Reflection August 4, 2019 by Rev Sunny Kim
Colossians 3:1-11/ Luke 12:13-21
Who’s in Charge Here?
So far you have been learning one thing about me every week; you learned that I come from a Methodist background and that I have a mentor who wrote an inspirational book about prayer. Today’s one fact about myself is that I love old things; antiques. One day when I shared that I love old things, my stepson said, “Is that why you like my dad?” Anyway, I love old fine china teacups and old books. I usually buy old books from used bookstores for maybe 5 dollars, but I discovered this charming used bookstore in Salmon Arm. One day I got my hands on this beautiful poetry book published in the 1860’s, which cost a lot. I thought, “I need to possess this book.” Luckily, I bought it at half price because I donated a lot of books and they gave me a lot of credits. That day, it seems like a dormant lion or a dragon inside me woke up and I started yearning for more of these. Then I asked myself, “Am I developing an expensive hobby?” Collecting old books might be becoming a thing for me. I don’t buy clothes and shoes like some other women, and even when I do, I buy them at the thrift store; but I want beautiful old books no matter how much they cost. This is a powerful yearning for me, and I try to not let it become an obsession.
Speaking of obsession, in today’s gospel story, we met a man who is obsessed with his material possession. He thinks, by building bigger barns, he can keep all his possession, relax, and enjoy life. Meanwhile, God is thinking, “You fool, I’m taking your life tonight. What good is all that possession then?” This story raises two issues. The first one is called Christopaganism. As you can guess from the name, it’s about Christians acting like pagans. It’s a form of Christianity whose purpose is to manipulate God; the notion that through ones’ good works one can persuade God to open the gates of heaven or like pagans sacrificing a child to appease the gods. This distorted belief is the reason for the downfall of medieval monks. I will explain. In the medieval age, lords and knights went to a lot of wars including the Crusades. If you think about it, good Christians going to war and killing people for faith is pretty ironic. It is said that the soul of a warrior was difficult to save because of the commandment not to kill. After the Battle of Hastings, which brought Normans to take over England, the Church demanded 120 days of prayer for every person killed. William the Conqueror, the first Norman king in England, was responsible for about 10,000 deaths. What is 120 times 10,000? That’s how many days William would have had to pray to be redeemed for all his killings. He would still be praying today. But he didn’t have time to do that. None of the warriors did. So, they paid the monks to do the praying for them. They probably had to go off to kill more people, and the monks were thought to have purer souls because of their dedication to God. So, ironically, these monks who had abandoned the secular world and wealth to focus on God, became stinky rich and ended up becoming corrupted. Look what a distorted belief caused.
The second issue is the material wealth; the foolish man was obsessed with his possession and acted like there was no God. He trusted his wealth and thought he could take care of himself with his wealth. But the truth is, nothing of what we have is ours. We don’t control our lives. We don’t know when God will call us home. We’re not in charge of our destinies. Having a lot in our mortal world can lead us away from trusting God. Our material possessions, political power, or extensive knowledge can be an obstacle in our relationship with God. Why would we trust God when we have a lot of resources? That is why Jesus taught his followers to become poor, spiritually and materially. That is why Catholic priests and nuns make a vow of poverty. It is when we don’t have anything that we can completely trust God’s care; since we don’t have what it takes to take care of ourselves. In the end, Jesus says, “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
“Rich toward God.” It is related to what Paul says at the beginning of Colossians chapter 3; “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Choosing to be God’s people by following Jesus means we have our eyes set on the things that belong to God’s kingdom, not to our secular and material world. It inevitably includes abandoning our obsession for material things (feeling guilty for my old books). Now that we belong to God and Christ, we should abandon our old lifestyle driven by basic human nature. Verse 5 says, “Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly.” Lust, greed, and evil desires are some of these things.
The first thing we need as God’s people is to acknowledge that we are not in charge of our lives; God is. We cannot manipulate God to get what we want. As I said last Sunday, through maintaining an intimate relationship with God, we are able to resemble God’s nature and surrender to God’s will. Through resembling God’s nature, our yearnings will align with the will of God. Today’s and next Sunday’s themes are connected. Today we are learning to acknowledge that God is in charge of our lives, so we should keep our eyes on God and Godly things and follow wherever God leads us. Next Sunday, we will learn that we should trust God to take care of us, and trust whatever we receive. Stay tuned. Don’t walk away from God; not too far.