Lectionary 18, Year C
Today’s texts offer instruction and encouragement for all who are occasionally overwhelmed by the “unhappy business” of life. Jesus urges us to take care and be on guard against all kinds of greed. We who have died with Christ in holy baptism have also been raised with him and are encouraged to elevate our thinking, seeking the “things that are above.” To that end we seek the sustenance of the Lord’s supper and the encouragement of God’s word.
First Reading: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23
The teacher of wisdom who wrote Ecclesiastes sees that working for mere accumulation of wealth turns life into an empty game, a “vanity of vanities.” Nevertheless, he asserts in the next verse, it is good to find enjoyment in one’s work because such enjoyment is a gift from God.
2Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
12I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem, 13applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. 14I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.
2:18I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me 19—and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? 23For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.
Psalm: Psalm 49:1-12
My mouth shall speak of wisdom. (Ps. 49:3)
1Hear this, | all you peoples;
give ear, all you who dwell | in the world,
2you of high de- | gree and low,
rich and | poor together.
3My mouth shall | speak of wisdom,
and my heart shall meditate on | understanding.
4I will incline my ear | to a proverb
and set forth my riddle up- | on the harp. R
5Why should I be afraid in | evil days,
when the wickedness of those at my | heels surrounds me,
6the wickedness of those who put their trust in | their own prowess,
and boast of | their great riches?
7One can never re- | deem another,
or give to God the ransom for an- | other’s life;
8for the ransom of a life | is so great
that there would never be e- | nough to pay it,
9in order to live forev- | er and ever
and never | see the grave.
10For we see that the wise die also; like the dull and stu- | pid they perish
and leave their wealth to those who come | after them.
11Their graves shall be their homes forever, their dwelling places from generation to | generation,
though they had named lands af- | ter themselves.
12Even though honored, they cannot | live forever;
they are like the | beasts that perish. R
Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-11
Life in Christ includes a radical reorientation of our values. Just as the newly baptized shed their old clothes in order to put on new garments, so Christians are called to let go of greed and take hold of a life shaped by God’s love in Christ.
1So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
5Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 8But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
Gospel: Luke 12:13-21
In God’s reign, the “rich will be sent away empty.” Jesus uses a parable to warn against identifying the worth of one’s life with the value of one’s possessions rather than one’s relationship with God.
13Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus,] “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
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