Sunday, 4 August 2013

There is still time to get my priorities right

A barn on a farm at Cross in Hand Lane, outside Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford,

Sunday 4 August 2013:

The Tenth Sunday after Trinity

8.30 a.m., Holy Communion (1),

Tullow Parish Church,

Brighton Road, Carrickmines, Dublin

Readings:


Hosea 11: 1-11; Psalm 107: 1-9, 43; Colossians 3: 1-11; Luke 12: 13-21.

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

I know it is not usual to have a sermon at this early morning Communion, but I thought it might be a good idea to share in just a few brief moments some of my thoughts for my sermon later this morning.

I understand why the man in this morning’s Gospel reading (Luke 12: 13-21) does many of the things he does.

He has a bumper crop one year, and not enough room to store it. Was he to leave what he could not store to rot in the fields?

It would have been wrong for this man to leave the surplus food to rot in the fields because he failed to have the foresight to build larger barns to store the surplus grain.

Surplus food is the foundation of economics … and makes generosity, charity and care for the impoverished possible.

But the people who first heard this parable would have recalled so many images in the Old Testament of the benefits of producing surplus food, from Joseph and the famine in Egypt to Ruth and Naomi gleaning in the corners of the field.

They would have thought of God’s generosity in providing extra food in times of need, like the manna in the wilderness.

The Prophet Hosea reminds the people, in the Old Testament reading provided for this morning that God is the God who can say throughout their history: “I bent down to them and fed them.”

This is the language of Jesus when he feeds the hungry thousands in the wilderness with five loaves and two fish.

Our Gospel reading this morning offers the abundance and generosity of God’s provision as a sign of God’s love, for us as individuals and for all around us.

The rich man is not faulted for being an innovative farmer, for storing up his crops, for building larger barns, not even condemned for being rich.

He condemns himself for thinking that all that matters in life is my own pleasure and personal satisfaction.

This man thinks not of his needs, but of his own pleasures. He never reaches out to the people around him who could benefit from his business acumen or from his charitable generosity.

In failing to take account of God and of the needs of others, he fails to realise his own true needs; he is spiritually dead. No wonder Saint Paul says in our epistle reading that greed is idolatry (Colossians 3: 5).

But if he has stopped speaking to God, God has not stopped speaking to him. And God tells him that night in a dream that this man is spiritually dead, that his life is being demanded of him.

But we never hear how he responds, we never hear whether he dies? The story ends just there.

Did he die of fright?

Did he die after drinking too much?

Did he wake up and carry on regardless?

Or, like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, did he wake up and realise his folly, and embrace the joys of the Incarnation?

I am challenged not to pass judgment on the Rich Man. Instead, Christ challenges me, in the first part of this reading, to put myself in the place of this man.

If I have got things wrong up to now, there is still a chance to get things right … with God, with myself, with others.

And so may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Collect:

Let your merciful ears, O Lord,
be open to the prayers of your humble servants;
and that they may obtain their petitions,
make them to ask such things as shall please you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

O God, as we are strengthened by these holy mysteries,
so may our lives be a continual offering,
holy and acceptable in your sight;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. This sermon was preached at the Parish Communion in Tullow Parish Church, Carrickmines, Co Dublin, on Sunday 4 August 2013.

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