Sunday, 28 August 2016

Sermon, Sun 28 Aug/Wk1 of 'We make the road by walking': In the beginning...God

By way of explanation:
Today we begin our year walking though our faith heritage, as we intentionally follow the framework provided by Brian McClaren's book:
'We make the road by walking.'

Over the course of this year, as we make our road together with God, and one another, we'll explore where we fit in to that great, ongoing story of God, and God's people.
And so, like any good story, we begin at the beginning...

1st READING: Ps 19:1-4[a]
2nd READING: Genesis 1:1-19
3rd READING: Gen. 1:20 – 2:3

SERMON: 'In the beginning, God'
Let’s pray: May the words of my mouth, and the meditations
of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord,
our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

‘In the beginning...God.’
Scripture... begins with God.
God is right there in the very first sentence of the very first book of the Bible:
God, at the beginning of scripture –
God, at the beginning of all things.
God, there ‘in’ the beginning.
In’ – not ‘over there’ –
not some detached deity, looking on from afar,
but a being intimately, utterly involved –
part of, not apart from –
'In the beginning...God’ -
connected to all things through an awe-inspiring act of imagination
that brings everything into being –
connected to all things through the act of creation.

Scripture begins with God –
and in that beginning, sets the tone for everything else,
reminding us that God is first,
that God is the centre out of which everything comes,
out of which everything lives, and moves, and has its being.
All of creation revolves around the One who,
in the beginning, created the world –
who, through the Spirit,
breathed life into nothingness,
breathed form and shape from formlessness,
breathed order into chaos,
brought light into the darkness and scattered colour across it,
who composed a symphony of noise and movement –
creakings and squeaking
and roaring and speaking:
sighing of wind through new-grown leaves.
Stars, sun, moon...
Ocean, lakes, and rivers,
flowers, shrubs, trees...
all forms of animal life;
Creation: teeming, fruitful, diverse and vibrant.
Creation: good.
Creation: alive. 
Alive with every fibre of its being:
breathed into life by the giver of all life,
the One who was there ‘in the beginning.’

‘Genesis’ means ‘beginning’ –
Genesis is the book of beginnings –
the book which begins with God and the beginning of all things;
which tells us of God’s relationship to all things,
and tells us how we fit into God’s created order of all things...
Tells us the story of creation –
of the origin of the universe,
of the world,
of us;
tells us where we came from and why we’re here.
In that telling – the telling of the story of creation,
we get an insight into the One who was there, in the beginning:
creative, imaginative, playful...
a God whose mind can comprehend infinite detail,
creating patterns invisible to the human eye.
A God of relationship
who orders the creation in such a way that each part of it
is dependent upon the other.
A God who says ‘yes’ to life –
by saying ‘let there be’...
And in the speaking and in the creating, beholds that creation:
sees it with the artist’s eye, and says 'it is 'good’.

Scripture begins with God;
begins by telling us the story of the Creator God,
who creates out of love -
the God who, delighting in life and energy,
wants to share with others just what it is to be alive.
To experience abundant life –
life teeming with possibility and promise and goodness.
Brian McLaren, in his book, ‘We make the road by walking’
talks of this ‘aliveness’, and says that:
‘to be alive is to look up at the stars on a dark night and to feel 
the beyond-words awe of space in its vastness. 
To be alive is to look down from a mountaintop on a 
bright, clear day and to feel the wonder that can only be expressed in
‘Oh!’ or ‘Wow!’ or maybe ‘Hallelujah!’
To be alive is to look out from the beach towards the horizon 
at sunrise or sunset and to savour the joy of it all in pregnant, saturated silence.
To be alive is to gaze in delight at a single bird, tree, leaf or friend, 
and to feel that they whisper of a creator or source we all share.’ [WMTRBW p5]

In the beginning, God created...
and within that creation of breath-taking love, God created humans to live –
to love the Creator and to love and to tend the earth.
And the mark of God’s particular love for humans?
Of all that was created, only we are created in God’s own image.
And so, to look at one another is to see the face of God reflected...
prisms of life and light and love,
reminding us to love –
to love God,
to love one another,
to be bringers of light,
and to share in the joy of living,
and to give thanks for it.

