David Kolander

Another Special Day…

by David Kolander on February 14th, 2024
Luke 12:13-21

This Ash Wednesday Day is also, of course, Valentine’s Day, and Valentine’s Day is a day we often, of course, take time to show our heart to someone – a spouse, a friend, a family member, someone at work, someone at school, someone in our neighborhood. But hopefully Valentine’s Day in a certain way is just another day, though another special day, to show your heart in a special way, especially to those who are especially close to you – people for whom you want to do something extra special, whether it be a gift or a dinner or trip to a special place.

Ash Wednesday is also a day to take the time to show our heart to someone – a special someone – our dear Lord God – something, again, hopefully, we do every day, making this day just another day, but another special day, to show our heart to God in a special way. But, most importantly, this is just another day, but another special day, for our dear Lord God himself to show his ongoing love to us – and today he does so in what might at first seem a very strange way. He does not buy us a gift or invite us to dinner or take us on a trip to a special place. Rather, he tells us a story about a “rich fool,” and he gives us a warning to “watch out” that we don’t end up just like him. Let’s see though, on this Valentine’s Day, why this Ash Wednesday is Another Special Day… Another Special Day for God to show his heart in a special way.

From the way Jesus talks to the man in the crowd who asked Jesus to be a judge in a dispute he was having with his brother about an inheritance, it is clear that this man’s heart was not showing love in any way, let alone a special way. Jesus told the man he hadn’t come to this earth to deal with things like that, but he had come to deal with things that would lead the man to ask a question like that in the way he asked the question. Jesus looked at the others in that crowd and said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” 

What would you have been thinking if you had been in the crowd that day? Maybe we might have been thinking, “Who does that man think he is bothering Jesus of Nazareth with a question that some earthly judge could have easily taken care of? He must really be some low-life who doesn’t care about anybody but himself.” But Jesus wasn’t just talking about that guy, was he? He had turned to the crowd, which means he was also turning to you and me. If you and I had been in the crowd that day, we would have had to have realized that we are people who so often do not show our heart to God in any way any different from how this man was showing his greedy heart to God and needed to be warned and to repent. It can be so easy – not just with the possessions of money – but the possessions of anything: things, happiness, health, anything — things that God does give us as blessings – to think that our life consists of having more of that – that life has more meaning, more purpose, more joy with more of that – until we can get to the point of once we have more of something we wanted to have more of, we still want more of it, and we aren’t any more happy or more content or more filled with meaning or purpose than we were before. And sometimes God teaches us a lesson by removing from us some of the things – and maybe even many of the things – that we were trying to gather up for ourselves. So, it is in his love that on this special day God shows his heart in a special way and tells us to watch out – to repent – of so often giving our heart to things that can only ultimately fill our hearts with ache.

But do you see why this is also God showing his heart to us in a very comforting way, when he tells us that life really isn’t extra special in this way? What if it was? If your and my life really only meant something, depending on how many things we had, it would really be kind of depressing, wouldn’t it? If, for example, you don’t have that many things, at least compared to others; or if you don’t have that many enjoyable things to do or places to travel in your free time because you don’t have that much free time or a lot of time left period; or if you don’t have that much internal joy in your heart because you are someone who has been mocked a lot or misused a lot or taken for granted a lot; what could you otherwise think if you thought that your life did consist in the abundance of your possessions – that your life only had worth depending on much you had and how important you were? Thankfully Jesus tells us that our life does not consist in an abundance of our possessions. We are important to God in whatever situation we are. We want to do everything we can to improve our lot in life, yes, but the most important way to improve our lot in life is to remember how God shows his heart by having improved our lot in life by filling our heart with himself and considering us important and precious to him through the work which the one who was giving this warning had come to do – the work of making sure we know how valued we are to God – how special our life is to God – that he would send his only Son to give us an abundance of the one possession that does, thank God, keep growing and growing – his love. “What great love the Father has lavished his love on us,” the apostle John once said in one of his letters in the Bible, “that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are.”

So, our Savior gives us a warning and the command to repent, but in so doing he shows how much he loves us by telling us in his Word that the very things we are tempted to think could make us really happy are things that can’t possibly do what only our Lord can do – and has done – by showing his heart in such a special way to forgive us of our greed and to fill our heart with his heart – the abundance of which makes our heart content with a total feeling that all is well, no matter what. In fact, in the very next verses of the Bible right after this lesson, Jesus goes on to tell us, when we do have honest concerns about how our life is going, “Don’t worry and don’t be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Through Christ you have an abundance of the possessions that count.

And that is also what Jesus shows us in a special way through the parable of that rich fool, in which this man thought that if he would build bigger barns to store up his bigger and bigger harvests of crops, he would then be set for life. And it wasn’t that his desire to eat, drink and be merry was wrong in and of itself, any more than the man in the crowd’s desire to get his inheritance figured out was wrong in and of itself, but Jesus again showed that his heart was not what it should be, because he foolishly thought that that was all that was needed to be set for life, without worrying about how to be set for eternity. “You fool!” God said to him. “This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself.”

Again, Jesus’ words to us are the same, “Watch out! Be on your guard. Repent!” At the end of our life, God’s decision about what to do with us in the next life does not depend on how many big barns we have – on what we have — but on who has us. Just as it can be so easy to think that our life has more meaning if we have more things, so it can be easy to think that our life will be a lot easier, if we have more things, which, again God so often reminds us in a loving way is not the case when he allows us to go through an illness or a difficulty or the sadness of the death of a loved one, all of which are reminders that the ease of life does not depend on how much we store up for ourselves, with the ultimate reminder being our own death, where all we have is ours no more.

But, just as with the warning about our lives not having more purpose the more we have, do you also see why this warning is another way in which God comforts us and shows his heart to us in a special way? When Jesus says to us, as he did at the end, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God,” what can you and I always remember about the Savior who said those words? Jesus has made us rich toward God, and he keeps storing up more riches for us, which we will get to receive when we live with God on the Last Day. The Bible says that “Our Lord Jesus Christ, though he was rich, yet for your sakes, became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” And those riches of God – knowing he loves us; knowing he died to forgive our desires to find peace for life in storing up things for ourselves; knowing that because of him we can eat, drink and be merry in a wonderful and godly way right now before we get to heaven – those riches will never wear out or be given to others at the end of our life – but they can be shared with others during our life so they can have meaning and peace in their life, too. 

That’s why this Ash Wednesday on this Valentine’s Day is in one way just another day – but, as with every day, it is another special day – another special day that God has shown his love in a special way to warn us, to forgive us, and to give us every reason to show our heart to him, who has given his heart to us, in every special way we can. Amen.

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