Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
August 2, 2020
What Am I "Here After"?
Luke 12: 13-21
TEXT: "You Fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you".
An elderly man confided to a friend that he was planning to live to be one hundred. The friend replied, "I too would like to be one hundred. But how do you plan it?" "It's quite simple," the other man said, "all you need to do is live until you're ninety-nine, and from then on be very careful."
Well, as we all know, it's not that simple. Some of us may have started being careful years ago, but we're still vulnerable at any age. Every second of our lives we're vulnerable. Most of us won't reach ninety-nine, much less one hundred. And yet we carry on as though we're going to live forever.
In today's Gospel Lesson, Jesus tells a parable about a man who carried on in this manner, a man who planned ahead as though he were going to live forever. A wealthy man, he looked forward to a financially secure, worry-free future while ignoring his human situation of vulnerability: his mortality. He says to himself, in effect, "I've got it made. I'm rich. I've got more than I'll ever need. From now on the living is easy -- eat, drink and be merry. I'll just live it up!"
A little girl in Bible Class had listened to the story of the prodigal son who squandered his father's estate on "riotous living." "Do you know what 'riotous living' means?" the teacher asked. "I think so," the little girl answered, "it means spending all your money on bubble gum."
In Jesus' parable, after announcing his plans for years of riotous living, the wealthy man hears the voice of God address him as "Fool!" God says to him, "You Fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?" In other words, "You're not going to live to be one-hundred or even ninety-nine. You're not even going to make it through the night. And you can't take it with you either. Because all of your planning was for the 'here," and none for the 'hereafter,' you have been living the life of a fool."
A pastor was visiting a ninety-nine year old woman, the oldest person in the parish. He said to her, "At your age, you should start thinking of the hereafter." She replied, "Oh, I do that all day long, wherever I go. I go into the kitchen or the living room or the bedroom or the basement and I say to myself, 'Now let me think. What am I here after?"
The New Testament writers want us to understand that the questions, "What about the hereafter?" and "What am I 'here after'?" are not unrelated. In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus says to His disciples, "For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeits their life?" (Mt. 16:26). Jesus is asking the vital "here and now" question. He is asking us to be serious about our here-and-now priorities. He is asking us to ask ourselves, "What are we 'here after'?"
But, praise God, in searching for the answer to that question, we are not left on our own. "I am the way, the truth and the life...follow Me," Jesus says to us. "If you want to discover the truth about your here and now life, I'll show you the way ... follow Me! ... I am the way."
Jesus left no doubt about His answer to the question, "What am I here after?":
..."My food is to do the Will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His Work," He said (Jn. 4:33).
..."I have come not to be served but to serve," He said (Mt. 20;28).
And when He said, "love one another as I have loved you," Jesus left no doubt about our correct answer to the question, "What are we here after?":
...to do the Father's Will -- that's what we're "here after"!
...to express our love for God in and through our love for one another -- that's what we're "here after"!
...to follow Jesus in a lifetime ministry of loving service -- that's what we're "here after"!
"Follow Me!" When we accept Jesus' invitation, when we embrace His formula for life in the here and now, something remarkable takes place. We simultaneously receive an answer to the question, "What about the hereafter?"
When we follow Jesus in the here and now, we enter into the experience of eternal life which, in Jesus' own words, is to know God, to be in union with God, to share in God's own life -- for God is Love.
When we follow Jesus in the here and now, the joy, and the harmony, and the peace of mind and heart and soul, and the ecstasy we experience in our expressions of unconditional love for one another provide us with little hints, little glimpses, little clues in our search for answers to the questions about life in the hereafter.
A British short-story writer has written a modern-day version of the parable in today's Gospel Lesson:
A mysterious figure visits a prominent English lawyer on New Year's Eve and grants him the choice of one wish for the New Year.
"I wish for a complete set of the 'London Times' for the coming year," said the man. And immediately his wish was granted. There before him was a neat stack of three hundred sixty-five future newspapers. He quickly understood the power that he now possessed, and he began planning how to use it. He would know horse race results before the races were run and every bet he made would be a guaranteed money maker. He also began making plans on how he would profit from his foreknowledge of stock market prices. Whereupon, he took the 'London Times' for the second of January from the stack and as he was turning to the Financial Section, the headline on the Obituaries caught his eye: "Prominent Lawyer Dies Suddenly On New Year's Day." Then he read the name of the deceased. It was his own.
In today's Gospel Lesson, God uses the word "fool" to address the self-centered, short-sighted, wealthy man who planned a long life of ease with no thought of his human condition of mortality.
In planning and living out your own individual answer to the question, "What am I 'here after?"" don't be a fool! Rather, acknowledge your human condition of mortality and rejoice in the promise of your ultimate fulfillment -- in the hereafter!