Scripture begins with God,
God in the beginning...
God at the centre of the whole of creation.
That is God’s relationship in the web of creation.
And what of us?
Who are we?
Where do we fit –
what is our relationship to the Creator and, to creation?
In this story of life – in this, the book of beginnings,
we find that we are God’s people.
God, calls us into being, and creates us in his likeness;
we are profoundly, intimately, linked –
linked in love to God,
linked to one another,
linked to the whole of creation.
I like the way McLaren puts it:
‘The Creator brought us all into being, and now, some 14 billion years later, 
here we find ourselves: dancers in this beautiful, mysterious choreography 
that expands and involves and includes us all. We’re farmers and engineers, 
parents and students, theologians and scientists, teachers and shopkeepers, 
builders and fixers, drivers and doctors, dads and mums, 
wise grandparents, and wide-eyed infants.’ [WMRBW p4]

This first account of creation –
for there are two, and we’ll look at the other account next week –
this first account of creation is a like great hymn of praise.
It’s not to be read as some ancient scientific text book giving
a step by step factual account of creation.
Here, the text has a sense of glorious, beautiful poetry – speaking to a truth
more profound than that which can be measured in a test tube.
It’s why I’ve often puzzled at the science versus creation debates:
I see no contradiction.
Science and the bible are looking at creation through quite different lenses:
Science looks for ‘how did we get here’ and comes up with
the Theory of Evolution - which is fine, and works for me.
Theology, on the other hand, is located within a community emerging
from what was an oral, story-telling tradition...
Theology looks to the ‘why’ – why are we here?
What is the point and purpose of being here –
of being alive within the wonder and loveliness of creation?

The answer to that is to look to the One who created –
and who called us to tend, to care for, the creation.
To live, is to care.
To be alive within creation is to look not just to ourselves –
we look outwards to others:
other human beings, of course – our neighbours.
But outward to the other inhabitants of this planet –
whether animal, vegetable, or mineral – for the whole of creation is our neighbour.
A fact not lost on that gentle friar, St Francis, who, the story is told,
would occasionally preach to the birds of God’s love.
Every action,
every decision we make,
every word we utter,
impacts not only upon us, but upon the whole of creation.
Older translations of the Bible talk of humans being told to
‘subdue’ the earth – to dominate it.
The better translation is that ‘humans are given dominion, not domination;
they are caregivers, not exploiters.’ [Feasting on the Word YrA, vol. 3, Dave Bland, p31]
I’m minded of the words of a hymn in our hymnbook: number 243,
written by Shirley Erena Murray, and called ‘Touch the earth lightly.’
The first verse goes:
“Touch the earth lightly, use the earth gently, 
nourish the life of the world in our care: 
gift of great wonder, ours to surrender, 
trust for the children tomorrow will bear.” 
Like the One who spoke creation into being, so, too, we are given the power of speech –
given the power to affirm life and love by echoing God’s own words of life and love:
by saying ‘let it be’,
rather than ‘let it cease to be’.
‘We do unto creation as God has done unto us’  [FOTW p31]

Scripture begins with God,
and shows us, that, in the beginning,
God is not just the Creator of a particular tribe or nation...
but that God is the Creator of all:
‘God makes the sun to rise not just on Christians, or Americans or Europeans. 
God causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on all humans, animals and plants.
God blesses all creation.’ [FOTW, p29]
The very diversity of creation is a call, not to fear difference:
rather, it’s a call to celebrate it, and see it as a blessing.

Scripture begins with God –
God in the beginning,
God of beginnings;
of energy, of life.
And within this story of creation,
here we are: alive.
God’s people, walking gently upon God’s creation,
reminding ourselves of who we are – of whose we are...
‘where we are, what’s going on here, and how 
beautiful, precious, holy, and meaningful it all is.’ [WMTRBW p6]

As we make the road together – with God and one another –
let us remember and give thanks for life in all its fullness,
for life in all its goodness,
and to go out, into God’s good world,
sharing that life and goodness with all we meet...
and, by doing so, celebrate the One
who made us,
who loves us,
and who walks with us now and every day.

