Proper 23 Year B, October 14, 2018, Rev. Otto S. Anderson, Deacon
Amos 5:6-7,10-15, Psalm 90:12-17 Hebrews 4:12-16, Mark 10:17-31
Wealth and possessions…do we own them, or do they own us? Yesterday, I felt owned
by my house, especially, the hot water heating system. Temperatures in the house
hovered at 60 on Saturday morning, because the gas burner would not ignite. Hours
were spent worrying and trying to fix the problem…hours were taken away from other
things, things planned, like sermon writing…but maybe that was a good thing, most
of you prefer shorter sermons
In our Gospel, Jesus uses that two-edge sword from our Hebrews reading to lay bare
the man seeking to find the formula for eternal life. Jesus seems harsh. He asks: “why
do you call me good, only God is good”. Then he tells him to sell his possessions and
give the money to the poor… and then follow Him. While Jesus may have been rough
on the man, he still does love him, he does sympathize with his weaknesses, even as
he sends him away to grieve over his earthly treasures and, hopefully, to contemplate
his next steps
Why did the man approach Jesus in the first place, and what was behind his question?
The man probably had some inkling, some understanding of who Jesus was and that’s
why he approached him and called him “Good Teacher”. While the man had many
earthly possessions, he, also claimed to have followed the commandments about
murder, adultery, stealing or fraud, false witness; and honoring parents; those
commandments are focused on our earthly relationships.
Maybe the man recognized he truly needed to work on his relationship with God or
possibly, to improve his relationships with neighbors, and that is why he approached
Jesus. Or, from my cynical side, he could have been just trying to figure out God’s
minimum requirements for getting in, while holding fast to the things of this earth and he
heard that Jesus may have the answer.
Jesus cuts through his question and sees into his heart. Jesus sees the possessions
and the possessed. He lovingly gives the man and he gives to all of us the path to the
kingdom here on earth and beyond. Jesus Calls: “Give up the things that possess you”,
“Give to your neighbor”, and “Follow Me”.
Jesus’ interaction with the man left his disciples in a state of shock. Wealth and power
in the First Century, were considered blessings from God and here Jesus is, once
again, reversing a commonly held belief of the time. They wonder if these “blessed
persons” can’t make it into the kingdom of God, who on this earth can? Jesus tells all of
us “for human beings, on our own, it is impossible to enter the Kingdom, but that is not
the case when we walk with God; …all things are possible with God” Jesus
acknowledges how hard it is for us on our own to detach ourselves from those earthly
things and those earthly values, especially in this current materialistic world.
Peter speaks up and tells Jesus that he and the other disciples have done exactly what
Jesus told the man to do, to leave everything they had: family, friends, jobs, homes… to
follow Him. Was Peter boasting or was he looking for reassurance from Jesus that he
had chosen the right path? A little of both probably. Jesus cuts him off and promises
both the good things of this earth, family, houses and fields but, also the bad things, to
be persecuted because he and the other disciples have chosen to follow him.
In our Gospel story, the issue for the man, for the Disciples and for us is not wealth or
possessions, it is about how wealth and possessions control us and effect our
connecting with God. Our Gospel calls us to think, to pray on those things of this earth
that prevent us, that holds us back from enjoying a full relationship with God.
It reminds us of the opportunity afforded us: each-and-every day, every minute of our
lives, that is, to turn and reorient our lives to the path God intends for us. Yes, that may
mean shedding material/earthly things or repurposing those things to further Gods
kingdom on this earth. For, it is far better to give up the earthly things than it is to give
up on life everlasting.