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True Value…

July 30, 2016

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Denise and I decided yesterday to go for a hike on the other side of the Rocky Mountain National Park. We live on the Eastern side and the destination was on the Western side of the Continental Divide and Park. According to what we have heard, about 75% of the visitors to RMNP come through Estes Park and the two Eastern entrances. One of those two entrances is about two miles or so from our home. Needless to say, during “high season” when the Park is swamped with visitors, it can be difficult to get out of our housing area to turn right to go into town or left to go to the Park. One of the things we love about our location, despite the often times hectic traffic, is the fact that we can walk into town. Parking is at a premium during this time of year and so our ability to walk is invaluable in and of itself.

So, since the East side of Rocky is incredibly crowded, especially on weekends, we made the trek over to the West side. We have lived here for eleven months now and have enjoyed all four seasons that Rocky has to offer. However, the vast majority of our time has been spent on the East side. Part of me wonders if I saw our side as somehow more valuable or inspirational. Those thoughts were laid to rest on our hike yesterday. One of the elusive residents of the Park that we have not yet seen has been the Moose. We have heard about them and seen pictures of them, but never seen them in person. Imagine our surprise as we headed up the incredibly steep trail towards Big Meadow when two hikers passing by us told us that there were three moose just off of the trail. Sure enough, we saw two juvenile males (one is pictured above) and a female on opposite sides of the trail. They gathered quite a little crowd as hikers going up and down the trail stopped to take pictures and simply be “wowed” by the sight.

Part of our quest was to get some good hiking in and exercise time as well. So we continued up the trail until a decent turn around point to head back to the parking lot and our car. When we turned around and began to head down the trail we turned a corner and what should we see but this fine fellow sauntering up the trail towards us!

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Yes, I had my zoom lens on the camera and after snapping a couple of pictures backed away slowly as this fellow continued his jaunt up the trail. What was of value? Well, for me it was the amazing opportunity to take such a wonderful picture. I was so entranced that it wasn’t until Denise told me to back away that I realized that I was going the wrong direction! She got a really nice picture as well, but her primary concern was that her silly husband wouldn’t get tangled up in Moose antlers and hooves!

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As we continued to watch each other respectfully, I was overcome with the wonder of the moment. I had been grumbling as we climbed a very steep trail only to forget about how difficult the trail was when we came across something even more incredible than the trail. Isn’t it something how God can give us moments that put life back into perspective? I guess you could say that the moose moment did that for me.

Okay Padre, enough “moosing” around… what does this story have to do with the Gospel reading for tomorrow?! Well, in a fascinating way (at least fascinating to your Padre) it ties in quite well. This story and the Gospel reading are both about perspectives. So lets dive into Luke 12:13-21 and see what Jesus’ “moosage” is about perspective! Sorry… I will end the puns for now!

The story opens with a question from the crowd: “Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ And 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.'” (Luke 12:13-15)

What an interesting question for Jesus that came out of left field. The question would have been more appropriate, as Jesus implied, for a judge or an arbitrator. The job of a Rabbi was to advise members of the flock around matters of Law and Scripture. Why was this fellow challenging Jesus? The various commentaries and commentators that I have read seem to think that this fellow was up to no good. Was he set up by the Scribes and the Pharisees? After all, the law was fairly detailed and clear back then when it came to inheritance.

The eldest inherited a double portion and the rest was divided amongst any other male heirs. Was this younger son not satisfied with what was decreed to be his by law? From the tone of Jesus’ answer, it would appear that the younger son was not satisfied with his legal portion of the estate. Or it could be that the elder brother wasn’t being quick enough (in the younger son’s eyes) in the division of the assets of the father. Either way, Jesus’ first point was that he wasn’t a family court judge in this case.

Then Jesus turned around and shared the parable of the rich landowner/farmer. The harvest was plentiful and the landowner decided that he needed bigger barns to hold all of his extra loot. In the landowner’s thinking, if he stored up all of the grain and goods he could then sit back, relax, eat, drink, and be merry. Was Jesus condemning the man for being successful? No, I don’t believe he was. What Jesus was condemning was the perspective of the man’s heart. I believe the man’s perspective was all about the accumulation of things and not about being a good steward of what God had given him.

It almost hearkens back to the story from the Exodus when the people weren’t satisfied with the manna and quail which God had provided in the wilderness. They wanted to store up and hoard what had been given to them. In the Exodus, the result was essentially barns full of rotting, maggot infested manna and quail! In the parable, the man died and all of the hoarding that he had done amounted to nothing for him personally. “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20)

A Chaplain I served with during my first assignment in the Air Force had a saying that he used quite a bit. It wasn’t original to him, but it made a good point. “Have you ever seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul? I didn’t think so. You can’t take it with you!” It is all about perspective in my mind. Another quote I have often heard through the years goes something like this: “The one who has the most toys in the end wins.” Really? In the end, when you die, what good are all of those toys? Especially if you have sacrificed family, faith, and friendship in the accumulation of those toys.

If we look a bit further in the Gospel reading, we hear Jesus saying how God clothes the lilies of the field and feeds the birds of the air. They don’t hoard and yet God provides. If God provides for the birds and the lilies, how much more will God provide for us! If our perspective is on hoarding, we will miss the boat. In the words of the song I learned many years ago at Church Camp, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Then all these things will be added unto you. Allelu, Alleluia.”

So, dear reader, where is your heart? Where is your perspective? Is Jesus asking everyone to sell everything they have? I don’t believe so. What I do believe is that Jesus calls us to release the powerful hold that possessions and lust after things over us. Can you imagine what the rich landowner could have done with all of his excess grain and goods? Can you imagine how many poor could have been fed and clothed and given shelter in the name of God?

As Jesus said in verse 34: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Where is your treasure? How will you use what God has given to you?

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