Let’s pray:
It just happened, Lord.
At least, that’s what we’ve been told.
Before time started marking the millennia
you spoke – and there it was.
Not yet fully formed, 
exploding outwards, 
pulsating with concentrated energy, 
full of infinite potential,
pregnant with the unknown possibilities of life:
the very matter of the cosmos,
brought into being by your word.

We think we know what happened next:
the spread of the galaxies,
cosmic soil coagulating 
into stars, planets, solar systems;
the whole universe too vastly enormous
for us to comprehend;
our own world one tiny, minute fragment
of an infinite whole.

To you, 
our world could be a mere speck of dust,
a tiny crumb unworthy of your attention.
Yet you have declared it to be precious,
its life exquisitely made,
intricately connected,
delicately balanced,
a statement of your greater glory.
And into this beloved globe of mortality
you continue to speak your words.
Sometimes we heed them 
(though obeying them is another matter);
often we prefer to remain deaf.
Yet your words still bring life,
recreating your handiwork,
restoring communion,
reconnecting humanity with the divine.* [Spill the Beans, 2013]
As you walk with us, and we, with you,
help us make the road ahead together –
help us find our place in the continuing story of your people,
and as we do so, let us give thanks that you are always with us. Amen.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

We Make the Road - weekly reflection: Creation

'If you ask what language the Creator speaks, the best answer is this:
God's first language is full-spectrum light, clear water, keep sky, red squirrel, blue whale, 
grey parrot, green lizard, golden aspen, orange mango, yellow warbler, 
laughing child, rolling river, serene forest, churning storm, spinning planet.'  
Bryan McClaren, We Make the Road by Walking, p7

What is the most beautiful place you have ever seen? What was so special about it?
As you picture this place in your mind's eye, spend time quietly thanking God
for each individual colour, each particular shape...and of all brought together to form the whole...

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Sermon: Sunday 21 August 'surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses'

Today's sermon was a way of introducing our year of working through the bible
a little more intentionally, and systematically. We'll be making use of the framework
within Brian McClaren's 'We make the road by walking' - which we'll begin next week.
We'll be walking in faith with God, and the generations of those who have
walked before us in faith...

In our 'thinking about' space this morning, we talked about old family photographs -  
snapshots of those generations who witnessed to where we came from...
The roll-call of people in Hebrews is a little like providing spiritual snapshots,
pointing us to earlier generations in our spiritual family tree... *based on an idea by John Stevens

1st READING: Ps 40  2nd READING: Hebrews 11:1-2, 29-40; 12:1-2

With the eyes of the world watching,
with cheers from the great cloud of witnesses in the stadium,
the first ever Olympic Games held in South America, were opened.
Their preparation and training done, the athletes had gathered.
The torch was lit.
And, in a salsa-exuberant flash of colour, the games commenced:
an action-packed celebration of the Olympic motto:
‘faster, higher, stronger’.

With the eyes of the world watching,
and with cheers from the great crowd of witnesses from the arena,
we saw a 29 year old man from Jamaica –
an old man, in his particular sport of running –
race down the track to gold
and then win another
and then another.
Triple gold...
but not just the prize of triple gold at this particular Olympics –
Usain Bolt made history in his sport for achieving a triple triple:
three different Olympic Games –
Beijing, London, Rio...
three sets of gold medals.
An amazing feat –
of running the race set before him, and of doing it so incredibly well.                        

Then, there was our own Andy Murray –
the first male tennis player to defend a singles Olympic title – winning back to back golds.
And my, what a heart-stopping match, and what about that crowd?
The Argentinians were going absolutely wild for their man – Del Potro,
who was clearly physically spent...
and yet, who was also lifted to sheer brilliance at times, inspired by their cheering.
He almost got there... almost.

The eyes of the world and the cheers from the crowds
have also fallen upon other athletes –
each with their own particular skill,
each with their own particular story...
all witnessing to sheer hard work,
discipline, and the determination
to maximise their talent,
to do their best,
to be the fastest, highest, or strongest.

