I made it myself!

Luke 12:13-21
13Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And 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.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then 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. 19And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But 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?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Thanksgiving Eve / 11-23-11 / John Stiles / Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Children’s Time: What can you give to show your gratitude? Well, when was the last time you did something and afterwards said, “I made it myself!” Have you ever made a turkey by tracing your hand? It’s easy! Even I can do it. The thumb is the turkey’s head and the fingers are the feathers. All you have to do is put a beak and an eye and some feet on it! Viola! Instant present. You may not believe it, but when you share what you have with others – you’re being rich to God! Sharing is so key to not forgetting all God has given us! Let’s thank God for all the blessings we have to share with others.

Intro: Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Family feuds. Leave it to the holidays to bring people together who can’t stand each other! If there was ever a time that family falling outs were close to the surface, it’s during the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas: those times you just can’t avoid your relatives. Even if they don’t show up, they’re conspicuous by their absence.

It breaks my heart to hear stories of people who’ve had a falling out with a family member. One person I spoke with recently said he wouldn’t even know how to get a hold of his sister if he tried. They haven’t spoken in years. Something happened that caused a rift. An argument over (you fill in the blank).

Even Jesus can’t avoid getting pulled into a family tussle. Someone’s complaining to him, “Jesus! Tell my brother to share the family fortune with me!” He simply says, “Who made me a judge over you? Be on guard against all kinds of greed. One’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

He even told them a story to underline his take on this: the parable of the rich farmer – who had such a good crop he had nowhere to store it. “Whatever shall I do?” he wonders, scratching his head. “I know, I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones!” Problem solved.

Well, what was he supposed to do? I mean, if you’re in business and you are succeeding isn’t it natural to want to expand – maybe add on a new wing, or open another store across town? When I lived in Columbia Heights I watched them tear down the Target store only to build a Super Target on the same spot. Makes perfect business sense, right?

So, what is Jesus implying here? That he should have taken his excess grain to the market and sold it? Or that he ought to have given it away to the poor out of his abundance? What should he have done? Because tearing down his barn and building a bigger one was foolish, according to Jesus. The night of his grand opening he croaks! Now, who will get all this stuff?

Hoarding is frowned upon in the Bible – more than that, it is seen as working against God. Remember when the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and how God provided manna for them to eat? There was a rule when they went out each morning to gather the manna: only take what you need for the day. No more. No less. And those who hoarded it found that it grew maggots and stunk up their tents. You could tell from the stench, just by walking by, who the hoarders were.

To ‘hoard’ something means to collect a large supply of something, more than you need now, often because you think you will not be able to get it later. Money is the most common example of something people hoard.

So, what was he supposed to do, that rich farmer with a bumper crop on his hands? Jesus warns them against storing up treasures for themselves, and not being rich toward God. What does it mean to “be rich toward God?” Well, we got a glimpse of that on Sunday, with Jesus’ parable about the end times, when the Son of Man will come and separate the sheep from the goats. “Whenever you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me,” says Jesus.

Being rich to God happens when people open the hearts to others by donating to the food shelf. Being rich to God happens when people take home an ornament from the Giving Tree and provide a Christmas present to someone in need (they’re due Dec. 11th, by the way). Being rich to God happens when someone gives of their time on a Saturday night to prepare a lesson for other people’s children on Sunday morning, to teach them about God’s love and the saving power of Jesus. Being rich to God doesn’t consist in material possessions! We say it every Christmas: “Don’t go overboard buying people stuff they don’t need or will never wear!” Give yourself. Your time. Your prayers for a service man or woman. Give something handmade. Give your voice to the choir! Give a story to a child on your lap. Give a hug of encouragement to someone feeling down.

Being rich toward God means being thankful. It means acknowledging that all that you have ultimately belongs to God. There are no “self-made” people in God’s sight. All is blessing. All is deserving of our thanks and praise, lest we forget who led us by the hand to where we are today.

With the 50th anniversary upon us this year, we have so much to be thankful for. There are tall shoulders upon which we stand that got us to where we are today. Countless hours volunteered to build and maintain this facility – endless cups of wine and juice poured in service at the Lord’s table – countless casseroles served to grieving families – numerous tables and chairs set up and taken down year-after-year – conversations with teens around those very same tables, trying to get at the heart of why faith matters. Changed lives that have made a difference to the people touched by God through this church.

What’s your treasure? Your richness in the faith? What are you truly “thankful for?”

You, the people of Holy Cross, have so much to share – God’s love was never meant to be hoarded up in our hearts, treasured information for only a select few. It was meant to be told as a witness for others just waiting to hear what only you can share, based on your own unique God story.

Be rich to God this thanksgiving – your barn is plenty big – and open your hearts and hands to invite others to the bountiful harvest. Amen.

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