We are growing rich toward God, saying yes to the invitation to join with the Lord in the work God is already doing in the world.
So I ask you now, where is your treasure?
Do you know that our hope in Jesus is the most precious thing of all?
Let us pray.
Holy God who feeds the ravens and clothes the lilies, thank you for caring for all our needs. Thank you for the abundant material and spiritual blessings that we have as your church, filled with your Spirit. Grow us, dear Lord. Guide us in your will so that we are rich in faith, as your Son taught us. Help us build our treasure in heaven with more opportunities to offer hope and healing to the brokenhearted and testify to your goodness. Grant us your peace and confidence as we accept your call to the mission field of our Long Island communities and beyond. In the name of our Triune God we pray. Amen.