The two weeks’ celebration of all things sport draws to an end this evening,
and with the close of the Games, normal service – normal life –
will once again resume.
And some of us will be glad,
and some a little sad,
and some of us, well frankly,
some of us will still be puzzling over the scoring etiquette of synchronised swimming!
But one thing that was fascinating to watch was the power of those who watched:
the crowds of witnesses seated in the stands,
willing their particular champions to victory –
or at least, to finish the race set before them.

Those who have been on the receiving end of such support
speak of the importance of that support;
of the crowd cheering them on, encouraging them, willing those –
whose muscles, whose bones, are aching from utter tiredness –
to keep going.

This is as true in the spiritual realm as it is in the world of sport,
as our passage from the letter to the Hebrews is at pains to show us.
The Sunday before our Songs of Praise service,
we heard the first part of our text from Hebrews, chapter 11.
In it, we began with that great verse:
‘Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.’
And then the writer – who some assume to be the apostle Paul,
while other scholars aren’t as sure -
...and then the writer of the letter moves on to provide examples
of people of faith, down through the ages:
a litany of those who form a great cloud -
a great crowd -
of witnesses to God’s faithfulness
and their own willingness to step out in faith and trust God:
Abraham – and the heirs to the promise God gave to Abraham:
Isaac and Jacob, and a little later, Joseph.
The chapter moves on, and centuries have gone by in the great roll-call of faith,
and we meet up with Moses.
Moses, who, to escape the sentence of death pronounced by Pharaoh
upon all Hebrew boys, was put in a reed basket by his mother and sister –
an act of faith which was repaid when Pharaoh’s daughter found him
and brought him up as a prince of Egypt.
And yet, for all the luxury and privilege that Moses grew up with,
something niggled away – faith worked in him in such a way
that, in the end, he went back to his own people,
and became the one to lead them out of Egypt and into freedom.

Our letter writer isn’t done, however, with the roll-call of folk
who make up the crowd of witnesses.
After Moses,
there’s Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson,
Jepthah, David, Samuel
and the prophets...
and many others, unnamed, who, in faith,
experienced both great and horrendous things.
And there’s something very interesting about these people of faith
who obeyed God and who, in doing so,
became a great crowd of witnesses:
...they weren’t perfect.
In fact, quite a few of these heroes of the faith were far from it.
Jacob was a bit of a wide-boy:
a conman... a trickster.
He’d tricked his brother into giving him his birth right all for a bowl of lentils.
Joseph – well, the reason he ended up in Egypt
was that his brothers had finally had enough of his revelling in being his father’s favourite.
Bragging’s never a good look,
even with a fancy many-coloured coat.
Moses, when called by God, kept finding excuse after excuse not to obey...
it took a wee while for him to finally, very reluctantly, say ‘okay, if I must.’
Rahab in Jericho was a woman on the margins of society.
A prostitute.
And yet, here she is, included in this great crowd of the faithful.
When God called Gideon, he too, was rather reluctant to obey the call,
and tested God several times, just to make sure.
Barak was a great general, and yet, he was completely overshadowed by
the judge and prophet, Deborah, and by the very brave Jael.
Samson – well, all I have to say here is
‘my, my, my, Delilah’...
Jephthah did obey God’s call, but he also made a rather foolish vow,
which ended up costing the life of his daughter...
King David, while beloved of God, was not shown in his best light
when he decided to use his power to take Bathsheba from
her marriage bed with Uriah.

It’s a strange list of flawed, imperfect, human beings,
this ‘great’ crowd of witnesses.
Why does the writer choose them?
Why are they here and not other, better examples of faithful followers –
of spiritual Olympic gold medallists, if you like?
I suspect that this particular crowd of witnesses –
these snapshots of those who walked with God in faith –
remind us,
encourage us,
that God doesn’t need perfect people:
God is quite happy to walk alongside,
and to call pretty imperfect people...
even people like us.

These snapshots of those who walked with God down through the ages,
are dotted about our own spiritual interior landscape:
hanging on the walls,
or mantelpieces,
of our hearts, our souls, our minds...
hanging there to cheer us on.
You can almost hear them calling:
‘if God is willing to walk alongside us,
if God can use us...
then God can call you, and walk with you too.
Go on, go on, you can do it!’
...Reminding us that we don’t run the race of faith on our own:
we have this great crowd of witnesses cheering us on,
for ours is a faith lived in community:
the community that is the church both visible and now invisible –
those who have gone before us in faith.

