The Gospel: Mark 10:17-31
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
"Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works" The Collect for the 20th Sunday after PentecostI was struck by the words of the Collect and how they remind me of the words of St Patrick's Breastplate. I am going to quote a couple of the stanzas of that poem to begin this morning.
"I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.
I arise today, through
God's strength to pilot me,
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I have printed out copies of the complete version of St Patrick's Breastplate and those are available on the table just inside the Sanctuary where you collected your Bulletin this morning.
Patrick's Breastplate and The Collect remind us of the relationship which is at the heart of our Christian faith. "Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works."
Grace is at the heart of Christian faith and discipleship. So, as we approach our readings this morning we have to ask ourselves the question: "What is our motivation, for the things that we do and say in living a life of faith?"
If we are responding to God's grace we will find ourselves activated, we find ourselves desiring to do those things which otherwise would be burdensome. It will no longer be a matter of needing to know what is expected of us, or what we will gain. It will no longer be about what will garner us the best reward, or how we can protect what we have.
We will understand that we have received God's grace and we will want to respond out of gratitude and thankfulness.
Job and Psalm 90 remind us what life would be like without the opportunity of a relationship with God. Job feels abandoned and he describes his desolation at not being able to plead his case before God. In the Psalm, we hear how we must be prepared to experience all that God has for us, both good and bad, and how that is better than being separated from God. Job is a fascinating character, isn't he? Job is described in Job 1:1 "That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil." Then in Job 1: 8 the Lord actually points out Job to Satan. "The Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.'”
I don't know about you but I am quite content with my role and opportunities in life. I will be very happy if God doesn't ever point me out to Satan as he does with Job, thank you very much. Here we see and hear Job lament that he has lost his connection with God.
"Today also my complaint is bitter;
his hand is heavy despite my groaning.
Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
that I might come even to his dwelling!" Job 23: 2-3
"If I go forward, he is not there;
or backward, I cannot perceive him;
on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him;
I turn to the right, but I cannot see him." Job 23: 8-9
What happens in Job is the stripping away of all that Job has, the laying bare of his heart. The truth of who Job is is revealed in the process of Satan's unrelenting affliction of Job. Then in Psalm 90, which is attributed to Moses, we hear that same cry of isolation and separation from God. "Return, O Lord; how long will you tarry?"
And in an interesting response to that desolate feeling, the author cries out to God and pleads that the people would understand that God is the source of all that they have experienced: "Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil."
We know and experience God's grace when we have truly experienced the depth of the isolation and desolation it is to not have him in our lives.
Unfortunately, I believe we can fool ourselves that we can get by without God. We often forget what a blessing it is to have his abiding presence with us. We think that God won't notice or won't think we are significant enough for him to spend any time concerning himself with what we are up to in our lives.
We often forget how important we are to the Lord. We need to remind ourselves of what Psalm 8: 3-6 says about how the Lord sees us:
"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet."
The reading from Hebrews, this morning, highlights for us what it is like to be known by God. In an interesting use of imagery, the author of Hebrews uses the words "The word of God." We are challenged to understand and remember that this refers to not only the written word but also the "word made flesh - Jesus." If we are ready, willing, and open then we can experience the discernment of the Lord in our lives. "The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account." Do you hear the echo of the passage from Job in this reading?
Then the author of Hebrews reminds us of the grace that we live under when we are in relationship with Jesus.
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
That last part of the reading is worth repeating: "so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Grace, grace it is all about grace!
So, at last, we come to the Gospel for this morning. I am not going to spend a lot of time here. My hope is that you will take the readings home today and you will apply what I have talked about in Job, Psalm 90, and Hebrews to the three passages from Mark.
What do we learn about the "rich young ruler" when we look at this passage through the lens of what we have learned from Job, Psalm 90, and Hebrews this morning? What does the rich young ruler understand about himself after his encounter with the "living word of God in Jesus?"
When we consider Jesus' words in the second passage from Mark's Gospel this morning what do we learn when we apply what we have heard from the readings from Job, Psalm 90, and Hebrews?
And finally, when we look at the third passage from Mark's Gospel what can we learn about where our hearts are in our relationship and service of Christ? We are back to the question of motivation, for the things that we do and say in living a life of faith?" Are we responding to God's grace? Do we find ourselves activated, do we find ourselves desiring to do those things which otherwise would be burdensome? Is it no longer a matter of needing to know what is expected of us, or what we will gain? Is it no longer about what will garner us the best reward, or how we can protect what we have?
Bishops & Father Mike