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Luke 12.13-21

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.’ Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then 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. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But 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?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’

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The Photograph is The Visitation, Sir Jacob Epstein, 1926.  'The Tate Britain.' The paintings on the wall and the wonderful patterned dress make for a colourful background.

 

In 2007 an estate agent, John Maloof, trying to write a book on Chicago architecture, bought a huge stash of photographic negatives and undeveloped film from an auction house. This led him to a storage facility where obtained a huge amount more by the same photographer. The pictures were taken by an A Woman called Vivian Maier, who had worked as a nanny in Chicago, had a very shadowy and reclusive background. There is some evidence that she  potentially suffered significant trauma as a young person. Her vast collection of extraordinarily photographs are a powerful tribute to her creative talent, and since they were discovered her pictures have been exhibited around every major gallery in the United States and Europe, but only after her death. What is sad about this, is that her images remained hidden until after her death.

Having a particular interest in art, and I have become aware that the talent of many creative people emerges from personal fracture and brokenness. What is heart-breaking is that our reticence to vulnerability also makes the work of some people being more likely to be rejected.

On a coach trip for Ukrainian families last week, I was sat next to a man on one of the coaches, who originally came from Iraq, and had then lived in Ukraine for ten years with his Ukrainian wife. In Ukraine he was a qualified doctor, while in the UK he was sat on a bus filled with other Ukrainian refugees. His English was very good, yet his anxiety was waiting for the results of an English exam, imposed on him by the British government. He referenced some of the terms that he had been asked to understand, and he was not alone, because I didn't understand them either. There is a shortage of skilled Doctors in our country, so much so that trying to have a conversation in with a medical professional is really difficult. There is no danger of this man having his qualifications recognised in the UK, but we did move on to me talking with him about the treatment of my type 1 diabetes, for which he gave me some very solid  advice indeed. 

 

It appears that this man’s qualifications in medicine are unlikely to be recognised in the UK, and equally, some of our politicians have done their best to discourage skilled migrant professionals from sharing the riches of their talents in our country. Our treasure is well hidden in barns

 

I think of all the treasure of talent in our nation that is not recognised in the young and the old, those whose faces don’t fit, or those whose inner treasure is skipped in youth because of our deeply flawed educational assessment system. The freedom to learn, to create, to develop, is ultimately bourgeois. Great musicians, great artists, and great dancers are often successful because they are in their parents have the space, the time, and the financial resources to nurture those skills. Who knows what genuine gifts are lost because their treasure is not properly cultivated.  As perhaps we have seen, the negative experiences of such young people have the potential to be far greater because of the circumstances in which they have grown. .

 

History records the achievements of great men. After all it was men who composed that history, while the voices of women were largely, how shall  put it, hidden in barns. There were some great writers who were women. How about George Eliot, George Sand, and Isek Dinesen, who wrote ‘Out of Africa.’ I suppose you already know that George Elliot was actually Mary Anne Evans, George Sand was actually Amantine-Lucile-Aurore, and Isek’s real name was Karen Blixen. The tragedy is that these great women's work would not not have been published unless they had adopted male pseudonyms.

 

I was privileged enough to have been present when the barn doors were opened on the first batch of women priests in the UK. The voices of women were, for the first time, liberated in the Anglican Church, though many still struggle to have their voices recognised, even in the 21st century.

 

Luke’s Gospel, alongside the fourth Gospel, does all it can to liberate those, including women, who are treated as worthless in our communities. In Luke 1:46-50. In the Magnificat Mary declares the God, in Christ has brought down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. 

 

Although the name ‘Luke’ is never used in the original text of Scripture, it would be lovely to think that just perhaps, a lowly woman was hidden behind the text of the third Gospel. Probably not, but who knows for sure?

 

God the liberator, in Christ seems to prioritise the breaking down of barns and the liberation of treasure. God could not fulfil his covenant with Abraham, that through him he bless the nations, until he had liberated Israel from Slavery in Egypt. He could bring about his new creation until he had liberated Christ from the tomb on Easter Sunday, and now he calls us to find the lost sheep (Matthew 10:18-14), dig up the hidden treasure in the filled (Matthew 13:44-46), and recognise that God can raise up a people from the stones on the floor of the wilderness (Matthew 3:9)

 

The Kingdom of God will be a place where the weakest, the most lowly, and the least can be filled to overflowing with the Spirit of life and light. Nobody is worthless, every individual old or young, male or female, Jew and Gentile, Christ is in all and through all, and we, the church are called not to be complacent, but instead we are called to liberate the treasure by recognising that nobody is worthless, everybody has powerful gifts to offer in the church and in society. We must not, like the man in the parable, hide this treasure away in barns.

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