Over this next year, we’ll be walking in faith with some of the
folk mentioned in our passage from Hebrews, as well as others not mentioned here.
We’ll be doing this to remind us where human beings fit in relation to God,
and where we fit in relation to one another,
and where we fit within the overall story of God’s people;
a people who God has invited to walk with him,
to be his crowd of witnesses in the world, giving praise and glory to him.
And, as we walk together with God, in community,
I’m praying that together we learn afresh what it is to be fully alive in God,
and to share that life, that joy,
with one another,
and with others –
in our words and in our deeds.  .
let us walk in God’s way –
let us walk the way of love,
and in doing so,
with God,
and with that great crowd of witnesses who’ve gone before us;
and, with each other...
let us continue to make the road of faith by walking together. ...

Let’s pray:
Lord, you are with us,
guiding us, calling us.
We are pilgrims, Lord,
your kingdom on earth
as it is in Heaven.
Lord, you are with us,
guiding us, calling us.
As we walk with you
may our restless hearts
find their rest in you. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Weekend worship round up: music and song

A hugely enjoyable service was had on Sunday morning. An epic 9 hymns had been chosen by the congregation for worship. Over the course of the service, short reflections on the background of various hymns and hymn writers were given - stories of faith, of wrestling with faith, of overcoming hard situations in life, and the joy of a deeper understanding of faith.  Our call to worship, prayers, responses, and readings all focused upon different psalms.
The rafters fairly rattled as we sang some of our hymns and after worship, the post-service cuppa was very welcome indeed.
Great atmosphere, great hymns, great singing, great start to the week.
Onward to next year's service!!

In the evening, more music, but this time, a quieter and more contemplative approach. Our Taize service provided a gentle way to close the day. Lovely to see so many folk join us at Holy Trinity Chapel - and huge thanks to the Trustees for their kindness in allowing us to use this lovely space.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

'2nd Sunday' Summer service: 14th August

'2nd Sunday' Summer Services

Can't make morning worship?
No need to worry!
Join us for evening worship... on the 14th August...

6.30pm at Holy Trinity Chapel, Lamington: 
Take time out to 'be' as we gather together for worship in the simple, uncluttered style of Taizé.

It's a time for:
candles and contemplation,
music and meditation,
silence, simplicity, singing...
Worship in an unhurried pace,
with time to reflect.
A quiet space in the midst of the busyness of life
to help recharge, refresh, renew yourself for the week ahead.

What is Taizé-style worship?
Over the course of the service, you'll encounter:
brief Bible readings;
gentle, easy to learn chants;
times of quiet [in fact, as few words as possible].
If traditional, wordy worship is not for you, come and experience something a little different.

Some background on the Taizé Community: 
Taizé is a small village in eastern France and one of the wonders of the Christian world.
Far better known in continental Europe than it is in Britain, for over 50 years,
it has been the home of a Christian monastic community made up of over 100 brothers
from around 30 countries, speaking many different languages and, uniquely, belonging
to several different Christian denominations.
Catholics, Anglicans, Protestants, Orthodox and others live and pray together,
share a simple life and welcome the tens of thousands of visitors who come to spend time
with them every year from all over the world.

The Community describes itself as a "parable of communion", living proof
that it is possible for Christians from all denominations to overcome the divisions
of the past, to live, work and worship together, united by their shared trust in Christ.
Taizé has developed a unique style of meditative singing which focuses
on the repetitive chanting of short phrases from the Bible and other Christian texts
in a range of languages.
The three daily services also include short Bible readings and prolonged periods of silence.
Learning to listen to God in the company of others is at the heart of prayer at Taizé.
It is almost impossible to recreate the unforgettable experience of a Taizé service
outside the Community, but thousands of Christian churches, communities and families
across the world do take inspiration from what they have found there.
The songs, in particular, are widely used.
Taizé Services by Upper Clyde Parish are loosely based on the pattern of worship
used by the Taizé Community. A mixture of repetitive chants, scripture readings,
spoken prayers and long silences, they provide an oasis of peace,
a chance to stop and dwell with others on the presence of Christ.
If wordy worship is not for you, if you enjoy stillness and simplicity,
Taizé Worship may well be what you are looking for.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

SONGS OF PRAISE Service: Sun 14 August

Join us for a service of music-filled worship, and perhaps help lif the rafters with your singing...
At the Parish Church, Abington,
10.30am - with music provided by Mary Hamilton.

