by Ellen Sims
Luke 12: 13-21
This brief reflection on the day’s Gospel lection followed guest speaker Juan Torres’ report on the Manos a Manos tutoring program for local immigrant children. Juan and his family give in bighearted ways to these children.
After my mother died last year, my 88-year-old father put their house of fifty years on the market. The home that held the majority of my childhood memories and the only setting for his grandchildren’s Christmas memories will become another family’s home this Friday. For months my sister and I have been helping my father “downsize”: sorting and packing and giving away the majority of his and Mother’s earthly belongings. When Daddy recently moved to a small home across the Bay, he took with him the most needful things: his recliner, Mother’s cast iron skillet for making cornbread, family pictures, and such. If there was ever a time for building a bigger barn, now is not the time, not for him.
Yesterday family members moved out the last items and did a final house cleaning. Before we left, we gathered for prayer to give thanks for a house that sheltered our lives. We all walked through the house together, one empty room at a time, to share a memory we associated with each room. Then we closed with a blessing for the new young family who, we prayed, will be safe within walls that sheltered us from the winds and waters of Camille and Frederick and Katrina.
The parable Jesus told about the rich man with the rich man’s problem of too much wealth to fit in his barn was prompted by a man in dispute with his brother over his inheritance and how their father’s “stuff” should be divided. Maybe Jesus wanted to ask, “Who do you think I am? Judge Judy?” Instead, he told the story of a rich man who, forgetting he was mortal, hoarded treasure instead growing in richness in God.
Letting go of the “stuff” of life is hard. But the letting go process—and the careful, mindful acquisition of limited possessions—is a spiritual task that teaches us what’s important. Rather than building bigger barns, many Americans—out of economic necessity or for spiritual integrity—are now downsizing to tiny homes. This movement away from the McMansions boom has even spawned a television series—ironically turning downsizing into the latest trend in consumerism.
Regardless of our age, we should be able to let go of the things that matter less in order to let God’s creatures and creation matter more. We can find another kind of richness in relationships and through a generosity of spirit.
Open Table, as a faith community, is not interested in building our own barn of a sanctuary or a complex infrastructure of programs and a large staff.
We’re the tiny house version of Church.
And we think there’s great integrity, meaning, freedom, and grace in that “lifestyle.” It helps us live in faith. It helps us focus on others and rely on God.
Barns burgeon and burst;
What was saved is spoiled.
But when human hearts burst,
love leaks out,
spreading so nothing’s lost.
More isn’t better.
Enough is enough.
Giving isn’t giving up.
All we lose is stuff.
God whose giving knows no ending, give us bigger hearts instead of bigger barns. In a world where the refugee child has no home, where LGBT teens live in homes in which they feel unsafe, and where elderly citizens are neglected or abused—give us bigger hearts instead of bigger barns.