By Lynda MacFarland
When I was living in Vilseck, Germany as an Army wife and mom about 20 years ago, I was blessed to be a cast member in the community theater’s production of the musical “Godspell.” It’s an ensemble cast with unnamed characters unless you have the role of Jesus or of John the Baptist/Judas (for reasons never explained, the same actor plays both roles of the Baptizer and the Betrayer. I think it was a practical decision because John the Baptist is no longer in the show after an initial couple of scenes. Just as in the New Testament, John decreases so Christ can increase! If you use the same actor, “John” is not left hanging around backstage for the next hour and a half.)
I had a couple of good lines and one great song, “Bless the Lord, My Soul,” based on Psalm 103; it’s where the title for my post for today comes from. But I was also featured in the parable from Matthew’s Gospel, the Book the musical is based on, in the preceding scene. It’s the one about the rich man who was foolish enough to believe that acquiring earthly wealth was all he needed to focus on in this mortal life.
I was thinking about that show because today’s Gospel reading from the Book of Luke includes his version of the parable. The rich man tears down his storehouses and builds bigger ones to hold all of his bountiful harvests. And then, after uttering the infamous words that he shall now, “eat, drink, and be merry,” that very night he dies. What becomes of all his ‘treasures’ then? And Jesus admonishes those of us who will “store up treasure for” ourselves here, but who are not “rich in what matters to God,“ to beware. Yikes.
A somber warning and a stark reminder that this world is not our home. We are pilgrims on a journey and our Heavenly home is not furnished with anything we’ve acquired here. This is a story of detachment, in the good sense of the word. We are not ‘detached’ from experiences or from people, but from things. Because things don’t matter and they never will.
We need to get excited about the things that God can and will do through us. With our cooperation, He can do anything. We can do anything that is true, noble, right, and pure, whatever is lovely, admirable, and excellent and praiseworthy (see Philippians 4:8). We can not only ponder these things but DO them when we have the perfect love, the power, and the peace of our Triune God within.
Jesus says, rather laconically, “one’s life does not consist of possessions” in the Luke version of this story. But, of course, that’s true. We are more than our possessions. In fact, the things that we think we “own” aren’t really ours anyway. We use them to work with Jesus in His Heavenly Mission. We use things to glorify God and to advance His Kingdom.
The parable of today’s Gospel reading and in Godspell warns us not to be stingy with the gifts God’s given to us. Lavishly bestow them on others, just as He has lavishly bestowed them upon us! We have the perfect example, that Someone to show us how it’s done. So look to Jesus, look to His Father, look to the Holy Spirit. And then give thanks. It will never be enough. But perhaps we can show our sincere appreciation, the depths of our gratitude, by living a life that makes God smile. Choose the harder right over the easier wrong, be Light, be Salt, be joyful.
When we give it all away, we get so much more in return than we could ever have imagined! Don’t store it up now, within our homes or within ourselves. That will never make us truly happy and, since none of us are guaranteed our next breath, we can leave it all behind without regret and with joy in our hearts. May we declare with no holding back in death, just as we did in life, “Oh, bless the Lord, my soul! And all that is within me, bless His holy name!”
About the author:
Lynda MacFarland was an Army wife for 33 years. Author of the autobiography, “Drowning in Lemonade – Reflections of an Army Wife,” she also has a blog with the same title. Both address the role of her faith in dealing with the challenges of living an Army life and are intended as an encouragement to others.