We've been busily nominating hymns for the service, over the last several weeks,
and the results are in for our 8 hymns...
Okay, our 9 hymns, because there were so many cracking choices! Here's what you chose:

154 How great thou art
97 O God, you search me and you know me
14 The Lord is my Shepherd
392 When I survey
396 And can it be
153 Great is thy faithfulness
737 Will your anchor hold
710 I have a dream
419 Thine be the glory
and our readings will be from:
Ps 23
Ps 146
Ps 147:1-7

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Sermon, Sun 7 August: 'Stuff'

READINGS: Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16;  Luke 12:32-40    

SERMON 'Stuff''
Let’s pray:
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts,
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer, amen.

What is it that you treasure?
Where does your heart automatically turn?
Or perhaps, what are your favourite things?
Life is really a wee bit dull without a quote every now
and then from the blessed St Julie Andrews, also known as ‘Sister Maria’,
and so, this morning, I give you:
‘Raindrops on roses 
and whiskers on kittens...
Bright copper kettles
And warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings...’
And, how does it end again...?
'These are a few of my favorite things.'
Our beloved Sister Maria talks of many things –
there are other favourite things: can you remember some of them from the song?
[some conversation with the congregation on this ensued!]

So many things.
I’m minded of the late American stand-up comedian,
George Carlin – a blunt, outspoken comic known for his biting critique on society.
One of his more well-known routines concerned material culture.
It’s simply called ‘Stuff.’
He begins by apologising for turning up late –
he’s been delayed out the back trying to find a place to put all of his stuff...
And then notes that the whole meaning of life centres on trying to find
a place for all of your stuff.
He says. it’s why you get a house:
a house is basically a place for all of your stuff...
and of course, as life goes on, you seem to need more stuff.
And in order to make sure all of your stuff is safe,
you need to get a bigger house so it can all fit in –
your stuff has to be safe after all,
safe from people who have their own stuff,
but who want to take your stuff as well...
but only the good stuff, never the rubbish.
Sometimes, you end up with so much stuff, that you have to put it into storage –
which is a whole industry that’s dedicated to keeping an eye on your stuff.
And of course, when you go on vacation, to make yourself feel at home,
you take a little of your own stuff with you.
So, in the end:
you have a house full of stuff,
a storage unit full of stuff,
and there you are - in Maui, or Fiji, or somewhere else -
with stuff you’ve brought with you, alongside a whole bunch of stuff
you’ve bought while you’ve been on holiday.
So much stuff... but you need stuff, right?
And you need to put it somewhere...
Carlin’s routine becomes more and more exaggerated and extreme
as he ponders just where he’ll put all the stuff he has
and as he expresses his fears for its safety.
So much stuff in his life, that it utterly consumes him –
and, in a nutshell, that’s his sly political point:
consumerism, as a system, eventually consumes you.

So much stuff.
So many fears stemming from having so much stuff –
that could be stolen, that could perish, or be destroyed.
And yet, here, in the gospel passage from Luke, we find a different take on stuff,
a different way of being:
‘Don’t be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased 
to give you the kingdom. Sell all your possessions and give to the poor. 
Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, 
a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near 
and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’

What is it that you treasure?
Where does your heart automatically turn?

