August 4, 2019

“Siloed”

By Rev. Katrina Pekich-Bundy

Psalm 107.1-9, 43

Luke 12.13-21

August 4, 2019

Last week my spouse and I were in Louisville, wandering around the area where we lived after seminary. As it is with places that are familiar, we enjoyed seeing what had stayed the same and what had changed. The favorite ice cream shop had become a sushi restaurant. A new Taco Bell was constructed. The environmentally friendly shop became something completely different. We came upon a giant building that had once been just a field. We’ve all experienced this – where we return to a place we once lived and the fields and trees are gone and some large building has been constructed. What was unusual about this was that it was a storage unit inside a building with multiple floors. Maybe I’ve lived under a rock, but this was new to me. I’ve seen rows of storage units outside, but this was the first time I had ever seen the rows inside a building and stacked on top of each other.

This is our world. There is a time and place for storage – in times of transiency, unknown, moving, as a temporary solution. Storage units in and of themselves aren’t bad, but our culture’s obsession with them isn’t great. It seems that our culture has a great focus on stuff – storing it, picking through it, selling it. We have shows about people losing their storage units and shows about people teaching how to give up items. One author in Christian Century magazine discusses Marie Kondo’s show, Tidying Up. In the show Kondo spends time with people, sorting through their things and encouraging them to consider their attachments to items. This is not your typical life organizer – she examines the relationships people have with items, so they are able to examine other relationships with more ease.[1]

Scripture talks about storage a bit today – but mostly it refers to a culture of life and relationships with people and God, not relying on all the stuff. In our gospel reading today the crowd has gathered around Jesus. A man shouts, out of nowhere, and demands that Jesus help him with his problem. This is something weighing heavy on him because he addresses with some urgency. He even tells Jesus how he wants this scenario to play out: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” He doesn’t ask, “Jesus, will you help me sort out my family finances?” Instead, he addresses the messiah as if Jesus is Ann Landers of the ancient near east. Jesus responds in his typical manner of asking a question: “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” and then dives into a parable.

This is typically called the Parable of the Rich Fool. The title it is given makes it easy for us to know who in this story Jesus does not want us to be like! It is simple to point at the rich man and say, “aha! He’s doing it all wrong!” Parables often tell us how not to act in the world. Yet, we might point out that this guy is actually pretty normal. He has made some good investments. He has cared for his land. His crops are doing well and his bank account is doing well. He’s planned ahead and is reaping the benefits – all good things. The point Jesus is making is that this man’s relationship with stuff is off balance.

When the man notices how much he has, his first reaction is to build a better silo. He doesn’t offer it to someone else, and he doesn’t share. He is completely absorbed in his own needs.[2] The silo is a wonderful metaphor. Not only is it a place for all his stuff, to be a silo means that one is isolated. He has isolated himself with his stuff. Yes, the man has planned well to a point, but part of planning with one’s finances also means figuring out giving, as well.[3] This man’s planning ends with the harvest.

The man is also incredibly anxious. We all know that money can do that to us. Often when money is at the center of a conversation there are feelings and expectations and experiences tied into it.[4] Conversations about money reveal where we place our value. How we spend our money does the same, as does where we keep our money. Someone who puts money in a bank says something different than someone who keeps it sewn into a mattress or buried in their backyard. Annie Dillard said: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” This is true of our lives, our money, our time, our gifts.

Money is a difficult subject to talk about because of the emotions involved. It is personal, but we must also remember that money belongs to God. It is a gift that we have been given to take care of responsibly, sharing it with those who go without. Coming up Travis Terlau will speak to us about money on a Wednesday evening, especially planned giving and estate giving. Being good stewards of money does not mean just investing it and keeping it for a rainy day, but also being intentional about helping those in need.

The psalmist has been in need and has wandered in the wilderness.[5] Those who sang this song had been through difficult times and relied on God. They were struggling, called out to God, and God redeemed them. This is a reminder of those times, encouraging those going through wilderness experiences.

Both of the passages we read today focus on relationships and life. How do we celebrate the gift of connections with others? How do we show our gratitude? Melody Beattie wrote: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more.”

We have been blessed with many gifts in this congregation. There has been some worry about our future, as we use more of our reserves and do not take in as much each year. We have had many conversations about our future, and one of those conversations at the retreat in January led to a consultant from Hope Partnership for Mission Transformation. Our consultant will join us starting in September to help us not only look at our finances, but at our work in the community and how we can shape our future as a church. They will not give us magical answers, but this is a time of hope and excitement. I am encouraged by this and look forward to working with you and the consultant over a period of time.

Simone de Beuvoir said: “That’s what I consider true generosity: You give your all and yet you always feel as if it cost you nothing.” I hope and pray that as we enter this sacred experience, we give our all, and that we feel rewarded in the outcome.

As I look at how much we have raised for the roof fund, I am grateful. When I look at the items donated for House of Hope, I am grateful. When I see how the saints before us have invested funds, I am grateful. When I see the ways you help one another without expecting anything in return, I am grateful. Let us continue to be grateful to God for the ways we have been blessed, and to celebrate these gifts. Let us share with the community so that we may join together and not be isolated. Thanks be to God. Amen.

 

[1] Kathryn Reklis, “Why Americans Have a Spiritual Need for KonMari” in The Christian Century https://www.christiancentury.org/article/media/why-americans-have-spiritual-need-konmari

[2] Fred B. Craddock, John H. Hayes, Carl R. Holladay, Gene M. Tucker, Preaching Through the Christian Year: C (Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1994), 361.

[3] Audrey West, “Luke 12.13-21” in Feasting on the Word: Year C, Vol. 3 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010), 312.

[4] Patricia J. Lull, “Luke 12.13-21” in Feasting on the Word: Year C, Vol. 3 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010), 312.

[5] Bill J. Leonard. “Psalm 107.1-9, 43” in Feasting on the Word: Year C, Vol. 3 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010), 300.