A Parable and Consequential Thoughts

During his earthly ministry, our Lord Jesus Christ delivered many of his teaching in the form of parables.  We are given the Parable of the Rich Fool in St. Luke 12: 16 – 21.  The setting of the parable comes from a brief dialogue between Jesus and a man in the crowd following him:

Someone from the crowd said to him, “Speak to my brother so that he will divide with me the inheritance!”  But he said to him, “Man who appointed me judge or arbiter for you?” (St. Luke 12: 13 – 14).

Our Lord then gives these words to the crowd, “Watch, and be on guard about covetousness, because a man’s life does consist of the abundance of his possessions!” (St. Luke 12: 15).  From this foundation Jesus states the parable:

And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully; and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’  And 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 goods.  And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’  But God said to him, ‘Fool!  This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’  So it is for he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (St. Luke 12: 16 – 21).

Light and Life

The parable speaks of those whose “…portion in life is of the world” (Psalm 17, LXX 16: 14).  The fragility of life, possessions, and position in this world system should remind us of this admonition found in Psalm 90 (LXX 89): 12, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  If one is at least in the third decade of life you are aware of your mortality.  There are no guarantees that there will be a morning to which to you will wake.  It is evident, regarding our mortal frames, that we are to number our days.

On any given Sunday those who assemble to worship God, I would think, see their lives beyond their portion in this world system.  Yet, outside a monastic life, those assembled to worship God also have a share in the world system, an investment in the machinery of commerce and possession.  I must acknowledge that I do.  I and the reader of this posting must be aware that investments, properties, and possessions can fly away from our hands, pockets, and accounts in a moment.  With regard to our investments and possessions we are to to develop a heart of wisdom.  They, in these times, are in a potential peril well beyond the fickleness of markets.  

Things have changed drastically over the past four years.  We now in the West live in a societal and political landscape unthought of prior to these three years.  We have witnessed and experienced compulsory lockdowns with their damaging effects accompanied by mandatory mRNA injections with the added threat of internal passports to restrict the movements of “the unclean.”  All with the excuse of being for the collective good.  The implication?  Comply or live in some form of exile!  To extend this commentary, I watch a lot of British news.  There are the same issues, challenges, threats, but different names.  In Great Britain, as in the United States, and other Western countries, there are essentially two camps — those who want freedom and liberty, and those who want a security promised by a collectivism.  I say beware of any collectivism, for as George Orwell stated, a collectivist political movement will demand totalitarianism.  Offered now is advice from the Book of Psalms:  “Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men in whom there is no salvation” (Psalm 146: 3, LXX 145: 3).

“Put not your trust in princes…”  I picture the political elite, and leaders of global corporations who gather together on a regular basis to plan out the salvation of the world system and the environment.  Those of the World Economic Forum, et al., do not have the best interest of any populace in mind.  They do not love the environment as they so passionately claim.  Rather they hate humanity and would create a new feudal system where they are the lords and ladies and we are their serfs “who will own nothing, but will be happy!”

We are to resist peacefully these arrogant elitists.  And we are to pray.  I think of the prayers from the litanies of the Divine Liturgy:  “Help us, save us, have mercy on us, and keep us or Lord by your grace.”  In these litanies we pray “…for seasonable weather, for abundance of the fruits of the earth, and for peaceful times.”  We pray “that we may be delivered from all affliction, wrath, danger, and necessity.”  We pray for all civil authorities and the armed forces that they may remain calm and peaceful that we may worship in peace and freedom.  With these prayers in mind I think of the Russian Orthodox faithful praying these same prayers in the years and months just prior to the Bolshevik Revolution.  In spite of these prayers they were thrown into violence and godless darkness of unimaginable cruelty.  Our faithful brothers and sisters were cast into an abyss of chaos — a chaos which created countless confessors and martyrs.

Chaos.  The scene of the initial verses of the first chapter of Genesis, according to the Greek text of the Septuagint (LXX) translation from the Hebrew, describes a scene of chaos and danger.  The LXX text describes darkness and an environment unsuitable for life.  

In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was unrecognizable [aoratos] and unfurnished [akataskeuastos] and darkness was upon the abyss and the Spirit of God came upon [epephereto] the water (Genesis 1: 1 – 2).

Upon this scene came the Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit’s action comes from the Greek word epipherein, to come upon, hoover, or brood.  Epipherein has the meanings of assessment, judgment, and pronouncement, and even promise.  With these meanings in mind, the Holy Spirit delivers the earth and heaven from its chaos, darkness and even death.  The waters of chaos are separated from the dry land.  The heavens and earth once formless, or unrecognizable. are given structure.  The heavens and earth are then filled with life, and then humans, who bear the Image of God, are to be God’s faithful prophets, priests and vice-regents who wisely and lovingly govern and cultivate the creation given to them.

Today we find ourselves in a scene of chaos.  The power elite have thrown us into a designed and intended social chaos.  This chaos, at some point in time, will likely make many of us confessors and possibly even martyrs.  In this situation we cannot bury our heads in the sand and say there will be peace and security when neither peace nor security will be found (1 Thessalonians 5: 3).  We cannot foolishly hope there may be a political deliverance — “Put not your hope in princes, in sons of men in whom there is no salvation.”  If we have a false confidence that all we have known and experienced in the past will be wonderfully sustained, then we are like the Rich Fool of the parable.

We find ourselves in social chaos.  Though we cannot put our trust in political leaders and the power elite, we can put our trust in God.  As with the deadly scene of chaos in Genesis, the Holy Spirit can come upon the chaos of our day.  The Holy Spirit will make assessments, judgments, pronouncements and promises.  The Holy Spirit will come upon the Church for her salvation.

As the Holy Spirit works with us we must work with the Holy Spirit.  How are we to do this?  The Scriptures give us directions.  We are not to despair or live in anxiety or fear.  This is what the power elite will for us. Rather, in spite of our present circumstances we are to be watchful:  “So let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5: 6).  With this awareness St. Paul gives us this:

Now we urge you, brethren, to warn the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient with all.  See that no one repays evil for evil, but always pursue the good both for one another and for all.  Rejoice always.  Pray constantly.  Give thanks in all things, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18).

And, finding the following from the Psalms, we are to continue to worship God:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands!  Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into his presence with singing!  Know that the Lord is God!  It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!  Give thanks to him, bless his name!  For the Lord is good; his mercy endures for ever, and his faithful to all generations (Psalm 100, LXX 99).

We are to continue to live virtuous lives:

I will sing of mercy and justice; to you, O Lord I will sing.  I will give heed to the way that is blameless.  Oh, when will you come to me?  I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is base.  I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.  Perverseness of heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil (Psalm 101, LXX 100:  1 – 4).

The faithful people of God living in this manner will be the recipients of the work of the Holy Spirit in this time of chaos and darkness.  The Church living in this manner will manifest the Church as the parallel society that offers promise and peace to those still trapped in the world system, but want the life and liberty that can only come from life in the Living God.  The Church living thus will be rich toward God.

The following is a related sermon:

In Christ, in joy and thanksgiving,

Fr. Irenaeus