A Sermon by the Rev. Romero Based on The Parable of the Rich Fool
Luke 12:13-21 – The Parable of the Rich Fool
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me as judge or arbiter between you?”15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” 16 And he told them this parable:
“The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.
17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.
19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many
years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! Tonight, your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
This is God’s sacred word for God’s sacred people.
Based on Luke 12:13-21
Holy Apostles and St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Churches
Phalen Lake Park, St. Paul, MN. August 4, 2019
Bienvenida y bienvenido a todos. Por favor, oremos todos juntos. Welcome everyone. Please, let’s pray together.
Eloheem, Adonai, Yahweh, Allah, Dios, Divine, Creator, God – you are known to us by many names — we pray this morning that our thoughts and our words will be inspired by you. Amen.
Thank you, Holy Apostles and St. John the Evangelist parishes for inviting me to preach this morning. I especially want to thank Rev. Letha, whom I’m grateful to call a colleague and friend, and whom I have had the opportunity to do an extensive amount of work with over recent months.
Yesterday, in El Paso, Texas, and in Dayton, Ohio, the United States experienced two more mass shootings in 2019. This year, 1,055 people have been shot and 290 have died in these mass shootings, including the 29 deaths and 52 wounded in less than 24 hours in El Paso and Dayton.
At least one shooting was motivated by white nationalism and hatred for Latino’s and immigrants.
Earlier this week, another mass shooting happened in Gilroy, California, at garlic festival, where 3 people died and 15 were wounded.
Acknowledging that our country needs much in the way of gun law reform and that our prayers are not enough — I invite us to begin our time together with a moment of silent prayer in remembrance of those who have been wounded, for those who have died, and for those shattered families and grieving communities who are left to deal with the tragic aftermath of America’s addiction to guns and violence. Amen.
Before I moved to Minneapolis almost 3 years ago, I lived in Chicago for many years. One of the things I appreciate about the Powderhorn neighborhood where I live is that I can always find a place to park, at any time of the day or night. By contrast, Chicago has nearly 40,000 parking meters. They are everywhere. Streets in Chicago not covered by parking meters are mostly regulated by parking permits. Together, these meters, parking permits, and meter and permit violations, generate $20 million dollars a year for the city.
A little more than a decade ago, then Mayor Richard Daley and the Chicago city council decided to lease the parking meters to a private company for 75 years. The price was $1.2 billion dollars and this money would go a long way to helping the city dig out from under a serious budget deficit.
Everyone knew what would happen after the lease became final. The ink was not yet dry on the contract when the company quadrupled parking rates. They recouped their money in a short amount of time and since then, the company’s profits have gone through the roof.
In Chicago, parking rules are so strict that your car can be confiscated after accumulating only a few tickets, and if you can’t afford to pay the fines and towing fees, the city can either sell or crush your car. I lost an old Honda Accord this way.
Those who no longer have a car have a harder time getting to work, and if you struggle getting to work, you can lose your job. This is why another effect of the parking meter deal is that Chicago’s poverty rates have risen.
As we begin to dive into the text, I want to dispel a common myth – or perhaps a common misinterpretation – about what many of us believe the bible says about money.
How many of you have heard the well-known phrase from 1 Timothy, “Money is the root of evil.” ? How many of you knew that is not what that text actually says? The complete phrase from 1 Timothy chapter 6, verse 10 says: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and suffer grief.”
What we need to emphasize is how the LOVE of money can separate us from God’s love, and not necessarily money itself.
In today’s parable, the rich farmer clearly has a love for his money and for his possessions. He is so attached to his grain that he is prepared to demolish his barns and build bigger ones so that he can store up more grain.
We are all enticed by materialism. No matter how much we have, we are always reminded of what we don’t have. We are bombarded by people and systems whose job it is to convince us that we will never have enough.
- Not enough money
- Not enough clothes
- Not enough toys
- Not enough walls
- Not enough jail cells
- Not enough deportations
At the end of 2017, Minnesota had 18 cities and counties that had cooperation agreements with ICE. At the end of 2018, that number was 35.
In November 2016, there were 37,000 jail beds for immigrants, today that number is about 45,000 and the President campaigned on wanting that number to be 70,000.
At the Sherburne County jail in Elk River, the largest immigrant detention center in Minnesota, there are currently 300 immigrant detainees, but the County recently submitted a bid to ICE to increase that number to 500.
More immigrant jail beds means that more ICE raids and arrests on our streets and in our communities will be needed to fill them. This will spread more fear and hate. Churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota, and in other denominations, are seeing fewer immigrants in their pews because immigrants are afraid to leave their homes. With good reason.
Immigrant family separations don’t only happen at the border. Just a few short minutes from where we are right now is the Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building at Ft. Snelling. Whipple was Minnesota’s first Episcopal Bishop and the building was named by then Senator Walter Mondale to honor the Bishop’s legacy as an advocate for Native Americans.
