Grace and Peace to you from our Triune God. Amen.
In less than two weeks I will have the opportunity to travel to Orlando for the Annual Chapter meeting of the Order of Lutheran Franciscans. I am looking forward to meeting people that I have only got to know through our Facebook cloister and reconnecting with some great friends that I have already met in person. It will be a time of renewal and spiritual formation. It will be a time with God at San Pedro Retreat Center and a time of reflection. Each of us are called to live a life of abundance with God, and this is the way that connects with me to do so.
During this time with my brothers and sisters in the Order of Lutheran Franciscans I will take the vows of the Order as a novice. I have been on a journey with the Franciscans since January of 2015 and was excited to see the little publicity we received a couple of months ago in the Living Lutheran magazine. As I agree to the General Rule of the order, I will be making the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Keeping in mind, that these vows are interpreted in different ways depending on what your life looks like.
As we listen to our gospel lesson this morning from Luke, we hear of the rich man with so much abundance that he has to tear down one barn and build a much bigger one so that he can store up all of his harvest and live off from it for years to come. I am reminded at this point of the vow of poverty that I must make when I enter as a novice in the Order of Lutheran Franciscans.
Of all the vows that I have to follow, I will admit that it is the vow of poverty that I have the biggest challenge. I admit that I like things. New things. Shiny things. Things that promise to make life easier. Things that will help me be better or do better in my hobbies, like running. I also have a fondness for books. If you look in my office, that is just a small fraction of my collection. The rest of them take up close to three – six foot book shelves in my home office. I also like my collection of shoes, from my Vans for every liturgical season, to my running shoes, to the other random shoes that I own. I honestly do own more shoes than my wife!
So, as I come to the vow of poverty, you may possibly see why I struggle a little. As Franciscans, we are called to live lives of simplicity and when I look in my closet or on my bookshelves I wonder how I could possibly part with any of them. I can now see how the rich man struggles with where he is going to put everything. I struggle with where I am going to put all of my shoes!
I like to call all of my books and shoes a collection. This makes it sound a little better. Maybe this is me just trying to justify those things that I own. I admire those that can live simply with just the basic needs. Doing so allows a person to step away from the non-stop advertising and media blitz that we encounter on a daily basis that is constantly selling us stuff. I recently read a book by M.T. Anderson titled, Feed, in which people had an electronic device implanted in them that provided them with a constant stream of news and advertisements. The scary thing is that something like that is a possibility.
I believe one of Jesus’ main points he is trying to make with the parable of the rich man that he shares is, what are we holding in our lives that is taking the place of God? What is our idol? Do I regard my shoes and books as an idol? I would hope not, and I think that I could easily part with them if I had to. The rich man, however, wants to store up everything he has so he can live easy the rest of his life. If you read the parable again, you will notice there is no mention of anyone else. Just the rich man. His foremost concern seems to be for himself.
Through the parable, Jesus is reminding the disciples that one’s life does not exist in the abundance of possessions. Therefore, the two brothers arguing over the inheritance is of no concern of Jesus. He attempts to guide them in the correct way and turn them away from their greed and their reliance on abundance.
We all place an importance on certain things in our lives. We store up with the hopes of reaching a certain point. What are you storing in your barn? Are you building an abundant life with God?
One way to do that is through our sacraments. This morning we will have the opportunity to celebrate a baptism that marks a commitment to follow God. We will also have the opportunity to come forward and receive communion at the Lord’s Table. It is in these sacraments that we are continually fed by Jesus Christ and enter into a relationship and build upon the abundance of God in our lives. May you live richly into the life that God is calling you to live.