Tag Archives: worldly possessions

Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 23B

Track 1: Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Job 23:1-9, 16-17
Psalm 22:1-15
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

Job had a complaint against God. He felt like God had abandoned him. From Job we read:

“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!

I would lay my case before him,
and fill my mouth with arguments.

I would learn what he would answer me,
and understand what he would say to me.

Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?
No; but he would give heed to me.

There an upright person could reason with him,
and I should be acquitted forever by my judge.   (Job 23::2-7)

There may be times in our lives when feel that God has abandoned us. But has he? King David wrote this famous psalm:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
   He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
    he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff —
    they comfort me.   (Psalm 23:1-4)

We remember the many challenges that David had in his life. King Saul tried to kill him on more than one occasion. Yet, David never gave up on God. He put his whole trust in God alone. The enemy wants to defeat us and destroy. One of his primary ways is through discouragement. That is when we need to trust the word of God perhaps the most. From Hebrews we read:

Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper;
    I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?”   (Hebrews 13:5-6)

The Apostle Paul writes:

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.   (Romans 8:31-35, 37)

There was only one time when God ever abandoned anyone. It was when Jesus cried out from the cross:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?  (Psalm 22:1)

Some have said that Jesus was just quoting from the Twenty-second Psalm. This is one interpretation, but I believe that much more was going on here. The Twenty-second Psalm was prophetic. It described a crucifixion in detail when such punishment was not yet invented by the Romans. Rather, was it not that God did actually abandon his Son when his Son bore all the sins of the world upon himself? The ultimate punishment for sin is separation from God. The is what Jesus bore for us so that we might never be abandoned by God. And because Jesus did this for us we are able to call upon him in times of need.

From Hebrews:

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 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.   (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Great is the mercy of God. Great is the sacrifice of his Son. Can we not exercise our faith in such a great God? Can we not put our whole trust in him? In life there will be tests and trials. Jesus said:

The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”   (John 16:32-33)

 

 

 

christ-rich-young-ruler-hofmann-1020802-gallery-noticeTrack 2: The Rich Young Man

Amos 5:6-7,10-15
Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

What does it mean to be a seeker of God and his kingdom? Today, we have the illustration of the right young man. From Mark:

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.   (Mark 10:17-22)

The young man was sincere in his quest for the kingdom. He tried to keep the commandments of God. Jesus realized that and he love him for it. (He love us all, but he has a special love tor those who seek to do God’s will). But Jesus required him to do something that was unexpected. He had to go and sell all that he had. The young man’s response was very telling. He could not so what Jesus had asked him even though he wanted to do so.

What was wrong? Was the man’s wealth a problem? Again, from Mark:

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.”   (Mark 10:23-27)

It would seem that the disciples of Jesus might have had a “prosperity gospel.” No, in the case of the young man and in any case, money is not the problem. It was something more. The young man had many possessions. Whether or not we are rich or poor, we can all have too many possessions. The danger is that we become possessed by our possessions. Rather than owning them, they own us! In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus warned:

Do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.   (Matthew 6:31-33)

Notice that in today’s reading from Mark, Jesus did not say it is impossible for the rich alone to enter the kingdom of God. He said:  “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” Whether rich or poor we need God’s help and grace. But we need to make a step in his direction. We cannot allow our possessions to be all important. We must understand that God is the true treasure. He is the one we seek. From Jeremiah we read:

When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,   (Jeremiah 29:13)

Jesus understands our worldly distractions. He understands our temptations. He alone can help prepare us for the kingdom of God.

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 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.   (Hebrews 4:14-16)

How much do we seek the kingdom of God? Do we seek it more than our possessions? All we have to do, if that is so, is to be honest with God about it. He is more than capable of doing the rest for us.

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through ourLord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

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Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B

Follow Me

There are times when the call of God may interrupt our lives. This was true for Simon and his brother Andrew. From today’s Gospel we read:

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. (Mark 1:16-20)

These fishermen left their nets and their livelihood to follow a man whose purpose and direction was unknown to them. Nevertheless, they were able to put their trust in him.

The Prophet Jonah was called by God to go to the city of Nineveh. In this case, Johan understood what God was asking but he did not like it. As we remember, he ran in the other direction from Nineveh. Nineveh was a notorious city. It was hated by the Jews for good reason. How could God be asking him to preach revival to this city Jonah must have thought.

When God calls us he does not easily give up. From Jonah we read:

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.   (Jonah 3:1-5)

God may give us impossible assignments. If the calling is from God then it is guaranteed to be impossible without his help. What is amazing about many biblical examples of the calling of God led to the fulfillment of impossible tasks. Nonetheless, the obedience of those who were called was absolutely essential.

What keeps us from obeying the call of God? We remember the rich young man who wanted to follow Jesus but had too many possessions to give up. God has blessed our nation. Worldly possessions may just be a hindrance to us in answering God’s call.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.   (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)

Paul was saying: ignore the circumstances in which you may find yourself. This world is passing away anyway. Follow God.

Our obedience to God can help to bring great changes in the lives of others. When God calls us he calls us for a reason. His reason is well beyond ourselves. Do we value his agenda more than our own? Do we love others the way he loves us?

In the case of Noah, a great city was saved:

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.   (Jonah 3:10)

Our calling may not be as significant as Noah’s. We may not think that we are great prophets or preachers, but who are we to say? Some of the apostles were simple fishermen. The important thing is that they were obedient to their calling and their calling changed the whole world.

The Season of the Epiphany is a time to listen to God. What is he asking us to do? If it were not important he would not be asking us.

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