Now, given that I wasn’t here last week, I’m not sure what Sandy was preaching on.
Remember earlier I talked about something called the Revised Common Lectionary –
the 3 year system of bible readings? If Sandy had been using that system,
you may have heard the passage from Luke immediately preceding our text for today.
And it’s interesting, well, to me at least,
that what comes before our text today, is a section in which Jesus is telling a parable -
the one named ‘the parable of the rich fool’...
In that particular story, a farmer has an exceptionally good harvest.
Naturally, he’s jolly pleased...with himself
not much room for God in his scheme of things.
In fact, in his scheme of things, he’s already mentally ripping down
old barns and putting up bigger and better barns -
after all, he’s got all of this stuff,
stuff he needs to store safely,
stuff he’s needing to keep – all for himself
so that he can ‘take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry’ –
and yes, that’s exactly where the old saying comes from.
Problem is, having stored all his faith in his stuff,
what he hasn’t reckoned on is his own allotted time span:
and unfortunately, the farmer’s time    is up.
He dies that very evening.

Having told this story, Jesus, gets to the heart of what’s
at the heart of the man in the parable:
we could say smugness, or self-satisfaction; we could say ‘greed’...
but actually, it’s fear –
a fear of lack – of scarcity of ‘stuff’.
He’s hoarding his bountiful harvest.
He’s so obsessed by his stuff to the exclusion of everyone and everything else,
because he’s fearful.  Fearful about:
not having a life of ease...
about not being able to eat, or drink, or be merry.
His whole being is invested in his stuff to ensure his future.
And he’s not going to share his stuff – in fact, to make sure he’ll be alright,
he’s going to hoard more and more.
What is it that he treasures?
Where does his heart automatically turn?
Not to God.
His heart is where his stuff is.

And Jesus follows up this story to his disciples by telling them  
not to worry about their lives,
about what they eat,
about their bodies,
or what they’ll wear.
He tells them to consider the lilies of the field, the birds of the air...
and that God provides.  He tells them:
‘Don’t be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.’
He encourages them not to be possessed by their possessions out of a fear of lack –
for they need not fear if they trust in the One whose pleasure it is to give them the kingdom.
He encourages them to reorient their hearts:
to turn away from any hankering after the stuff of the world,
and to turn to the stuff of the kingdom of heaven...
to let God be their treasure –
and where their treasure is, so there will be their heart also.

What is it that you treasure?
Where does your heart automatically turn?
Does fear, or love, determine what you put your trust in...
where you put your heart?
All around us, we’re besieged by a culture of fear:
endless news whipping up horror stories of loss and destruction -
the whisper in our ear telling us
that all will be well if we build stronger, safer places to store our stuff
and to protect ourselves...
and surely several hundred billion pounds to buy a nice piece of weaponry should sort that out?
All around us is endless advertising
whipping up shame and guilt and envy over insecurities and fears
around our bodies, or our social standing -
the whisper in our ear telling us
that all will be well if we just get this or that stuff
which will keep us from being a complete social pariah...
or to get more stuff so that we can show up our neighbours.

What is it that you treasure?
Where does your heart automatically turn?
‘Don’t be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.’
We are the counter-cultural ones:
called to show a world living in thrall to fear and to accumulation,
that there is another, better way –
a way in which, while there may be stuff, the focus isn’t on it,
to the exclusion of everything else...
rather, the focus is on the Giver of all good things.
And, as we focus on the One who is the giver,
so we see the love, not the lack, in our lives...
and as we see God’s generous heart,
our own hearts are moved – to give.
The kingdom of God turns our economic understanding on its head.
It’s a wee bit like the old song:
Love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

It's just like a magic penny,
Hold it tight and you won't have any. 
Lend it, spend it, and you'll have so many
They'll roll all over the floor.

Money's dandy and we like to use it, 
But love is better if you don't refuse it.
It's a treasure and you'll never lose it
Unless you lock up your door.

So much stuff.
So many fears stemming from having so much stuff –
that could be stolen, that could perish,
or be destroyed...
Fear demands we have stuff – stuff we can smell, touch, see...
Faith is about something entirely other -
as the writer to the Hebrews reminds us:
‘faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.’
It’s not about all the stuff,
it’s about love,
about generosity,
about giving away the things that keep us from being the people
God created us to be:
the ones who see beyond the stuff to God’s kingdom...
a kingdom where none miss out
because others take more than they need out of fear that they’ll miss out.

What is it that you treasure?
Where does your heart automatically turn?
As God’s people, we   need   fear   no lack:
‘Don’t be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.’ Amen.