One of Autumn’s “after Pentecost” Scripture readings is a parable about the Rich Fool. No spiritual advisors or ecclesiastical deputy is in the story. As the Rich Fool ponders the size of his surplus crop, he thinks about it to himself. As he comes to the conclusion, he speaks to his own soul. It is a spirituality of the self; a spirituality from within that has no grounding outside of himself: a barn bigger, newer, and better. How ironic! For a person whose wealth comes from the ground: grain, soil, sun, and rain! Not thanksgiving and giving, but hoarding and storing.
It is easy to translate the story-parable into a critique of chauffeured luxury cars and mansions of the executives. But. What if the surplus product for which we created more space is: toilet paper! Think March 2020. The pandemic created a shared experience of surplus and shortage. GIANT market shelves were empty; some people waited weeks! Was the “shortage” human directed? Some people stock-piled toilet paper. While some people have medical needs that require more toilet paper at hand, others no doubt purchased a surplus, hoping the supply would allow some relaxation of the stress of the pandemic.
The Rich Fool expected that a bigger barn will give him an opportunity to relax from his hard work and still be well cared for. The toilet paper episode may not be the same as stored grain in a barn. But. It does give a Christian Assembly within earshot of the Gospel of Christ, an opportunity to wrestle with the command impact of some having an excess that leaves others struggling for the necessities of life.
Summer Sundays in August have Jesus expanding on the common theme of giving, sharing, and helping based on the story of the Rich Fool.
Sunday, 7 August St. Luke 12.32-40 Pentecost IX
Jesus encourages disciples to invest their hearts and live fully into God’s reign. Instead of facing life with fear, those who know God’s generosity are always ready to receive from God and give to others.
Sunday, 14 August St. Luke 12.49-56 Pentecost X
Jesus delivers harsh words about the purifying and potentially divisive effects of obedience to God’s call. The wrong way of the cross often leads followers to encounter hostility and rejection, even from those they love.
Sunday, 21 August St. Luke 13.10-17 Pentecost XI
Jesus heals a woman on the sabbath, offering her a new beginning for her life. When challenged by a narrow reading of the sabbath command [“rest” – not “work”], Jesus responds by expanding “sabbath work” to include setting people free from bondage.
Sunday, 28 August St. Luke 14.1, 7-14 Pentecost XII
Jesus observes guests jockeying for position at the table. He uses the opportunity to teach his hearers to choose humility rather than self-exaltation. Jesus also makes an appeal for hosts to imitate God’s gracious hospitality to those in need.
Invite and inviting. That’s the nature of the Church. By God’s grace in Holy Baptism we have a place at Christ’s banquet table. When by power of that same Spirit, humility and mutual love continue among us, the Church can still be more inviting.