Thoughts on Mark 10:17-27

Jesus has a way of getting my absolute attention, even now.

It isn’t with the suggestion that followers may need to rid themselves of all material possessions so they might follow –

a notion that comes across quite plainly in our gospel lesson –

No, Jesus gets my attention with one phrase:

How hard it is to enter the kingdom of heaven!  So important – he repeats himself.

Now, those whose job it is to assemble our Bible from the many ancient sources – the bits and pieces that survive from the time of their writing – indicate (in my Bible, at least) that some of those ancient sources record Jesus saying “how hard for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom” – emphasizing the “sell all you have…” sub-text – but it is the difficulty of the task that brings me up short.

Rich or poor – righteous or sinner – the kingdom Jesus helps us imagine does not come easily to us

Sure, it’s easy for us to point fingers – to explain away the difficulties according to our situation:

the rich cannot understand because it is something they can’t buy…

And the poor cannot comprehend because they have known only difficulty and distress

(And if you are in between,and try to explain the immense gulf between the rich and the poor in terms of God’s gracious goodness, you are left with more doubt than ever.)

But we cannot overlook that it is hard to appreciate – to accept –

to enter the kingdom of God if anything Jesus says is taken seriously.

Many who are first, will be last and the last will be first…

No one who leaves behind, not only things, but people whom they treasure,

Will be disappointed in this Kingdom…

Do you remember what you thought when you first heard these words:

“Go – sell what you own and give the money to the poor –

then come follow me…”

It sounded impossible to me – sounded like a closed door; locked and guarded – and I wasn’t going through.  There are things I need – people I can’t do without – I couldn’t imagine what this kingdom would look like, nor why I would want to be a part of it…

It sounded like a gypsy existence;  living hand to mouth, wandering from town to town,

totally dependent on God, whom you cannot see, touch or fully know.

And it is total dependence that Jesus preaches – total commitment, total engagement –

and that is HARD boys and girls.

Some of you will be getting nervous – sounds like Lackie is about to lower the boom –

But this is Good News I am charged with preaching –

God’s purpose in, with and for Jesus is (ultimately) our redemption –

and that is THE GOOD NEWS –

but too often, we expect good news to be easy:

easy to hear, easy to accomplish – easy to live with –

and that is rarely the case.

The best news I ever got – once both my children had safely entered the world –was that I had been accepted back into University.  I could finish my degree- embark on the path towards Ordination –  Great news, indeed.  At the ripe old age of 33, I had finally grown up and decided what to do with my life – know what that meant?

Seven years of part-time, correspondence courses; while working full time and preaching part time, and coming to terms with being a family of four, not three.  It did not make our lives easier.  And when I finished, four more years – this time, commuting to and from Toronto, while working full time in a congregation and watching our eldest work her way through high school –

Good news – Absolutely (wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.)  Easy? Not a bit.

I don’t want you to think that I am offering myself as an example of self-denial.

I’m not.  I didn’t give up anything vital –

I haven’t faced hunger or homelessness or persecution

because of my choice to pursue my vocation.

I struggle with the suggestion that Jesus asks us to abandon loved ones (read vs. 29 carefully) for the hope of heavenly reward.  But I totally understand his urging this “wealthy man” to rid himself of all earthly distractions.

As long as we believe that we are somehow in charge of our own happiness, we will not appreciate the gift that God is offering us in Christ.

As long as our focus is on the collection and protection of what we consider necessities, we will never be able to see the brokenness in and around us;

never have room for compassion, or the time to reach out in love to serve one another.

How hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God –

to set aside our ambition and expectations and live lives of service and gratitude.

How hard to turn away from the “get more quicker” attitudes

that drive our economy and rule our decisions.

How hard to trust that God has our best interest in mind,

if only we could lay aside our insecurity and really let ourselves follow Jesus,

who lived in the sure and certain knowledge

that the power of God can sustain life,  change life – even to restore life.

So let us start today – here at this table.

Trust that here, you will be fed and satisfied.

Here, we will find strength for our spiritual journey.

Here we will meet Jesus, and be encouraged to follow him.  Amen.

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