Home Service Sunday 31st July 2022

Prayers of Approach

Just as we are, together and apart, we come to worship you, Lord God, to hear your word and sing your praise, to acknowledge our need and share your love.

God of richness beyond our imagining, of love beyond our comprehension, of giving beyond our worth, of forgiveness beyond our earning, of generosity beyond anything we need, we adore you.

Creator God, we know that on this planet there is enough, and indeed plenty for all. Help us to be good stewards of your plenty, working with you so that all may be fed, all may be secure, and all may come to know and honour you, the giver of all good things. Amen.

Hymn O worship the king, all glorious above (R&S 47)

Readings: Psalm 49:1-12

Luke 12:13-21

Introduction

The psalmist questions the value of wealth and wisdom from the perspective of suffering and death. The wealthy oppress the righteous and death comes to all living beings. No amount of money can redeem a person from death and wise words perish with those who utter them. The psalmist has come to understand that neither wealth nor wisdom is futile in itself; the problem lies in the value placed on them.

In our Gospel reading Jesus is asked to intervene in a family row over money but declines, and instead tells a parable about a rich man who constantly sought to build up his wealth and possessions, with the aim of living a good and long retirement; but he didn’t live long enough for this to happen. So, what was the point? Far better, Jesus says, to build up treasure in heaven and to be ‘rich towards God’. What is the point of accumulating ‘stuff’? Today’s reading suggests that it’s a hiding to nothing; but we still do it. Does it harm us or those around us? Is the damage of greed confined to the spiritual harm it does to those whose life goal is ‘building bigger barns’? Or does the damage spread wider?

Hymn Praise and thanksgiving, Father we offer (R&S 48)

Sermon/Reflection

Imagine it’s Christmas and you have just been given a bag of chocolate coins. How many will you give away? Change the scenario a little. Here is a bag of coins – how many do you need to take? Does it make a difference which way round the question is asked? What if the coins were real – what difference does it make now? We have all probably played that game at sometime or another, what would I do if I won a huge sum of money? In the musical, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, Tevye the milkman, a poor Jewish peasant, imagines what it would be like, ‘If I were a rich man…’

(you can watch a clip of the film, starring Topol as Tevye, here https://youtu.be/D1TC1n9lhXU ).

Tevye imagines the house he would build right in the middle of the town, the livestock with which he would fill his yard, so that people would know a rich man lived there, and his wife Golde looking like a rich man’s wife (with a proper double chin) ordering the servants about. He imagines the respect he would receive from the most important men in town who would come to him for advice but he does not forget the God who made him.

If I were rich I’d have the time that I lack
To sit in the synagogue and pray,
And maybe have a seat by the eastern wall.
And I’d discuss the holy books with the learned men several hours every day.
That would be the sweetest thing of all.

Nevertheless Tevye still asked, ‘Would it spoil some vast, eternal plan if I were a wealthy man?’

The problem with the rich man in the parable was that he did forget the God who had had made him and who had given all the blessings that he enjoyed. He did not give a thought for his workers whose hard work had enabled such a magnificent harvest and would never even have considered sharing his good fortune with them. All he was concerned with was how he was going to store all his surplus wealth. As a result it is all going to be taken away from him as he will not live to enjoy it.

But are all barns bad – including metaphorical ‘barns’, such as an individual’s rainy-day savings, our pension funds, a church’s assets? I heard of one church which decided that the godly/right thing to do, when they didn’t need the house for their minister, was to sell it and devote the proceeds to their mission, and the church flourished. Another church found itself struggling to house its minister. It had sold the old house in order to use the funds wisely, only to need another one some years later – by which time house prices had soared. Does being ‘rich towards God’ always entail the risk of looking foolish in the eyes of the world? How do we get the balance

Hymn Be thou my vision, O Lord of my Heart (R&S 489)

Prayers of Intercession

‘Looking out for number one’ is rife in the way of the world, Lord.

We pray for all who work for selfish gain to the detriment of others. Help them – and us – to see that working purely for personal pride and satisfaction is futile, and that serving you leads to everlasting joy.

We pray for the lives of those who are neglected – speak into their lives, Lord. Help them – and us – become aware of the relationship with you that can transform lives.

We pray too for all who seek wisdom in purely human sources. May they – and we – understand that true wisdom and happiness can be found only in you.

We pray for all those caught up in webs of lies and deceit, the unethical and immoral. Break down the barriers preventing them – and us – from seeing the errors of their, and our, ways. We bring these prayers before you in, and through, your glorious name. Amen.

Hymn Lord for the years your love has kept and guided (R&S 603)

Blessing

Loving God, you have given us eyes to see the beauty and bounty of the earth, and minds to understand the importance of sharing. As we go through this week, make us quick to see where there is injustice or suffering, and generous to do what we can to alleviate either. Amen.

Prayers and other material (adapted) © Roots for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.

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