the one about letting go...
October 15, 2018, 12:00 AM

Sermon from October 14, 2018

Text: Mark 10:17-31

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, I want to get one thing out there first before we dive into our Gospel text this morning. Some of it may come as a relief to some and a shock to others. Jesus this morning is not, necessarily chastising those who are wealthy. He’s not. He doesn’t say here that wealth is bad. He doesn’t say that those who are rich cannot enter into the kingdom of God upon his return. Jesus doesn’t say any of that. In fact, Jesus speaks to this man (and the disciples) out of love. Not out of condemnation, not out of guilt, not out of any sense of ridicule. Jesus speaks and invites this man into a deeper life of faith out of pure love for him.

However, what Jesus does say – in that same love – is that those who are wealthy, who have many things, and who live by the world’s standard of ‘greatness’ will indeed find difficulty entering into the kingdom of God.

It appears that what Jesus is trying to say is that those who find value in how the world values life have great difficulty living into and living out God’s grace and love that is a part of being in the kingdom of God.

The wealthy man and Peter both believe that what they’ve done in the past and their current riches will outshine all others and distract Jesus from what they lack. For the wealthy man, what he lacks is giving and caring for those around him. What he lacks is knowing his salvation rests solely in God shown and brought to us through Jesus, not in the ‘things’ that he has. For he has many possessions and the absolute worst thing (and most difficult task) that Jesus could set before him is to give up all that he possesses in order to follow him.

A few years ago, I was able to talk to and help a gentleman who continually came to the church for help. For the most part, he was a good guy. He just wasn’t very good with his finances. We helped him out here and there, mostly with food and ice from the Family Life Center. After about the fourth time of him coming in, I sat him down and we had a heart-to-heart conversation.

He always dressed well, he was clean, and wore really good smelling cologne. His van was always neat, shiny, and so forth. I asked him, if he could afford all of these things, why was it difficult for him to buy food, gas, etc… for him to live off.

Well, he told me. He was indeed saving money as much as he could, but a lot of his funds were going to pay for a storage unit he had which was holding all his stuff before he could move into a facility for those 65 and older (he was eclipsing that age soon after this conversation he said). I asked him about what sort of things he was holding in this storage unit. He said, “Well, my stuff. Extra clothes, a few family heirlooms, some furniture, and a 75-inch plasma TV with an equally awesome sound system.”

“Wait. You’re coming to me and the church for help – and you’re literally holding onto a TV in a storage unit that cannot and does not (currently) entertain you at all? You need to sell that TV.”

“Pastor, I can’t do that, I love my shows!”

“I love TV too. But, you could probably sell that for a good sum of money, enough to hold you over until you get into that facility and then with some extra funds, buy a smaller TV so you can still enjoy your shows when you have a home to watch it in.

I don’t know whether he sold that TV and sound system, but he did (for one reason or another) stop coming around the church asking for help.

But, his story reminded me about the man Jesus speaks with in our reading this morning. For the man I talked to, his identity was wrapped up in that stuff. Without that ‘stuff’ who was he? There was a sense of pride and accomplishment (no matter how clouded it might have been) in possessing that large of a television set. I’m sure it was a good one. At that time, they really didn’t make truly ‘terrible’ 75+ inch TVs.

But, the mere thought of letting that item go stopped him cold. He was visibly shaken when I proposed the idea of selling it. How could I possibly think of that – there must be another way? In his attempt to ‘impress’ me and others with his possessions, he was the one distracted in his life. He couldn’t understand that letting that go would allow him to live more fully and freely in the life that God has gifted him. Where he could not only care for himself, but possibly care for others too.

Without the weight and distraction of an unplugged and unused television set, he could potentially follow Jesus that much more closely. Not that possessing the TV was bad, but it was the great millstone around his neck that prevented him seeing God’s value of him. For he believed (I’m almost certain) that his value was wrapped up in that thing and not in God’s love for him.

Much like the wealthy man prided himself not only in his possessions, but also in his ability to uphold the law. Without realizing that living into the law frees us to live and care for others by serving God more fully and deeply.

Peter too at times (not only in this passage, but more so in other places) loses sight of what Jesus is asking. What he lacks is the notion that God finds value in ways that the world does not. Even in the midst of his faithful discipleship, he still needs to let go of the world’s value system and live into the love and care that God already has for him and the world. A love that has begun at creation and isn’t influenced by how much stuff you have or what rules you’ve followed.

He indeed has given up so much. However, for as much as the disciples live into and follow Jesus (they left homes and families to do so) they are still blinded by the prospect of ‘blessings and worldly things’ to come to them because of their devotion to Jesus as his closest and foremost followers. They too fall into the trap that the world ensnares us in – that riches, wealth, and more follow those who ‘lead’ in the world. It was only a few short chapters ago that they were arguing over which one of them was the greatest – the one who would lead this little band of the faithful after Jesus dies – the one that would get the accolades, the gifts, and more that were due the one who brings others into this kingdom of God.

Another story. We know that monkeys are pretty similar to us, in fact, we come from them – it’s pretty apparent. And as much as we like to believe that we’ve evolved so far in advancement of them, we still have to realize that there is so much that we share between our species.

Do you know how to catch a monkey? Put a shiny object or some food into a small gourd. Tie that gourd to a tree or stake it into the ground. A monkey will reach in, grab it, won’t let go, and won’t be able to get its hand out of the container.

If that monkey lets go, it’ll be able to free its hand and go about its life. If it lets go of its object of desire, it’ll be able to live fully and freely into the life God has gifted to it.

But, many won’t. They want that prize. They desire to hold on to their precious. Some will hold onto it for so long and be so consumed by ‘wanting it’ that they can literally starve themself. It becomes consumed by the prospect of possessing this object that it will cease to not only care for itself, but to live into the community around it – no longer caring for those around it. It’s siblings, it’s family, it’s friends. All because it must have this thing.

Our Lord sees us fall into the same sorts of traps in our lives. Where we care more about the ‘things’ we have or the ‘things’ we’ve done to outshine and distract others – even our God – from seeing who we truly are.

Yet, our Lord God sees us for who we are. Sees us as valued, loved, and cared for creations. We are loved so fully and deeply that we are called to follow the one who loves us and to live out our love for others. Caring for them in their needs. Providing for them over ourselves. Not living into the lie and sin of the world that values possessions, wealth, and more over the people around us.

I’m not saying that wealth and possessions are bad or evil, but they can and do blind us to the care and love of not only our God has for us, but our care and love that we are called to live out for those around us. Especially in our relentless zealousness to obtain those possessions – whether it be money, clothes, technology. Our collective fear of missing out. Our ability to overlook all those ways in which we hurt ourselves and others simply to possess ‘that thing’ which we seek and desire.

Our God calls to us to follow the one who lives for others, who calls us to live and care for others; who calls to us out of this deep well of love for all of us because of who we are. For we are beloved children of God.

Don’t be trapped by the world; live into the freedom and love that God has already given to us. Let go. Follow. Live into the life God has for you and for the world. Amen.

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