Luke 12:13-32
Thanksgiving/Harvest Festival

✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠

The question that Jesus asks at the beginning of the Gospel seems a little strange at first: “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?”  Isn’t this the Lord of all speaking, the One who later would say, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me?”  Certainly Jesus had the right to settle this dispute about an inheritance if He chose to.  

When Jesus speaks these words, then, He is making two points, first about vocation–“Man, go to the judge who has the God-given office to deal with this matter.  Don’t try to go around the earthly authorities I’ve established.”  But secondly, Jesus is especially making a point about how this man was seeking to misuse Him–“Man, the Father did not send me to be a pawn in your pursuit of mammon.  I am not a means to an end.  I am the end.” 

How often we ourselves can be tempted to do that with Jesus, to make Him the way to some supposedly greater goal rather than the goal itself--to be with Him, to share in the fellowship of His presence.  How easy it is to be lured at least to some degree into believing the Gospel of prosperity, that if we just live right and believe the right way, God will then give us the worldly honor or the material treasures or the easy life that we want and that we set our hearts on.  It’s a misuse of Jesus to participate in church in order to get blessed with earthly stuff, to seek the kingdom of God so that all these things will be added to you.  What’s the real motivation and priority in that equation?  When we engage in spirituality in order simply to gain some temporal, earthly benefit, it’s just the same as the man in the Gospel saying to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Beware of covetousness, Jesus says.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  And if moth or rust or flood or drought can destroy your treasure, you will go down with it.  If mere death can separate you from your treasure–and death often comes much more quickly than expected–then what a fool you are!  Repent.  Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth which fail, but treasures in heaven which do not fail or pass away.  

That is what it means to be rich toward God, to treasure life with Him above all else, to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness for its own sake, to trust in the heavenly Father as the One who is the Giver of every good and perfect gift and who knows what you need even before you ask Him.  This faith, this richness toward God, is shown and revealed in letting go of your surplus, freely giving away what God has freely given you for the good of others and for the good of His church, clinging not to mammon but to the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.

The parable Jesus tells makes it clear that all we have is a gift.  For notice it says that “the ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.”  In other words the man didn’t produce it for himself.  The Creator produced it from His own creation.  The man may well have worked the ground, but without God’s giving, he would have had nothing.  So also for us as we observe this thanksgiving harvest festival today–we are reminded that even though we may work hard and faithfully perform our tasks, without God’s giving, we would still have nothing, in body or soul.   The fruits of the earth, the possessions we own, our family and friends are all a pure gift from Him.  We pray “Give us this day our daily bread” so that we might realize this and receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.  The gifts of creation are meant to lead us back to their Source.  That’s the whole point of thanksgiving, so that we remember where the credit and the glory really belongs.  All praise belongs to God for granting us the food and clothing and shelter and whatever we need through Jesus Christ His Son, through whom all things were created and in whom all things hold together.  The rich man spoke greedily to his soul, but we are given to say with the Psalmist, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”  

The Lord does indeed satisfy your mouth with good things–not only with bread of the earth, but with the Living Bread from heaven.  For listen again to the Gospel, “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.”  Was not Jesus buried in the tomb of a certain rich man?  This ground most definitely did yield plentifully.  Christ the holy Seed was cast into the earth.  For unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone.  But if it dies, it produces much grain.  The Seed of the woman sprouted forth to new life from the rich man’s ground, producing a  limitless harvest of the finest wheat, the Bread which one may eat of and live forever.  This bread is the flesh of Jesus, which He gave into death on the cross, and which He continues to give out in the Sacrament for the life of the world.  As Joseph of Arimathea freely gave of His property for Jesus’ burial, much more so our Lord does not hoard His abundance but freely bestows it in limitless measure.  Your cup overflows with goodness and mercy.  We have the Lord’s sure promise that we who eat His flesh and drink His blood in faith have eternal life, and that we will be bodily raised up with Him on the last day.  Have no fear, little flock, for the Father has chosen to give you the kingdom.

Our greatest treasure, then, for which we give thanks today is not a full barn or a full bank account or a full house for the holiday, but Christ Himself.  He is our inheritance, our goal, our life, whose poverty has made us truly rich.  The Father did not send His Son into the world to be judge and arbitrator, a minister of fairness, but a minister of mercy, that the world through Him might be saved.  His lovingkindness continues to give you all that you need, both for this world and the one to come.  “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever.”

✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