August 2019 Lectionary Preview
June 21, 2019 by Rev. Erin Hayes-Cook
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” Luke 12:13-21
My grandmother kept a root cellar filled with canned food. The shelves held everything from peas to canned chili. I loved going down there to walk on the cool rock floor. Growing up I thought everyone had a cellar in their house complete with enough food to make it through the season of winter with no problem. Lord knows how many times we had to rotate the food to make sure it was still fresh.
Mary Hayes, my grandmother, came from a generation who lived through the Great Depression. Storing up food and the necessities of life was ingrained in her from a young age. Many people we know and loved learned how to survive during a time when fear and food rations went hand-in-hand. Right now, the Christian church in the United States is fighting between the myth of scarcity and the desire to thrive. We’ve got a few cans in the basement while our souls need to be filled.
From our point of view, the “rich man” from Jesus’ parable is either a man who wanted to have more than a basement of food for his loved ones, or a fool who considers the material goods of this life over and above the context of his soul.
The world of the book of Luke illustrates the marginalized at the center of God’s liberating gospel. No surprise that Jesus redirects two men concerned about inheritance and goods. The gospel is our best inheritance. On the other hand, who wouldn’t want the peace of mind to know that their loved ones would be taken care of? Aren’t many of us wondering how we might be able to enjoy life?
Jesus’ words of caution challenge us to see whether our possessions have a hold on us or we have a hold on them. More importantly, how are we giving back to God? Our desire to hoard neglects God’s provision for us. Perhaps our invitation is to take stock on what we have stored in our spiritual barns and how it causes us to live differently. Are we more concerned with our own comfort over others? Do we consider the account of our souls filled with our possessions and not how we freely give back to the Creator? If the gospel is our best inheritance, how do we live by sharing both the stock of our basements and our spiritual pantry?
Let us invite our communities of faith to be stewards of the soul.
In January of 2013, Rev. Hayes-Cook accepted the call to be the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Rahway, NJ. Her subsequent ordination was on April 7, 2013 at Westminster Presbyterian Church. She has served First Rahway for 6 years as the first woman of color to pastor the community in its 275-year-history. Gaining great joy in walking alongside the diverse community she serves through her local presbytery and synod. She is looking forward to studying for a Certificate in Executive Leadership from Duke Divinity School. Rev. Hayes-Cook and her husband Lawrence welcomed their first child in June of this year.