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Oct 14, 2018

Money, Camels & Needles, and our Hearts

Money, Camels & Needles, and our Hearts

Passage: Mark 10:17-31

Speaker: Father Will Lowry

Series: All

Category: All

If the heart is split by desires for worldly security, there is no way one can enter into the kingdom’s loving justice. Yet, by the power of God, people can be transformed.

What does it all matter - wealth, resources, security -  if not for the presence of God? What if, like Job, we were to experience the devastating absence of God’s presence in our lives?

The “rich man”, who has tried to live out his life and duties to his neighbors, as a response to the divine love of God finds that being a disciple of Jesus goes beyond what he was taught and faithfully followed. An upsetting turn of events for sure!

If the heart is split by desires for worldly security, there is no way one can enter into the kingdom’s loving justice. Yet, by the power of God, people can be transformed.

There is an old saying that goes something like, “If you want to know where people’s hearts are, see where they spend their time and their money.”

We have a unique relationship with money… Perhaps a love/hate relationship at times.

I mean who among us would like to not have to ever worry about money again?

I don’t mean that in the sense of if you had all you would need, but what if it wasn’t even an issue. What if no-one had any money? What if it simply wasn’t needed? That is one of the ways I imagine life in the Kingdom of Heaven is like.

God’s Economy is not predicated on give and take, a trade of goods and services, supply and demand, or resource gathering for security and status. In the Kingdom of God ALL are given ALL they need. The divine providence of God’s love and grace is all that is valuable.

And you know what? That’s already been given. Each of us has already been deemed good enough, valuable enough, worthy enough of God.

You know what else? The Kingdom of God has already begun.

Jesus encourages the man seeking a deeper relationship with God (“inherit the kingdom”) to sell all that he has and to give it away to the poor. This is supposed to be a lesson on how hard it is for those with riches to enter the kingdom of God/Heaven. Those who surrender much receive back an unfathomable amount of new relationships and grace in the age to come.

Charles Campbell writes, “Jesus seems to be prompting the man to change - to be transformed, for kingdom work - by requiring an action that is more extreme than obedience to the commandments.” (Charles L. Campbell, Feasting on the Word, Year B, vol. 4, pg. 169)

The action required puts trust, security, faith - utter dependence on God.

This is of course a scary thing to do - we fear that perhaps we might find ourselves like Job - in the absence of God. But here’s the thing. The absence of God is a myth. Remember? God has promised to always be present with us.

The parable of the “The Rich-Man/Rich Young Ruler” is much like the story of Job (which many believe is also a parable).

We live our lives - good lives, well intended - following the principles and commandments of God - living out a faithful response to the love of God - yet we haven’t fully committed. We haven’t surrendered everything to God’s grace and mercy - we haven’t fully trusted in God.

So, we do what is natural for us to do. We create barriers and security blankets - because we are anxious, worried, perhaps fearful - that God will not be there.

We keep more than we need - accumulating an abundance of worldly wealth. And that CAN lead us to estrangement from God.

Now, to be clear. I am not saying that if you have some amount of money - even a great deal of money - that you don’t love God or that you can’t be a Christian or that you are like a camel trying to go through the eye of a needle.

I AM saying that money, possessions, and angst about financial security, and how we go about obtaining those things, and more importantly, what we do with those resources and how we treat others in regard to those resources - is important.

I go back to the old adage I gave you earlier. To find out where one’s heart is, see where time and money are spent. This is an opportunity for us to do some self-examination. As David Howell reminds us, “Those thick-skulled disciples have finally understood something; just how hard it is to change and to live out the kingdom ethics.” (David B. Howell, Feasting on the Word, Year B vol. 4, pg 168)

Being transformed by God is hard. (If you think it’s hard for us, imagine how hard God is working to transform each of us in our various states….)

This week a commentary I read prompted me to read writer David Foster Wallace’s commencement address to the 2005 graduating class at Kenyon College.

In his speech (which, by the way, is twice as long as this sermon) Wallace tells the graduates “Everyone worships”. Each of us chooses to worship something, be it money, intellect, things, power, beauty or something else. But, “Whatever it is” he says, “It will eat you alive.”

So, when Jesus tells the rich man to sell all his possessions and give it away - we understand. We understand because there is something that is feeding on each of us. Something that is distracting us from God.

Those are not the things that define us though. What defines us is how we are transformed each day by God’s unfailing love.

This, I believe, is what Jesus was asking the “rich man/rich young ruler” about.

You’ve done all these things, yes, but what else is distracting you from God? Where is your heart and mind? What will allow you to go deeper - to be transformed?

It’s the same question that the disciples are asking really. “Then who can be saved?”

For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.

Only God can transform us. And transformation doesn’t happen by following rules, or ethics or right beliefs. Transformation happens in our hearts.

Transformation is about what we love and how we love God and each other.

Amen. 

Photo by Robert Metz on Unsplash