Today, the Whipple building is a 5-state regional ICE headquarters and all the immigration raids and arrests that take place in this region are planned and executed from there.
Immigration courts at Whipple issue dozens of deportation orders every month. Deportation buses and vans are full when they leave from Whipple several times a week on their way to the deportation plane waiting at the airport.
The building has become a regional headquarters for ICE, a deportation machine. Their sole mission is to arrest, jail, and deport people and thereby, to separate families and inject fear into our cities.
All of this happens in a building where a beloved Episcopal Bishop’s name hangs above the main entrance. Churches in the diocese will be launching a campaign to condemn ICE’s terror tactics, to reclaim the Bishop’s legacy, and call for systemic change. We invite you to join them.
Some of you know Rudy, who was arrested a few months ago by ICE in front of his 5- year old daughter, while he was taking her to school. After his arrest, he was taken for processing to Whipple and then to the Sherburne County jail.
It is ironic that while I am a complete stranger to him, I can visit him as a member of the clergy, but his own family cannot. They can only communicate through a privatized phone system. He is tormented knowing that ICE now knows where his home is, and where his family is living.
While I can’t share the details of his case, I can tell you that, on his family’s behalf, we have expressed to jail officials our serious concerns about the quality of care that Rudy is receiving in jail.
And, if we are to succeed in keeping this family together and preventing Rudy’s deportation, we’re going to need a talented lawyer, a compassionate immigration judge, and the ability to help his family meet their daily needs. Those are large and costly challenges.
The Interfaith Coalition on Immigration or ICOM, a group that I volunteer with, is coordinating Rudy’s deportation defense through one of our programs called, ICOM AID, Accompaniment for Immigrants in Detention.
Last year we disbursed more than $15,000 dollars in legal support directly to families. As an all-volunteer organization, we rely on our partner churches and individuals in order to carry out our mission which is needed now more than ever.
And there is the contrast that the parable is trying to teach us. The woeful, as they are called, can mistake their wealth, their overflowing tables, good times, and elite relationships as God’s highest purposes for them. Those whose wealth only perpetuates more wealth, whose wealth is ill-gotten, or whose wealth oppresses others are likely to have a reckoning coming.
Earlier in Luke 6 it says, “You who are rich have already received your comfort. You who are well-fed will go hungry. You who laugh will mourn and weep. When everyone speaks well of you, that is how false prophets are treated.” And in our parable from today, Jesus says to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.”
My friends, the deportation machine is well-funded, and in Sherburne County alone, hundreds of millions of dollars in immigrant jail contracts are at stake. This is a deal with the devil. But God’s realm has a different view.
The parables of the Sower, the Rich Fool, the story of Zacchaeus and many other stories in Luke and in the book of Acts, describe that what God really wants is for the wealthy to share their wealth with those who are in need. But for the rich fool it’s all about him:
- “What should I do, “
- “for I have no place to store my crops?”
- “Then 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.”
- “And I will say to my soul….”
The relentless use of the first person pronouns “I” and “my” betray a preoccupation with self. There is no thought to using his abundance to help others, no expression of gratitude for his good fortune, no recognition of God at all.
The farmer has fallen prey to worshiping money and possessions. He is not foolish because he makes provision for the future; he is foolish because he believes that by his wealth he can secure his future. He says, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”
What is happening in our world, in our country, and in our city feels like darkness – and we can rest assured that God knows the way out – but God needs our faithfulness.
We are invited to be in a real relationship with God that goes beyond care and comfort. A partnership between us and God means bringing healing and wholeness to all of God’s creation. Making God’s will manifest here on earth. In this relationship, God needs and trusts us just as we need and trust God.
God’s livelihood is at stake when we share the Gospel message and God’s own reputation is at stake when God takes a risk and calls us into faithful relationship. But how? What does a deeper relationship with God look like? The very first line of Psalm 23 gives us a clue:
“The Lord is my friend and my shepherd, I shall not want.”
Another way to say that is, “I have more than enough.” MORE. What if we started this deeper relationship with God, this deeper partnership with God by DOING more and GIVING more – where we can – in order to carry our God’s desire to heal the world?
God’s realm is too important for us not to buy in. The welcome of God is too important. The evidence is all around us that the healing of God’s creation can’t wait. We are God’s partners in our faith and God’s very being is at stake.
When I asked him how we can help him, through his tears Rudy said that his family is in need and he feels guilty and ashamed that he is unable to help them.
Our call is DOING more and GIVING more to be in deeper relationship with God and to carry out God’s desire to heal the world. This won’t be easy. For sure, walking with God – and against the powers of the empire – put us at odds with much of the rest of the world.
Unlike the rich fool who hoarded to save his soul, our task is to
- Transform structures here
- To speak truth to power here
- To create sanctuary here
- And above all, to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves
We believe in an awesome God and in a radical risen son who perseveres and acts to heal the world.
May it be so.