July 28, 2022 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills
Proper 13/C [Pent. 8] (07/31/2022): Ps. 100; Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-26; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (vv. 1, 2).
St. Paul exhorts us to Life’s object. I did not say, “our life”, which is Jesus’ point by the parable of the Rich Fool. Rather, “our life” is gifted loan from God; life belongs to him and redeemable at Will. Significant therefore, is how we manage “our gift” in this time of church.
To trust in anything other than God and in the case of the Rich Fool—his possessions, is idolatry and boorish ingratitude. Abundant possessions, power, worldly wisdom, esteem from men, force of personality, physical and mental strength, attractive appearance, natural abilities, and alliances; all these or their lack credits nothing at heaven’s call; all that credits is fear of the Lord, a life of repentant faith.
The irony of the Rich Fool, at his self-satisfaction pinnacle was God required forfeiture of his soul. All are the Lord’s and of the Lord; for a time we possess earthly things, on loan then pass to another (Eccl. 2:18).
Mary, the sister of Martha, treasured God’s “good portion”, Jesus’s word, not to be taken from her (Lk. 10:42) to eternity; so also, Jesus urges us, be “rich toward God” (12:21), and from St. Paul, “seek the things that are above.”
Be clear about the Rich Fool; his heart’s desire was much as youthful King Solomon; and if we are honest, so are you and I who seek worldly wisdom and abundance.
We toil to load-up retirement accounts; are miserly toward brothers and sisters in shielding our wealth; whether interest rates are falling or rising we hoard cash, precious metals, or invest or sell equities, all with the goal of retiring with “dignity”, a euphemism for “eat, drink, and be merry” (v. 19) in what we have stored-up.
Is there anything wrong with this; well, not if we receive all things, extravagant or simple, as gift on loan from God. But when our goal is as the Rich Fool, to eat, drink, and be merry for its own sake then divine stewardship comes into play.
How do we employ the time God has given; in frivolity and entertainment; or do we engage the things above? Is our dominant attention given to worldly endeavors, political discourse, out-thinking financial markets; or do we wrestle with God, holding onto that which is His? These are distractions from trusting “life’s” proper object, Christ come to his ecclesia in word and sacrament, which leads to God’s love at the cross.
King Solomon, in worldly terms, was history’s wealthiest, most intelligent, and wisest man. On ascent to Israel’s throne he prayed, “[Y]our servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen … Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil …” (1 kgs. 3:9).
Ever since Adam and Eve desired to know “good and evil”, man has been “in the soup”. It is only in doing of evil that man “knows” evil. Good and evil are not abstractions. They are experienced in “fallen man’s life” of body and soul. Good and evil, justice and injustice, love and hate, faith and unbelief, truth and lie, all by sin are relativized as self-idolatry.
Notice Solomon prayed for understanding to enter the “broth of sin”, albeit, on behalf of the “ecclesia”, to discern the ways of a cursed world. But that “understanding” Solomon concludes is, “vanity”.
Last Sunday Jesus’ disciples asked, him to teach them to pray. Here, we discern the Wisdom of the “ecclesia”, faith’s “fear of the Lord”, higher wisdom, “Father… Give us each day our daily bread…” (Lk. 11:2a, 3).
After modeling prayer, Jesus elaborated, “ask” and receive; “seek” and find, “knock” and the way will be opened” (v. 10). It is in God’s gracious giving and our reception of his Bread that we are made wise toward God.
In Christ, we seek “the things that are above …” We don’t pray apart from Christ for understanding, wisdom, or anything (cf. Eccl. 2:25), and so rejoice in God what he determines for us; that “Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11).
King Solomon is imperfect type of Christ. In these last days Jesus comes, the fullness of Torah’s wisdom. God honored Solomon’s prayer for “worldly wisdom”, saying; “Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you in all your days …” (1 Kgs. 3:12, 13).
As a man of affairs none has or ever will exceed Solomon in worldly wisdom and understanding. Still throughout the OT, God was hidden. Solomon applied his reason and heart to seek and search all that God had done under heaven; yet despite nonparallel human wisdom, Solomon lamented, “it is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with” (Eccl. 1:13).
When we, whether student, laborer, artisan, philosopher, theologian, social worker, pastor, laity, business people, or politician, seek worldly wisdom, with Solomon endeavor, setting our minds on earthly things, we despair, “all is vanity and a striving after wind.” (v. 14).
Jesus, would have us trust Baptism’s gift, Wisdom from above. Ancient Rabbi’s identified Moses’ Torah as God’s wisdom; this is true. But in Christ, the incarnate Torah of God; the ecclesia possesses in his flesh and blood, the fullness of Divine revelation. Torah Wisdom is no longer hidden from men; yet the world calls Wisdom, “foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:18-21).
St. Paul exhorts that we seek him who is enfleshed Wisdom; who by the HS gathers us into prayerful discipleship, looking for all things and “understanding” that grows from faith to faith in Christ.
The world reasons, dying is evil; but by heaven’s Wisdom we know that evil and the grave have been put to death in Jesus crucified for sin’s forgiveness.
The world says, quality of life is all about length of days and stored-up earthly wealth; but Wisdom invites that we, evil by nature: “knock” on the wood of the cross; “seek” to die in him on account of sin; and trust that God will “open” heaven.
Solomon at the end of days, anticipated enlightenment from above; putting-off despair generated by human reason “under the sun”, proclaimed not “all is vanity”, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” (Eccl. 2:24).
By grace we seek the incarnate Wisdom. We “knock” to receive in thanksgiving God’s word and sacrament; are joyously admitted into communion with the Author of Life with brothers and sisters that the world’s vanity no longer dominates in our lives. Amen.