2 Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 12:13-21
St Barbara’s 09.10.2022
Rev Tulo Raistrick
Jesus has just been telling people not to worry too much about how much they own, or how much money they’ve got. He is just about to go on and tell them that if God can take care of the birds and give them nests and give the flowers clothes, how much more will he take care of his children. In the middle of that, someone then asks Jesus to rule in his favour and give him his share of the inheritance. It is almost as if he hasn’t been listening to a word Jesus has been saying, for to ask for your share of the inheritance was a pretty greedy thing to do. It meant splitting up the land that may have been in your family for generations. It meant going your own way. And by dividing up the land it made everyone poorer. So not a great question!
In response Jesus tells this parable of the rich farmer.
And this parable has a number of things to say to us.
For one thing, it is a remarkable thing about this farmer that he gets worried about his surplus! He is not getting worried about how badly his crops have done. He is worried about how well he has done, and what he is going to do with all his extra food. How is he going to hang on to it all? How is he going to store all the food next year if his harvest is even bigger?
Sometimes we can kid ourselves into thinking: “If only I have a bit more, then I will stop worrying, then I will be satisfied”. If only I had that higher salary, that bigger house, that bigger pension pot… if only, then I would be happy and content, and then I can give the rest away.
But if we are honest that kind of thinking never works. Even when we get the thing we’ve been longing for, we then start wanting the next thing. In fact that desire for the next thing can make us worried, anxious, or it can end up driving the way we live. It becomes our focus.
Harvest is a good time to say thank you to God for the good things we already have, for the things that we need, and to stop worrying about the things we may want but are not essential.
A second thing that strikes me about this parable is that the farmer only talks about himself: “What shall I do?… This is what I’ll do… I will store all my grain… I’ll say to myself…” There is no talk of others; no thought of others – whether his family, or the workers who have helped him grow his vegetables, or the community in which he lives. He is only thinking of himself.
Compare that with the prayer Jesus taught people to pray, a prayer we will say later in the service: “Our Father… give us today our daily bread”. There is no “I” there. We are not praying that my needs be met, but that everyone’s needs be met. We are part of a community. A wise African man once said: “I am because we are”.
The farmer missed the whole point. What we have is to be shared.
And thirdly, this parable encourages us to focus on what really matters.
Over the years I have taken well over a hundred funerals. I have never been to a funeral where as part of the eulogy or tribute people have said: “They left a really healthy bank balance” or “they were really rich”. Not because those things might not have been true, but because actually when thinking about someone’s life and giving thanks for them, those things didn’t seem to matter. What does matter, and what is almost always remembered at funerals, is how the person lived their life – the times when they were loving or generous, the way they cared for others. Quite simply, the way they loved others.
Our farmer is caught out. He thought life was all about the size of his barns, his wealth and plenty. In fact it is all about love – our love for God and our love for others.
Its a simple message isn’t it? We are to trust God for the things we need, and we are to share with others the things we have and live a life of love for others.
Its a simple message but one that has radical implications if lived out.
For the farmer of the parable, his problem was that he had too much food. But for millions around our world today, their problem is that they don’t have enough food.
In Yemen today, out of a population of 30 million people, 24 million people go to bed hungry every night, many of them facing starvation. And in East Africa, because of the effects of climate change, harvests have failed for the fourth consecutive time, meaning that 20 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia face starvation.
Oxfam estimated that last year 11 people were dying every minute due to starvation – that is over 200 people since this service began – and things are much worse now than they were last year. We are rightly appalled and horrified by the deaths of so many children in that Thailand nursery.That death toll of young children is repeated every five minutes around the world due to hunger.
What can people facing starvation do? They stretch out the tiny amount of food they have left in the hope that the next harvest will be better or that aid will arrive, or they leave their homes and go in search of somewhere where there is food. There are almost 60 million people in the world who are living somewhere else in their country because they’ve been forced to leave their homes, and these countries are the poorest countries, the least able to cope with such numbers of internally displaced people.
And others (refugees) leave their countries all together – about 27 million people. And some of them arrive here in Coventry.
That is why today we are supporting Carriers of Hope, who are providing help to the many refugees in our city with a warm welcome, food, advice and assistance.
And at our 10am service this morning we will be thinking about other ways we can respond:
- Volunteering with refugee organisations to help people adjust to life in what for them is a very strange and alien country
- Helping people to stay in their homes and on their land, where they want to be, by giving to charities such as Tearfund and Christian Aid who are helping people to do that
- Writing to our government, calling on it to fulfil its promises and prioritise the needs of the poorest countries and address climate change
- Working for long-term change, living more eco-friendly lives, recognising that climate change is one of the biggest causes of famine, and that if we change our ways, we can make a small difference for good.
Let us, unlike the rich farmer, respond to God’s goodness to us by sharing with others and living lives of love.