A Sermon for Proper 13; Hosea 11:1-11, Psalm 107:1-9, 43, Colossians 3:1-11, Luke 12:13-21
It is my practice to write sermons on Friday having read text and commentaries on Tuesday and trusting the divine muse to whisper to me during the week. This week is different; Friday I knew I was going to pick up the last group of campers from Camp Mitchell. Thursday was full of scattered commitments, so I wrote on Wednesday. No big deal, except for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. As you know, JB was in a bad motorcycle accident Tuesday evening and airlifted to Region One. Wednesday RW was admitted to residential hospice care. Thursday JT was airlifted to Egleston Children’s Hospital. Late Saturday afternoon the muse whispered such that I had to speak from these events about our proverb-barns.
JB’s accident was serious and a testimony to the value of wearing a helmet when riding motorcycles. That evening the general nature of his injuries were known; serious, significant, but none were life-threatening. Wednesday night was a less than desirable time, with setbacks, complications, and the stress of scheduling life in a Trauma Hospital. Thursday afternoon, one surgery was done, another was delayed because the extent of the injury was more severe than thought, additional specialists were required, and a different treatment plan was necessary.
Watching and listening to the family interact revealed a lot of the contents of their barns. As usual, there were lots of tears, lots of concerned looks on peoples’ faces, some worried conversations, struggles not to speak from or to what is not known but feared and there was a good supply of humorous stories. It was also clear that whatever the previous mix of the multiple families’ barns’ content there had been a shift. Everyone’s focus was Jamie. Even the Arkansas Trooper who worked the accident focused on Jamie’s well-being, by his unexpected stop at the airfield where everyone was waiting on the helicopter, that was delayed by weather-driven rerouting. Gentle and encouraging words to confused, scared grandkids and calming words to vexed children brought a healing peace to all.
Wednesday RW was admitted to residential hospice care. It is the right decision. Within a couple of days of the diagnosis of lung cancer, he was admitted to home-based hospice care. The effort to maintain 24 hours care in addition to regular work and studies, and the difficulties two hours travel for some, raised the tension levels. One sibling turned down an available spot, putting RW to the back of the list. The next day another sibling was told by RW that he wanted to go to residential hospice. The third sibling agreed, the first did not. The dispute was settled when two siblings said okay; then you take care of him if you feel that strongly. The turmoil of caring for his advanced aggressive cancer aggravated already complex stressful and secretive family relationships. And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. Story became legend, legend became myth, and myth faded way into the mist of time (Tolkien).
However, the glory of God comes in all sorts of unexpected ways. Here in the recovery of myth from mist, and legend from myth, and story from legend and too long lost truths of uncomfortable family relationships from story. And the recovery of truth begot understanding, and understanding begot the beginning of healing; healing that just might rearrange the previous mix of the multiple families’ barns.
On Saturday JT was born, the 2nd child, 2nd grandchild, and 9th great-grandchild. On Thursday the shaking became seizure-like, and his parents took JT to the regional hospital. Tests were ordered, initial medications were given. Additional tests were not done because of JT’s age and shaking. The hospital realized this was beyond their ability, contacted Egleston who dispatched an ambulance. After it had arrived JT’s condition began to deteriorate; given metro traffic at that time of day the decision was made to fly JT to Egleston. Friday a neo-neurologist abruptly took JT from mom and began an examination. There were some communication difficulties. JT’s grandfather noted how human behavior always seems to reveal itself. After three days of little to no sleep, everyone was on the edge, and this pushed them over the edge. JT’s family responded better than many would have. They Googled the Doc to see if credentials were real. Not only were they real, the doctor was among the best in the field. It wasn’t long before confusion about the treatment process cleared. The doctor gave very specific orders, and the confusion about developing an evaluation and treatment plan went away. Grandfather said,
“You know we’ve got to put aside the personality stuff and be thankful for the knowledge, wisdom, and clarity the doctor brings.”
Yesterday morning grandfather reminisced about the helicopter ride one of his nieces had to Egleston after being struck by lightning 30 years ago. Once again he appreciated the marvels his family has been able to take advantage of. The conversation began to light up rearranging the previous mix of the multiple families’ barns.
The fool of a farmer in Jesus parable is very clear about what is in his barn ~ grain ~ for him. He sees the abundance of the harvest only in terms of how it relates to him. He has no thoughts of anyone else. The fool of a farmer doesn’t even think about God; he discounts God; probably not thinking that there is no God, just that God is not here; or certainly God is too far away to see or be bothered with him (Hoezee, Luke). The abundant crop is likely wheat, which is a source of bread, which is the source of life, both figuratively and literally. Hording the abundance denies his neighbors life (Hoezee, Luke). His thoughts are oppressive and unjust.
All of us have been a fool at one time or another, ignoring God’s presence, ignoring how our words and actions affect our neighbors nearby and far away. All of us have built barns and filled them with things that are “precious to me.” All of us have inheritances, or abundant harvests, or whatever it is stored away in our barns. And all of us, have our Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday moments when the contents of our barns dissolve into flotsam, and we are reminded of the mysterious value of life, so fragile, so unknowable, and yet so precious me.
It is my prayer for all of us that it does not take an existential threat to remind us of the inexhaustible sovereignty, the inexhaustible capacity, of God’s abundant love (Bratt). We’d like to believe we know JB’s, RW’s and JT’s future. We do not know; it is not for us to know (Acts 1:6, Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32) (Olive Tree). And all of us wish none of this had happened, but that is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is how to share the abundance of our barns (Tolkien, Fellowship). And of all we have to share, the God’s strength, presence, and love are the most to be desired.
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—————— Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring
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