Sermon for May 17, 2020
This week we learned that the owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, was going to auction off one of his Super Bowl rings for charity. I am sure that the ring has great value from a financial perspective but it means a lot to him for sentimental reasons. It is the ring from the Super Bowl when the Patriots overcame a huge deficit and defeated the Atlanta Falcons. Kraft said that it reminded him of the time we are in now, a time when we are collectively coming back from the pandemic that is impacting everyone. It is quite a gift for charity.
Kraft’s gift is part of an effort called the “All in Challenge” which was started by an executive named Michael Rubin who is the executive chairman of an online business called Fanatics. Rubin has challenged sports figures, musicians, business moguls, and celebrities to offer once in a lifetime opportunities for people. His goal is to raise money for Covid-19 relief. Specifically, the money will help feed those in need. Their website says that “Food insecurity is a mounting issue but never more important than during COVID-19 and the unprecedented shortage of food resources our nation is facing. The money collected will be given to Meals on Wheels, World Central Kitchen, and No Kid Hungry, Feeding America and America’s Food Fund.” So far the challenge has raised $40 million dollars. By the way, if you want to bid on the Super Bowl ring, the current bid is $775,000. I won’t be able to make a higher bid. Kraft’s net worth is estimated to be 6.9 billion dollars so the gift is significant but will probably not change his net worth.
I feel connected to this “All in Challenge” because our church has been concerned with and supported the issue of food for needy people for many years. I am thankful for all those who are helping provide food for needy people.
The need for rich people to give to others is directly connected to our gospel lesson. Jesus warned people about greed and many of us are at risk for letting greed take over our lives. Jesus told a parable about a rich man who decided to build new barns because he had been so successful in his farming business. But the end result was that those new barns didn’t help him because he died as soon as the barns were finished.
In our society it is a common teaching that we should continually seek to get more money and more things. We are taught to set aside money in order to tide us over when things go bad. We are taught to save up lots of money so we won’t run out when we are retired. We believe that it is wise and responsible to save for the future. But these messages can easily cause people to end up saving more money than they really need. We can easily become hoarders of all different kinds of things. Even in my own life, I realize that since we have owned our current house, we have many more things than when we first moved in. We all just collect things. One of my pet peeves is the number of storage facilities that we have in Arizona. They are just like barns used to store up the things that we probably don’t need.
The rich man in the parable was not wrong for saving for the future. He was wrong because he seemed to only care about himself. And he was wrong because he thought that wealth alone can secure his future. The rich farmer seems to only be talking with himself about what to do. “What should I do?”, he asks himself and later, “I know what I will do”. The man ends up being pleased with all of this work saying to himself, “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry’”. The rich farmer gave no credit to others who worked on his farm. But most important, he didn’t give thanks to God for the gifts that God gave to him. The rich man in the parable did not talk to himself about sharing some of his wealth with others. It seemed that he wanted it all for himself even though he could not use it all.
I read a story this week about a man who owned an ice cream store. He was able to reopen his store in the last few days and people crowded into his store to get ice cream. They just wanted to get out and do something. There were so many people in the ice cream store that the workers couldn’t dish the ice cream fast enough. Some of the customers started to yell at a 17-year old girl because they were impatient. They said terrible things about her. She was so upset that she quit when her shift was over. She had been a faithful worker serving the people for over three years. As I think about that story I ask you to pray that we will all find a way to live with each other, that we will have patience and understanding because this is a time when things are not going the way we are used to nor are they going the way we want them to. We also hear stories about people arguing over whether they have to wear a mask or stand a certain distance away from others. There is good news as well. The owner set up a go fund me page for the 17-year old worker to pay for her college expenses and so far they have received over $30,000. Just as we understand that the rich man should have thought of others, let us pray that we will think of others as we come out of this isolation period.
As Jesus said in the parable, we never know when our time on earth will be over. We all feel that these days. The Covid-19 virus is the true silent killer. We have little clue about whether a person that we meet has the virus and we don’t know how our body will react if we get the disease. The end result is that we don’t know whether our time has come for God to call us home or not. The rich man in the parable never realized that he could not totally create security for himself. While the current virus has impacted more poor people than rich people, the rich are not saved from the virus. Every one of us, rich or poor, has the possibility to contract Covid-19 and to die from it.
As I read in one commentary today, “It is not that God doesn’t want us to save for retirement or future needs. It is not that God doesn’t want us to eat, drink, and be merry and enjoy what God has given us. We know from the Gospels that Jesus spent time eating and drinking with people and enjoying life. But he was also clear about where his true security lay.” Our security lies with God through Jesus Christ.
Jesus was asking the people of his time to realize that they could be so easily fooled into thinking that wealth, or fame, or being friends with the right people will give us the security that we need. When we are fooled like that we can easily fall into the trap of greed, of thinking that we just need a little more to take care of ourselves.
In this time of solitude, let us turn to God, for God is the one who gives us comfort. As the last line would suggest, let us be rich toward God. If our heart is with God, then we will know God’s comfort and peace.
As we begin to slowly leave our period of quarantine, let us focus on how we are part of the creation that God has established. Let us join God as creators in all we do. Let us help to bring food to others just as the All in Challenge is trying to do. We may not be able to provide as much money or feed as many people as the All in Challenge will do but we can still make a difference one person and one food bank at a time. Thank you for all that you do and let us thank God for all of our blessings. Amen.
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