This is a sermon that I preached on Sunday, 11/28/21, at Berkeley Friends Church (via videoconference). The scripture reading for this sermon was: Luke 12:13-34. You can listen to the audio, or keeping scrolling to read my manuscript. (The spoken sermon differs from the written text.)
You can’t take it with you.
If I had to sum up this morning’s scripture reading from Luke in just one sentence, that’d be it.
We’ve only got a limited time together on this earth, and when it’s done, it’s done. Everything you build, accomplish, accumulate, learn – it’s all going to be dust much sooner than you can imagine.
This sounds like bad news. It’s the kind of news that the author of Ecclesiastes wrestles with when he cries out, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” It’s this reality of limits. It’s the inevitable mortality that we all run up against when we start really thinking about life, about the future.
The teacher of Ecclesiastes says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Whatever we set out to accomplish is just a repetition of an old pattern. In the immortal motto of the science fiction series Battlestar Galactica, “This has all happened before, and it will happen again.”
This sounds like bad news. We can’t control anything. We can’t make our mark. Or if we do, it’s like writing our names on the beach below the high tide line. There is nothing new under the sun. Death awaits us all. From Solomon with all his riches, power, and wisdom, to the common person with none of those things – it’s just a matter of time.
This sounds like bad news. But in our reading this morning from the Good News (gospel) of Luke, Jesus presents this world’s meaninglessness as a reason for joy. He tells us, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
What is the kingdom? What is this reality of living, struggling, and dying in God’s presence? What can transcend the utter emptiness of life revealed to us by the wise teacher of Ecclesiastes?
Treasure in heaven? What is that? What is this purse that Jesus is talking about? What is this bank account in heaven that never runs out, which no wolves of Wall Street or stock market crash can threaten?
This is the good news. The good news is that this world really is meaningless in its churning, frantic motions to accomplish something, create something, get something. The good news is that this world of anxious grasping is not our home. There is a deeper life available to us, a bedrock reality that we stand in through Jesus. There’s something solid beneath this world of shifting sands.
The good news is: Do not worry. You can’t take it with you. And you don’t need to. The Father has chosen to meet you in your nothingness and give you everything.
Utterly meaningless – everything is meaningless! That’s good news. Because now that we have come to the end of our ropes, we see that everything is possible for God.
Taken on its own, everything is pointless. But standing the life and power of Jesus Christ, every single moment is revealed to be filled with meaning, joy, power. Every drop of rain, every fallen leaf, every smile, every moment of pain, every setback – all things open themselves to us as a gateway, a window, a sacrament to partake in the very life and being of God.
Everything is meaningless; yet in God every moment is the body and blood of Christ.
You can’t take it with you. You don’t need to. Because you already have it. Jesus Christ is here. Listen to him!
On this, the first Sunday of Advent, let’s prepare ourselves to receive him. The Word made flesh. The cosmos made meaningful. The words of life spoken into our hearts, when we abandon ourselves to the immediacy of his love.