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Pentecost 21B Sermon
Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10: 17-31
14, 2018


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Hebrews 4:12-16

Indeed, 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.
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.

Mark 10:17-31

As he 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; Honour 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.’

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us, in the name of his risen son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Amen.

So this episode in Jesus’ life has always caused problems with people. Mostly it is because he commands someone who claims to follow all of the commandments to sell all that they have and give it to the poor. I am not sure how much stuff this man has, but you and I know how easy it is to accumulate stuff. We last moved after being in the same house for 9 years and I was blown away at the amount of our belongings. Considering that we have been in our current home for over 14 years, I would venture to say that it is going to be even worse when we pack up the next time! Some people have so much stuff that they have to rent storage units for it all. Can you imagine life without all of your stuff?

I think that is Jesus’ point. In our sinfulness we tend to focus not so much on the richness of our relationships with God and each other as we grow older; not only that, but the more we accumulate, the more we focus on protecting and increasing all of it. In the verses just before this reading Jesus was blessing little children. He said that whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it. Little children have nothing in terms of possessions or wealth. They only have the love of the people who brought them into the world. They know and rely upon these loving people for everything. They know what is important and that is their relationship with these loved ones.

I never really thought about how well our Gospel reading pairs with this passage from Hebrews 4 until I studied them in preparation to preach today. The author of the letter to the Hebrews talks about the word of God as if it is a sharp scalpel in the hands of a skilled surgeon. To the original audience the Word of God was the Old Testament – these were former Jews who had heard the word that Jesus fulfills the prophecy of the coming messiah, and they were wondering if it was okay to throw out the commandments. Now we might emphasize some writings or laws from the Old Testament more than others because of the cultural context – like the dietary laws which helped to protect those ancient people against easily tainted food – but the Ten Commandments are there for many reasons. One reason, according to this reading, is to cut us open and lay us bare … to expose us and our sinfulness in order that Jesus’ sacrifice as our Great High Priest will heal us from that sin. It is a passage filled with love and grace, and it leads us to a greater appreciation for the mercy that God has to send his son to heal our sinfulness.

With that in mind, we hear this exchange between Jesus, a rich young man and Jesus’ disciples. The commandments are still there to lay us bare – I think that Jesus looked at and loved this man because he knew that he could never follow the commandments perfectly, no matter how hard he tried. But when Jesus was leading in to sharing the news of healing, this man went away grieving. He didn’t stay around long enough to hear Jesus’ promise to all of us. He only thought that since HE could do nothing to inherit eternal life, that eternal life was not coming his way any time soon.

But the good news is that when we are laid bare and healed, God does for us what otherwise is impossible for us to do on our own. When we cannot get over our love for ourselves and our stuff, Jesus loves us in such a way that we could never imagine. It is almost like seeing a camel go through the eye of a needle … or a fully grown man cut a hole in a piece of 8.5 by 11 piece of paper large enough for him to fit through.

If we think that it is by following the commandments that we inherit the Kingdom of God then we are sorely mistaken. The disciples were probably surprised that Jesus doesn’t even think that the result of following the commandments is to be blessed with riches and possessions by God! Inheriting anything doesn’t have anything to do with how you live … it has to do with who you are related to - who you know – and how incredibly rich they are. We have God as our heavenly Father, and we know Jesus in the breaking of the bread and the hearing of the word. These are all we need to inherit eternal life.

This morning we welcome Dylan John Randle into the Christian family through Holy Baptism. Today is an example of how we must receive the kingdom of God as a child. He is brought here by a loving family who were entrusted with his care and growing. Ultimately, though, he is God’s child, and God will love him with a love that no matter how hard we try, no human being can live up to. With God all things are possible! I would venture to say that Dylan probably already has a lot of stuff! If he is like the typical 6 month old child, his grandparents and extended family have spoiled him already beyond what his parents are able to control! Imagine the life that God is preparing to spoil him with! Imagine the impossible things that God is preparing to do for him. Imagine how, no matter how many commandments he is able to follow, God has promised to love him into his kingdom for eternal life.

And when you are able to imagine all of that for this little one, imagine it for yourself. Children … how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! Children … for mortals it is impossible. Children … for God all things are possible. I now invite Dylan and his family to join me at the font as we celebrate the grace-filled love with which God claims him today! Amen.