I woke before 4:00 AM this morning, refreshed, full of ideas and ready to work. Yesterday's Gospel, Luke 12:13-21, really resonated throughout my being: “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 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?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God."
This parable points out to individuals the foolishness of storing up earthly treasures, because soon we become owned by what we have lavished time and energy on accumulating. The preacher’s image yesterday was of all the lovely things we’ve accumulated sitting on the lawn and driveway as our children sell our precious belongings after we’ve died.
It really hit home for me, because I’ve been thinking a lot about my house and all the stuff in it as I’ve embarked on a long-term project of painting the interior, repairing cracks and old molding, and trying to sort and part with some of the accumulated stuff. The project is both cathartic and overwhelming simultaneously.
It has become clear that we have way too much stuff and that our children won’t value it like we have. The kids won’t have the same memories associated with the selection and purchase of the art or tchotchkes from our travels. It would really benefit us, the kids and some charitable organizations for us to sort through our stuff and get rid of it now.
There simply is too much stuff even to enjoy all of it realistically. I, more than Herb, have not heeded his admonition “not to become our own museum.” My new mantra of “I don’t have to own it to admire it,” came too late. It’s only been in the last few years of traveling that I have assiduously avoided buying tchotchkes, finally recognizing that they don’t enhance my enjoyment or my memories of the travel. Digital storage of photographs and records has shifted the need for stifling amounts of paper storage.
I also question my gift-giving practices now. Do my newly married friends or children celebrating birthdays really need more stuff? Instead of presents this year, we gathered the grandsons, their parents and other family for a dinner theatre experience to see Peter Pan. We laughed, booed and hissed at pirates, and thrilled together at a terrific performance as Wendy and the boys flew overhead. We made memories together.
But my thinking did not stop at the personal level. I also thought about the message this parable has for the institutional church that is today struggling with finding the resources to maintain our brick and mortar and the way we’ve always done church. If the younger generations don’t value the treasures we’ve accumulated such as the fair linens, brass candlesticks and needlepoint kneelers, perhaps it’s time to look at what is important to young people and how they connect to God and figure out how to support that.
Being a faithful member of the church has got to be about more than just supporting an infrastrucure that will allow us, the older generation, to have the funeral we’ve always dreamed of!