Oct. 14, 2018 Let go, let God, and get going!
And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.”
My dear friend Frances has pretty much quit going out of town- even to visit life-long buddies and grandchildren. The reason?
Her health? No, she’s fit and active, already had her flu shot. Finances? No. she has a comfortable retirement plan(still holding its own) and a fairly new car. Her tires are road worthy, her commitments few…yet still she stays home because it’s just too much trouble to go.
Just to leave for the weekend she reports, “I’d have to unplug the Kuerig, check the surge protector for the TV/laptop- water all the plants arrange for someone to pick up the paper and mail, water and feed the cat, (she takes the dog), make sure the timer is set for the sprinkler and front porch light, activate the alarm system, gas up the car, check the oil, windshield wiper fluid, and---what if UPS delivers my package?
To paraphrase Jesus’ words in today’s gospel: And Jesus looking at her, loved her and said,
“Frances, let go, let God and get going.”
Frances’s story is another version of the story we just heard from the gospel of Mark. The story told by Mark is your story and my story, and in fact the story of all who are blessed with gifts and talents and resources and a life with God and God’s people. You are the man in the story, I am the man in the story.
And perhaps Frances’ story is your story too. I know it’s my story -
I’ve exercised every one of her carefully thought out precautions protecting my possessions - usually with little recognition for the heaviness of the load.
The man who goes down in history as the Rich Man was as captive to his possessions as we. He had everything that he could possibly want, the good life of the first century. He had obeyed the commandments all his life, yet something was missing. He did not feel satisfied. So he unplugs the Kuerig, sets all the timers, gives the fig trees a good watering and runs up to Jesus on his journey.
He needs one more thing so he kneels and asks: What must I do to inherit eternal life?
This entire chunk of Mark (Mark 10:17-31) hangs on the question of eternal life. The rich man wants to know how to get it. The disciples want to know who can have it. And the good news that Jesus offers is this:
For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
This story is one of the healing stories in this gospel. For the rich man runs up to Jesus and kneels, just as countless others have done throughout the Book of Mark. The scene is set for him to request and receive healing. His running and kneeling show that his request is both urgent and sincere.
But he is the one person in the entire book who rejects the healing offered him.
“Jesus, looking at him, loved him,” Mark says. Matthew and Luke leave this out. But Mark, always spare with words, takes the space to note that Jesus loves this man. He offers him healing.
“You lack one thing; go and sell what you own, and give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me.”
In Mark, the word “go” is used almost exclusively in the healing stories.
What is the healing that this man needs? This man is possessed- by his possessions. Jesus is offering to free him of his possessions, to cure him of his excess. But the rich man turns his back. He had been willing to pay any price but he will not surrender.
The cost of discipleship is too high.
He would have done anything, except lighten his burden and allow himself to be healed.
I am told that in India there is a traditional method used by hunters to trap monkeys. Half of a coconut shell is placed over some food that the monkey would want. A hole is carved in the shell just big enough for the monkey’s hand to enter but not big enough for the hand to come out while grasping the food. The monkey comes along and goes straight for that food. It will hang on for dear life, clutching the food and trapping itself with its own unrelenting greed.
And Jesus looking at us grasping and clutching the very things that will be our undoing, LOVES us.
He says, “Let go, let God and get going.”
Jesus knew well that we material people in our material world need to act. Therefore he gave the man a very specific set of instructions, action words meant to mobilize him- GO - SELL - GIVE - COME - FOLLOW
He needed to take action to become part of the Kingdom, part of the journey of Jesus.
Jesus calls him to get up from his knees and get moving. Yet the man says no. He trusts more in his possessions than in the promise of a new security in Christ. He is lulled into the self-sufficiency of the material.
As he walks away, Jesus says, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God.”
Eugene Peterson’s version says, “How difficult it is for people who have it all to enter the kingdom of God.”
Some of the manuscripts read, “How hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the Kingdom of God.”
Indeed trusting in those riches is what the issue is all about. The man could not relinquish his trust in riches long enough to pull his hand through that hole and put his hand in the hand of Jesus.
The disciples asks the question that is on our minds as well: “Then who can be saved?”
An our Lord looks at us and says, ”For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
None of us can make that leap alone.
None of us.
”For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” ]
It is only possible by God’s grace that precedes and follows us.
What a gift it is to hear this passage in the midst our season of stewardship. A season when we have taken as our theme:
God’s Invitation: Joining God at Work in the World.
It is a healing theme after all, isn’t it, just as this story is ultimately about restoring our health? For everything else that may be said about that loaded word ”stewardship” we may confidently say this:
Jesus invites us to participate in God’s generosity.
To open our hands to receive God’s good gifts and then to share them as we join God at work in the world. As we journey with Jesus, who looks each one of us in the eye, we let go, let God and get going.
Each baptism proclaims how the impossible becomes possible. For at baptism, God claims us as his possessions.
Child of God, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever.
In the gift of baptism God signs us and seals us with the maker’s mark: Not a dollar sign of achievement but a cross.
The cross- the sign of everything come to nothing and nothing become everything.
At each baptism, we proclaim the glorious impossible made possible when we stand to welcome the newly baptized:
We receive you into the household of God
Confess the faith of Christ crucified
Proclaim his resurrection
And share with us in his eternal priesthood.
Now that’s worth leaving the house!
10/23/2018 - Proper 23 - Year B - The Reverend Anne Bridgers