Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Ecclesiastes 1, 2; Luke 12

Lectionary Text for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost:

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14: “Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

12 I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem, 13 applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. 14 I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.

Ecclesiastes 2:18-23: “I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me 19—and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? 23 For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.”

Luke 12:13-21: 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?’ 18Then 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.”

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost Comment: Who gets my stuff? Pardon the vernacular, but it seems that in a nutshell, Ecclesiastes is asking this question. In Luke, Jesus answers the question with the admonition, “Be mindful of the kind of stuff you own.” Again, pardon the slang!

St. Ignatius, the sixteenth century founder of the Jesuits (the Society of Jesus) taught his followers, the spiritual emotions of discernment. These emotions are called consolation and desolation.

First, according to the Audio-English website, discernment is “…the mental ability to understand and discriminate between relations…The trait of judging wisely and objectively.” First Corinthians 12 presents discernment is a spiritual gift given by the Holy Spirit whereby we distinguish between sprits. I personally believe God is interested in our total existence and uses discernment daily in our lives. When we attempt to make a career choice God uses the spirit of discernment. God stands beside us when we compare labels to distinguish between healthy and non-healthy food choices. God cares about our decisions that can change the course of a life or lives, whether it means uprooting a family or managing diabetes. Discernment is a wonderful gift and God is worthy of praise for giving it to us.

Secondly, as I mentioned above, Ignatius taught that discernment evokes emotion. Not only do we use our reason to make logical decisions, but this process is accompanied by ‘feelings’.

The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us of a truth to think about. We all die. The Preacher shares his grief that all of life is ultimately empty when he thinks that all his possession will wind up in the hands of someone who didn’t work for it. What other emotion but desolation describes this truth? It even creeps over our souls as we read this passage. “I worked 16 hour days, for years on end,” says the Preacher. I skipped meals. I worked in all types of weather, even when I was sick. I built a business…I own property…I have acquired priceless antiques and other valuable collectibles…I amassed large sums of money. Who gets my stuff? Jesus, teaches, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed…” Greed generates fear that whispers, “I don’t have enough.” Greed motivates the behaviors of pushing and grasping and hording at the expense of others. Greed causes desolation because it is a desolate state of being.

Jesus also teaches, “…for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” When we give love, joy, peace patience, goodness, kindness, faith and self-control, we are eternally consoled that generations to come will thrive with these eternal possessions.

Here’s a “Spiritual Estate Planning” exercise. Let’s work at begin giving more of our time, talent and financial resources and possessions to others before we die. I have been giving back to my daughter and sons their childhood “arts and craft” gifts. One year, I laminated the newborn nursery cards of my sons, with their footprints and my thumbprint stamped on it and gave it to them on Father’s Day. These occasions generate joy and laughter and fond remembrances, consolation. My house is less cluttered and easier to keep clean. This too is consolation!

O God, teach us to use our minds and the emotions of consolation and desolation as tools to discern your will for our lives. Amen

Blessings for Ordinary Times,
Rev. Julia
©July 29, 2010

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