Just One Thing

Passage: Mark 10:17-31
Date: October 15, 2006
Preacher: Rev David Hutchinson
Guest Preacher:

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Sermon

I have to say - I really feel for this - young man in the scripture reading this morning. And it's NOT - - because he's rich. He just seems like such a nice guy to me. The scripture reading says that - all his life he lived in a good way. He kept all the commandments. We know that - because he says it - but there is no report that anyone disputes it. Jesus is even reported to have looked at him with love.

The word "blameless" comes to mind. If you were here LAST week you might remember Job. Job was the lectionary scripture reading - and the text I preached on. And in the book of Job, Job is called blameless - by God. Job kept all the commandments too. But - you know how THAT story went. He was afflicted with sores and all manner of suffering. So - I would say to this guy in Mark's story - "watch out guy!". Which - is NOT what Jesus says, by the way. Jesus, after looking on him with love for all the good he has done in his life says, "oh, and there's just one more thing I want from you..."

Not too long ago I made two hospital calls in one day. At the time I was in the habit of saying something like, "Is there anything else I can do for you", near the end of the visit. The first of the two people I had visited - responded to my question, after we had prayed for his healing, by saying, "Well - you could get me a good shot of whiskey!"

I said I was sorry that I couldn't do that, and I figured it was an aberration. On my next visit, still in the habit, I asked the question again. Is there anything else I can do for you? This person said, "Well there's a protest against the war today that I have to miss - you could go down there in my place". I started to think that maybe I should hold off on that question. Is there anything else...?

The man in the Gospel reading, though, has more of a motivation to seek an answer than I did. I was just trying to be nice. He is after eternal life. Which I am interested in as well. But let's keep this about the man in the Gospel text.

Who - is such a nice guy - as far as we can tell. Wouldn't it be nice if all our leaders in Washington were like him? People who kept God's commandments all their life.

And not to pick on Washington too much - we all have our own problems after all. Maybe not as scandalous as the recent ones in Washington, but you know what I mean...don't you. Who among us - lives a completely blameless life? No gossip, no lying, etc. etc. etc... I don't know about you - but my sins are ever before me.

The point is, this guy in the Gospel might be kind of a role model. He's a good guy. Not a greedy old corrupt rich guy. Though he IS rich - we are told. He's a nice rich guy. Don't you wish more rich people were like him? Couldn't Paul Allen take a few lessons about philanthropy - from his old buddy Bill Gates and his friend Warren Buffett? You know what I ‘m saying, don't you?

Not that we at Westminster aren't all fairly rich, by world wide standards. But we're such nice people. We try. Like the guy in the Gospel reading. And then we hear Jesus say, "Oh, and there's just one more thing" And we feel a bit downcast.

Possibly, we feel that way about the stewardship campaign. Greg Moore last week did such a great job of inspiring and challenging us - with his image of a hungry horse. He described all the things we try to do at Westminster with passion. And then said, but remember, you can't ride a horse forever without feeding it. Or something like that. This Gospel text sets an even higher standard - than Greg Moore. An even higher standard than Linda Dinan and Elaine Durst the current chairs or our stewardship committee.

In the Gospel text, Jesus says, "You do all these great things at Westminster - but there's - - just one more thing - - ".... No - wait a minute - - - Jesus says to the man in the Gospel text, "You have kept the commandments from your youth - now - you lack ONE THING - go and sell what you have - and give it to the poor - and you will have treasure in heaven." And then it says, that this nice good guy's countenance fell - and he went away sorrowful - for he had GREAT possessions.

And then a few verses later, Jesus says, "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". Pheew. Pretty high standards.

Do you know what Ted Turner said about that text? Do you remember Ted Turner? Back before Warren Buffet. Turner gave away a third of his estate - which was a billion dollar gift. Big deal compared to Buffett. And for both of them - it certainly wasn't everything they had. According to an interview back 8 or 10 years ago - Turner is reported as having said, "The Camels Better Watch Out!"

I don't think the camels have much to worry about, frankly. And Ted should have read the whole chapter, instead of picking and choosing. I think the point of the Gospel reading is that even a billion dollars won't buy your way into heaven.

Anyway - what IS the point of this Gospel reading? And what does it have to do with us? Have you figured any of that out yet?

Let me take a stab at it...

I think it's about the fact that all kinds of things can stand between us - and God. And quite often the things that stand between us and God - are about money. And that even a penny - when you hold it close enough to your eye - can block out the biggest star in the night sky.

Think about your own life. Think about your spending patterns. Consider how you live out your faith through your monthly budget.

I know lots of you do amazingly good things. I think about the things I just mentioned and I know there are some members of this congregation that give lots of money. Some at Westminster have been known to single-handedly give more than $25,000 a year! Many of you give thousands a dollars a year. Thanks be to God! The horse would COLLAPSE without you!

But still - it's my job as a pastor to ask you this: What is standing between you and God? What might be keeping you from your inheritance - which according to the Gospel is - eternal life? Is it money? Are you giving of your resources to help make the world a better place? What is keeping your heart from really loving God?

The man in the Gospel reading for this morning seems to know there is something in his way. Something is separating him from God. And he runs up to Jesus and asks for help. And we know he is a good man. And we know that money does play a big part in his life.

And it's as if Jesus is saying to him, "Your money or your life". Do you remember the old Jack Benny sketch in which a robber comes up to Jack Benny and points a gun at him and says, "Your money or your life!" And then there is a long pause, and Benny's response....is....anyone....."I'm thinking, I'm thinking"

I was told that when the lost city of Pompeii was unearthed - after it had been buried by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in Italy - one skeleton was found with its hand - - clutching - - in a fist - like this. (hold up fist) As the fingers were pried open - gold coins - dropped out. Someone who gave up his life - while clutching his money.

So what does this have to do with the meaning of the text? I think the text is about reminding us that things get in our way. That we clutch at the wrong things from time to time. But don't fall into the trap - of competing with the man who was asked to give everything. This is not about irresponsibility. This man was very responsible. It's about doing all we can - to let everything we do be about God.

It's NOT about giving more than 10%. It's not about 10%. It's about 100%. It's about recognizing that what God wants from us - and what Jesus is asking for - is our whole lives. Our hearts and souls - and everything. And that everything we have and everything we are - is from God. And that we are called to live as if it were so.

Whatever that means for you.

Our calling - is to orient our lives - toward Jesus. Jesus who reminds us that in the end, the first will be last and the last will be first. Why? Because eternal life can't be bought. Because we never know - what hand life will deal us next. And we are offered the gift of living our lives - completely - within the loving embrace of God. And in the incredible riches of God's amazing grace.

Grace can't be bought. The question is - can we? Will we let ourselves - sell out? Will we sell out to some immoral person or expectation? We sell out to fame, or fashion? Will we sell out to safety and security? Will we sell out to comfort and convenience?
Jesus ONLY wants - - - - - one - - - - thing from us: Ourselves.But that will change the way we see everything else. And we live in a world that sees just the opposite. And it's not easy in our world to live God's way. But we've come SO far! We're so close. We've done so many good things.

And we can keep doing them. But we have to do them together. And we have to do them - with God at the center of them.When we do - the hope and promise is that we will not live like the man in Mark - who is downcast and sorrowful. But rather - we will live lives that are full of JOY!

May it be so.

Amen.