Homily for August 4

Homily for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass

I recently had the best vacation of my life.
May 31 was my last day as pastor in Concord
and July 1, my first day as senior vicar in Belmont -
so I had the whole month of June - off.
Longest vacation I’ve ever had:
two weeks with my sister and brother-in-law
at their home in Colorado - and then, two weeks on the Cape.

After only two days in Colorado I realized how free I felt  - and why:
I was no longer responsible for anything in Concord
and I wasn’t yet responsible for anything here in Belmont.
I was in a free zone, freer than I’d ever felt before.
And I’m grateful that in the towering freedom of the Rockies in Colorado
and on the  gentle shoreline of the Cape,
my time away seemed a gift from God,  a gift of peace,
given for me to use well and wisely.

Well it’s summer!   ‘Tis the season, the time of year,
when many people take a vacation of one kind or another.
So today we’re starting a new message series for August
and we’re calling it How to Vacation.

In a message series we link together homilies (messages)
over several weeks, with one central topic or theme.
We work on that topic together as a community,
with the dual goal of growing together -- and --
of creating conversation out in the community.

We choose a topic and explore what God has to say about it,
hoping to make faith more tangible and accessible for all of us:
- for those of us who are here just about every week
- but especially for any folks who’ve been away,
people who’ve drifted from the life of the church,
--people we really hope to reach and draw back.
So, whether you already took your vacation, as I have,
or your vacation is still ahead of you,
or you’re in the middle of vacation right now,
or even if you don’t have any vacation plans this summer
--this series is for you - and I’m glad you’re here!

Most of us anticipate vacations with joy and expectation:
whether we’re traveling with family and friends - or alone;
whether we’re taking a long journey or enjoying a sta-cation;
whether it’s a break from work or from the routine of retirement;
whether we plan in detail - or wing it!
• Or maybe you don’t vacation in the summer but another time of year.           
• When it comes to what you do on vacation,
maybe you’ve got it all planned out
--- or maybe you’re just going to wing it!
• Maybe there ‘s a hundred things you’d like to do on vacation,
places you want to go and things you want to see.
Whatever our individual circumstances,
we tend to really look forward to vacation because... we need it. 
• Life is busy, work is busy, school is busy:
children and grandchildren, jobs and homework,
commuting and driving the kids around
grocery shopping and laundry  --  all the chores of everyday living.
• You’re exhausted. You need a break!
• You hope, you plan, you pray:  “This vacation is gonna be the best yet!”
But then there’s the real world!
• There’s a hundred extra things to do at work
just so you can leave to go on vacation.
• And… you have to pack for vacation -
and that might can take a whole week.
Finally... vacation begins.
• Maybe it’s great at first.  Maybe it’s great the whole time! 
• But I bet, for many of us, there are at least some moments
when our vacations just don’t meet our expectations.
• Maybe your spouse has made you a TO-DO list that’s six pages long!
Or you made one for yourself! 
• Your kids are driving you crazy
because you’re at some wonderful place, some great destination,
and they’re inside, glued to their phones and screens!
 (Or maybe it’s YOU who can’t get away from your device.)
• Maybe someone back  at work is emailing and texting questions to you
which makes it feel like you never left.
• Or maybe on your vacation there’s relationship conflict
with your spouse,  or your kids,  or your in-laws… or all of the above.
• By the end of your vacation, you might feel like you need:
a vacation to recover from your vacation
• You’re left wondering, “what happened?”
and “what was really the point?”
• All that money, all that time. Sure there were some good parts
but it just wasn’t exactly what you had in mind, what you planned.
• And too often,  when vacation’s over, you realize
you’re not refreshed, you’re not relaxed, you’re not refueled.
At least not as much as you had planned and hoped for…

Ever been there on vacation? Well if so, I’m so glad you’re here today.
Because we’re spending August digging into this topic
and I hope we’ll make some interesting discoveries together.

And to start us off, we’re looking at story we heard today
from Luke’s Gospel.

It begins with two brothers bickering. One of them says to Jesus,
 “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
If you’ve got kids you know that bickering about who gets what
is part and parcel of daily family life - at home AND on vacation.
So, what does Jesus do?  How does he respond?
Notice that Jesus doesn’t just tell the brothers to share
--- which seems like the easy, obvious answer to the problem.
Might be the one you use at home.

Instead Jesus goes big - he says:
“Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

I like how Jesus doesn’t just tell the other brother to share.
He knows there’s something deeper at work here. 

So Jesus tells a story that gets to the heart of the issue...
because he knows this is really a matter of the heart…
And here’s how Jesus’ story starts…
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.”

