“How Much Land Does a Man Need?”
A mediation by Andrew Philip Long
The First Presbyterian Church of Enid, OK
November 19, 2017: Thanksgiving Sunday
Once upon a time there was successful farmer who was not satisfied with his lot in life. He wanted more of everything. Even though he had acquired a lot of land in his life, he wanted more. He wanted more power. He wanted more control. He wanted to be right. He wanted to be on top.
One day the farmer received an offer he could not refuse. For 1000 dollars, the man could buy all the land he could walk around in a day. The only catch in was that he had to be back at the starting point by sundown. He could claim as big a piece of land as he could walk around in one day, but if he didn’t arrive back at the place he started, he got nothing. Of course he could never pass up an opportunity like this one.
So early the next morning, he set out walking at a fast pace. Just think of the land that could be his if he could keep that pace all day. So he pressed on, fueled by the thought of adding all that land to his inventory. What might he do with it? Run cattle? Grow crops? It didn’t matter, really. The important thing was that he would own it. He would increase his wealth and his status because he would be the lord over all that extra land. Just the thought of it kept him going.
He actually kept his pace for a few hours, but by late morning, he was growing a little weary. His shoes were beginning to rub, and he noticed that the sun was moving higher and higher overhead. He had to pinch himself to remember his purpose. All that land. All that extra status and power.
By midday he was getting really tired, but he kept going, he kept moving forward, covering more and more ground. On into the afternoon he pressed, until the sun was completely overhead and the day was excruciatingly hot.
But, the farmer eventually realize that his eagerness to own more had taken him a long distance from the starting point. In fact, he began to realize that he was in trouble…the thought occurred to him for the first time that he might have covered so much land that he not be able to make it back in time. So once more he quickened his pace. He dug deep and he pressed on. And as the sun began to sink low in the sky, he started running, knowing that if he didn’t make it back by sundown, the entire deal would be lost, the opportunity to become an even bigger landholder would dissolve right in front of him.
The day started drawing to a close. As the sun began to sink below the horizon the man came within sight of the finish line. He could see the end of the journey, with it’s prize, right out in front of him.
Gasping for breath, his heart pounding, he called upon every bit of strength left in his body and he staggered across the finish line just before the sun disappeared. But because he had driven himself past the point of exhaustion, he immediately collapsed—there he lay in a heap, his heart struggling to beat in rhythm. In a few minutes he was dead.
Not too long after, his friends dug him a grave. And you know what? It was about six fix long and three feet wide and five feet deep.
In the end, because of his greed, because of his lust for power and control, it turned out the only amount of land the farmer had any use for was a piece of earth the size of his own grave.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Thanksgiving Sunday we have a profound opportunity. Like the leper in the Gospel lesson today, we have the opportunity to return to the Lord, giving thanks for all that we have received. In giving thanks, we end the vicious cycle of constant consumption, constant lust, constant desire for the newest, the biggest, and the best. Gratitude reminds us of the many blessings of this life, and it places those blessings directly in front of us, where we can see that there is nothing more we could possibly need or want.
At the end of your pew you will find paper leaves and pens. I invite you now to consider all the things you are thankful for this year. Write each thing on a leaf. Use two or three or four—use as many as you need. When you are finished, bring them forward and we will string them together and hang them on this tree. This tree of gratitude will be a reminder of all the things God has done for us, and it will call us to be at peace with who we are and what we have. Give thanks to the Lord, for the Lord is good; God’s love endures forever!