+ In Nomine Jesu +
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Things got out of hand pretty quickly. At the height of the brawl there were at least a couple of dozen people involved. Punches were thrown. There was even some mace used. Finally the police were called in to disperse the crowd and to restore order.
The strangest thing about this brawl is that it didn't take place at the local watering hole on a Saturday night. No. It took place at a Chuckee Cheese restuarant. Apparently the malay was over one of the parent's children taking too long to choose a prize to buy with his nights collection of tickets.
I only tell you the story to affirm something you already knew, namely, that we are a consumer oriented society. Presumably the infamous Chuckee Cheese brawl happened because some parents were anxious over the possibility that their child might not get an opportunity to choose a prize from Chuckee Cheese's storehouse of extraordinarily valuable merchandise.
Long before these parents took to punching each other over such treasures, Nobel Prize winning novelist, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, wrote, “On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. In the East, it is destroyed by the dealings and machinations of the ruling party. In the West, commercial interests tend to suffocate it.”
Solzhenitsyn, at least in terms of his assessment of the West, was only echoeing a Scriptural principle, namely that you can't serve two masters. Consumerism and the pursuit of plenty have a tendency to suffocatte our spiritual life, not because they are inherently evil, but, because our old nature, which we carry with us even in Christ, is concerned only with the things of this world.
In the Gospel reading before us this morning, Jesus told a parable about priorities and our tendency to forsake the eternal gifts of God for the sake of temporal things. A man's land, He said, "produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear 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, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
It is a great parable! It sorts out for us some conflicts we have between wealth and godliness. Wealth and the things we buy with wealth are amoral, that is, in and of themselves, they have no moral value, good or bad. There is nothing inherently wrong with a person being wealthy. Nor is there anything wrong with building barns to store the fruit that wealth can produce. There isn't even anything wrong with his relaxing, eating, drinking and being merry. None of these things are, in and of themselves, ungodly.
The problem with the rich man in the parable is that, while he was rich in material possessions, he was not rich toward God. More to the point, God wasn't even a part of his life! He was content with the wealth he had amassed, but his soul was impoverished, dead toward God. And while he thought he had many years to relax and enjoy his great wealth, he would die that very night and have to leave all the wealth he had amassed behind. Worse yet, in death, he would stand before God, the God he never knew, in judgment.
The Chuckee Cheese brawl is sort of a modern parable about our insatiable pursiuit of and quest for stuff. You and I are constantly being tempted to value our stuff, or, someone elses stuff over the well being of our neighbor, and, even over our relationship with God. If we have a lot of stuff we want to guard it and protect it. If we don't have much stuff and other people do, we covet what they have and we find all sorts of injustice in the inequity. And heaven forbid that anyone should get in the way of our acquiring more stuff.
The truth is, the emptiness we try to fill with the acquisition of stuff can only be filled with Christ, who puts meaning into life, a meaning that transcends the few years we have here on this earth. St. Augustine, the 4th century church father, was absolutely right when he wrote, "Our hearts are restlless until they find their rest in the Lord."
"Come to Me, Jesus says, all you who labor and are heavy laden and you will find rest for your souls." The One who was rich, for your sakes, "became poor, that you, through His poverty might be made rich." Jesus left His sately hall, His glory at the side of His Father, to take on your restlessness, your discontent, your searching, your longing, your emptiness. He bore in His body your sin, the root cause of your alienation from Him. He took away all the reasons you could find to hide from Him, to find satisfaction in the things of this world.
And now, He sets before you things of eternal significance. Listen to the sound of my voice. While only a fellow sinner, rejoicing in the grace and forgiveness of Christ, I am proclaiming to you God's word, a word that has transcended the ages, a word that has stealed the souls of men and women even as they suffered sword and fire, a word that has comforted troubled hearts and given hope where there was only despair.
Look to your left and to your right, in front and behind you. These are your brothers and sisters and Christ, people put here by God to walk this lonely road with you to the glory of heaven. They are your mutual consolation, the ones who have suffered what you suffer, that they might be a blessing in your life.
The things that matter most in this life aren't the things you can buy, they are things money can't buy. God has purchased and won you for eternity, my friends, "not with gold or sliver, but with the precious blood of His dear Son."
"What is the world to me!
My Jesus is my treasure,
My life, my health, my wealth,
My friend, my love, my pleasure,
My joy, my crown, my all,
My bliss eternally.
Once more, then, I declare;
What is the world to me!"
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
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