This seems like a simple story
but there are some key details we need to pay attention to.
Notice here who produced the bountiful harvest.   The rich man? No. 
Jesus says the land produced a bountiful harvest.
In other words, the harvest was given to the man
who was, by the way, already rich.
So the rich guy says to himself:
“What shall I do, I don’t have enough space to store up all I’ve harvested!”
Well that was quick, wasn’t it?  All of a sudden the harvest is his harvest.
And while it might seem great that this guy’s been so successful -
- he sees it as a problem: “Where will I store all my abundance?”
So,  the rich man decides to tear down his existing barns
to build larger ones to store all this surplus. 
And he tells himself: You’ve got good things stored up for years to come!
 (Oh, vanity of vanities!)
All you have to do now is  “rest, eat, drink, be merry!’”
Well, what’s wrong with that?    Rest, eat, drink, be merry!
A lot of folks would consider that the perfect vacation!

But there’s a surprise ending to Jesus’ story.
God tells the rich man:
“‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you’ve prepared, to whom will they belong?
Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.”
What matters to God…

We can only imagine that the rich fool is now filled with regret.
He’d like a second chance, he’d like a do-over.
Almost like when we get to the end of a vacation
that it didn’t work out as expected,
and we want a do-over, a vacation from our vacation… 

A lot of folks have a tight grip around their vacation time: they think ,
It’s mine, I’ve earned it, I deserve it. I’m gonna do what I want.
We want so badly to be on vacation.
But if it’s just about us and what we want,
if it’s just about storing up treasure for ourselves,
we’re left disappointed like the rich man in Jesus’ story.
What sounds like a good plan,
might ultimately be foolish and unsatisfying.

And let me be clear: I’m not suggesting
we shouldn’t have vacation or get some rest or take a break.
Of course we should!  We all should take a break.
Even God took a vacation day after creating the world!
And there’s the heart of the matter:
how do invite God to be part of our vacation?
How do we move from thinking:
 “This is MY plan for MY family for MY vacation.”
to asking:
 “God what’s YOUR plan for the family YOU’ve given me
during this time YOU’ve given us?”

What does it mean to be rich in what matters to God,
and in in particular,
what does it mean to be rich in what matters to God
while you’re on vacation?

Do we think of vacation as something we’ve earned,
time and money we’ve stored up for our personal enjoyment? 
“Eat, drink and be merry!”

Or do we look at vacation as a gift, a gift from God,
entrusted to us to use well and wisely ?

Would you ask that question this week?

Would you find a way to raise that question in your family?

Even find a way to tell those folks in your family and among your friends,
people who won’t be with us in church this weekend,
tell them how this month we’re talking about vacation and faith?

And this goes a whole lot deeper than the question,
 “Will I go to mass while I’m away on vacation?”
That’s a real question, too, but the question in today’s gospel
runs much deeper:
Am I rich in what matters to God - even on vacation?
Whether you’ve been on vacation already or are waiting for it
or even if you have no vacation plans this summer, you can ask
 “How is any time off I have - a gift from God,
entrusted to me to use well and wisely?

What might your vacation - or any free time you have -
what might your free time this summer make possible?
• Reconnect with an old friend?
• Enter your family’s world, your kids’ world, your spouse’s world
more fully, spending lots of good time with them just for love’s sake?
•Maybe spending some of your free time with God,
looking for ways for God to be part of the rhythm of your daily life?
• Maybe a hike or a walk on the beach, spending some time asking,
 “Am I rich in what matters to God?
• Only you know the things and the people
that free time this summer might make possible…

So some of you are thinking,
“Don’t spoil my vacation, Father! Come on, it’s pretty simple.
Vacation is just vacation  it’s not a church thing, it’s not a God thing.”
Well… yes it is…   Vacation isn’t an escape from life - it’s part of life.
And all of life - every little part of life - includes God.
• God who wants to be with us - on vacation and off vacation, 24/7/365.  
• God who wants to be part of our relaxing and resting and our free time
• God wants a few minutes of our vacation time, our free time,
to speak to us, chat with us, reach out to us and touch us
• Can we be open to understanding God as being that real in our lives?
Open to thinking that God wants to go on vacation with me?

We work and strive so hard for so much because we want a lot in this life.
But so often our efforts fail to satisfy.
They don’t work, don’t yield what they promised.

God wants each of us to have free time, to have a vacation,
or a relaxing weekend, or a peaceful day off - even just a free night
all for us to find rest, peace and connection with him and those we love.

God wants this for you more than you want this for yourself
because God’s plan for our lives and vacations
is always better than what we’ve planned for ourselves.


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