Sunday, September 16, 2012

Seek First His Kingdom

First Sunday of the new Sunday School year and 16th Sunday after Pentecost.

"Good morning! I am grateful you are here this morning to worship with us," Pastor Brad Shannon said as the service was called to order.  

The announcements included a reminder that the council meeting would be this Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. and that the church building project has been moving forward with much groundwork having been laid by the building committee.

With Darlene and Chuck on a vacation this weekend, Ed played for the introit, offertory and closing hymn.Today's Scripture reading was from Luke 12:13-31, the parable of the rich fool. After a time of prayer Brad presented the message.

Seek First His Kingdom

This is a challenging text that Steve read to us. Pastor Brad began by citing a humorous observation on preaching today, calling it "the fine art of talking in someone else’s sleep." If it's any consolation sometimes even Jesus’ own followers didn’t hear what He had to say.

In Luke 12 Jesus was talking to a large multitude about important matters... life, death, love and fear God. Then a man interrupts Jesus in the middle of His sermon and says, “Teacher, tell my brother to split the inheritance with me.”

This man was not hearing what Jesus was saying. The man was obsessed with resolving the family matter and the issue pre-occupied his mind. 

Jesus responds, “Why do you think I am the one who has to be judge and divider over you?”

In essence Jesus is saying, “I am not going to be reduced to being a Moses or county judge. This is not what I am about. This is not why I came.”

There are a lot of ways we reduce who Jesus is and what He was about. Some people reduce Jesus to be nothing more than a teacher. Other says Jesus came to be an example for how we should live, "which is something I will always fail at."

No, this is what Jesus was about: Jesus came to bring God to man and man to God. Jesus Christ came to make men and women who were spiritually dead alive.

“Beware of covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist of the the abundance of things he possesses.”

Covetousness is a word that seems to have lost its cutting edge today. We do not think of it as a first class sin… as if it were added to the other nine commandments just to round it off at ten.

Pastor Brad defined covetousness in this way: “Craving more of what you have enough of already.”

The message of our times being pounded into our brains daily via the media, life DOES consist of what we have. Things are everything. The cultural message is that owning more is better and the  key to happiness. Yesterday’s mansion becomes yesterday’s boarding house. Beware of craving more and more of what you already have.

Jesus then tells a story about a farmer.

Brad set up the story with a few side remarks. First, it is a mistake to judge people by what they have rather than who they are. Second, riches are not evil in and of themselves. Abraham, David, Solomon were blessed by God and lived with wealth. Joseph of Arimithea was the wealthy man who gave the tomb where Jesus was buried.

But for every passage that speaks of wealth, there are ten that warn of its dangers.

It’s one thing to have money and another thing for money to have you. 

Returning now to the story of the farmer… Farmers don’t get successful by being lazy. It is hard work. Industry is a good thing, but it is possible to be industrious about the wrong things. This farmer was successful. Industrious. Rich. Progressive. And as he made plans to build bigger barns, he is visited by Death.

This man who achieved so much was probably buried with words of praise on his tombstone. But the angel of the Lord walked through the cemetery that night and wrote one more word on the tombstone: Fool.

If we are religious but live as if God does not exist, we are no different than this man.

This is how it will be for anyone who stores up things and is not rich toward God.

This is the context for the following well known words:

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.

And just a little further:

27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 

God is not saying to not do things like eat or buy clothes. He is saying don’t worry about these things. Live for what is eternal, not temporal things. Make His kingdom first in your life.

Life is like a wheel…. At the center is the hub, with the spokes going out. The hub has to be strong. I know men and women who live for possessions. Their life is governed by things, getting things. Others live for passion and live to feed that  There are others who live for power.

Is God at your center? What you put at the center of your life determines the spokes of your life… Link your life with that which is eternal, that which will never fade.

Brad then shared a long story to bring home this point that our greatest investment should be in things of eternal, not temporal value. You never know when your end will come, so it is imperative to have prepared for that day.

And don't be a fool. Beware of covetousness. A man’s life does not consist of the things he possesses.

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