October 11, 2021, What Must I Do to Inherit Eternal Life, Mark 10:17-31 – guest speaker Helen Harris

Recently, a person I know was pre-planning their funeral service which
many of us have done. They were picking out their favorite scriptures
and hymns. They kiddingly asked for the hymn, “Here I come Lord,”
where the actual title is “Here I am Lord.” This person is one we call a
snowbird, who is very fortunate to be able to go to the warmer climates
in the winter months.
In today’s gospel, we learn about a young man who is a wealthy person
with many possessions. The young man approaches Jesus, kneeling
before him, asking how he can inherit eternal life.
The man claims that he has been a good person all of his life and obeyed
the commandments. Jesus responded to him that only God is good and
that even if he has kept all the commandments, he still lacks a
relationship with God.
Jesus looked at him with love, and identified in him (and us) the
challenge of going past the letter of the law to his spirit. Jesus sees in
this man what is true for so many of us: we lack the willingness to lay
our lives on the altar as living sacrifices to God (Rom 12.1-2).
Jesus offers this man a call to discipleship, inviting the man to give up
all that makes up his identity and status in the world giving it to the poor
and to follow him. But because of his great wealth, the man leaves in
sadness, he just can’t give it all up.
Possessions can interfere with the more important need to follow Jesus,
as a disciple along the way that will lead to a cross.
Have you ever collected something special throughout your life? Many
of us have. I have a special collection of angels. I know of one special
person who likes to collect glass ware. We all have some unique item
that we admire and have saved throughout the years.
However, when we reach a certain age, we find ourselves wanting to
begin to sort through our years of “stuff.” We want to down size.
Would you be able to sell all you have, and give it to the poor to enter
the kingdom of heaven?
The disciples were somewhat confused with the rich man leaving the
way he did, but were given hope for salvation and riches for they were
not wealthy. They had in fact given up everything, the comfort of their
homes and families and friends, a place to sleep at night, everything they
had of value to follow Jesus.
The rich man wouldn’t give up his great wealth for eternal life and
follow Jesus. “The disciples asked the Lord what reward they would
have in heaven, since they had given up everything to follow Him?”
Jesus promised that those things the disciples held dear, but gave up to
follow Him, would be rewarded 100-fold in this life. God, who sees the
heart, will reward accordingly.
Jesus uses the statement that “it is easier for a camel to go through the
eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Those
who are too tied to their earthly wealth will struggle to enter the
Kingdom of God. In fact, it is so hard for that to happen that it’s more
likely that a camel will magically thread itself through the eye of a
needle! In other words, if your god is your stuff and your status, then
you have kept yourself outside of God’s Kingdom.
So, to enter the Kingdom of God and to truly become a disciple of Jesus is to let Christ be in charge, allowing him to tell you what to do with your time, talents, and treasures, obeying both the letter and the spirit of his commands, becoming a living sacrifice and taking up one’s cross and following him. St. Francis of Assisi gave his dedication to turn over everything he had to God’s control. Francis had a lot in common with the rich man, but he responded differently to God’s invitation to give away his wealth (an act his dad was not happy about). One story highlights his obedience: Francis gave away his cloak quite often and he was finally ordered by a superior to stop. Coming upon a man who needed a cloak soon after, Francis said to him, “I cannot give you this cloak, but perhaps if you took it from me…” The disciples are an example of those who may be first, and they happened to be poor (but their poverty was not what makes them first in heaven). The rich young ruler is an example of those who may be last, and he happened to be rich (but his wealth was not what makes him last). Jesus doesn’t say that the wealthy cannot be saved; rather, He teaches all things are possible with God! It doesn’t matter who may be first or who may be last, it will only matter when we say: “Here I Am Lord.” Amen.

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