Pentecost 20 Year B

Hebrews 4:12-16

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 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.

 

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 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.”

 

 

 

Sermon

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus answers the question,

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

 

Jesus begins by acknowledging that the Jewish man had

lived righteously … checking all the traditional 1st century

Jewish “good guy” boxes…

but Jesus tells him that’s not enough.[i]

 

“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.”

 

The young man valued money. Most people do. Some people don’t.

Some people value their social status, or their career,

or their title. Or whatever. We all value something.

 

Still, as Jesus followers, our job is simple:

Don’t let whatever it is that we value,

steal your heart and faith.

 

When we think of  eternal life, we think of “heaven”,

And when we think of heaven we often envision a place

where we have everything, we need, or want.

Heaven as endless amounts of Stuff.

In Jesus’ day many Jewish people saw “heaven” as a place

of the spirit, where light, goodness and wisdom reigned.

Not our world at all.

 

Today, we sometimes imagine Heaven,

as a perfect version of our “real” world.

Whatever heaven is, we’ll know when we get there.

 

One thing is clear, from the Bible:

Down here, time matters. In heaven, it doesn’t.

 

Mark’s  Gospel shows his unusual sense of time.

In the early chapters he shows Jesus in motion,

frantically, going from one thing to another.[ii]

 

But, as Jesus’ earthly visit winds down,

Mark measures time by the hour. [iii]

From, Mark we know that time was always precious to Jesus.

 

Jesus was intervening in human time and history.

So, time mattered.

 

Mark knew that, and he wanted everyone to know that.

Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of Heaven, [iv] not as some

far-off place we’d maybe reach, someday, somewhere.

Mark knew that heaven begins Right Here. Right Now.

From time to time, even though we are mostly too comfortable,

in our way of life and are naively convinced we’ve earned it,

heaven intrudes. And we see a  little glimpse. Right here. Right now.

 

I think that the saints still sometimes get a glimpse of heaven.

When you’ve seen that it it’s hard to come back to earth.

 

If we get a little glimpse of heaven, we’ll be reminded that Jesus

didn’t call us to live just for ourselves, or for our stuff,

or even for this beautiful place.

He called us to live for others.   

 

What does Heaven look like?

What does God look like?

Will we know God, when we see God in Heaven?

 

In ancient Greek, the phrase “Kingdom of God” is basileia tou theou.  

The Greek word Theou means “God”.

It’s either masculine or neuter[v].

 

But when all three words are blended into one sentence

basileia tou theou can only be neuter.

And so, we know, that God’s house …

The Kingdom of Heaven …   is neutral ground.

 

 

The Kingdom inaugurated by Christ is a place for everyone.

Everyone is free to gather there. Come as you are. [vi]

 

There’s only one condition:  You’ve got to be cool that our God reigns!

 

What does God’s reign look like? Who does God reign over?

Our hearts. God reigns over our hearts.

 

I resisted following God’s call. Some folks do. But I was wrong.

Not the first time. Not the last.

 

You know what? God is a fine motivator.

 

If God calls you to do something, He’ll probably not leave you alone!

Jesus knew, as we all know, that stuff can pile up,

and get in the way.  Real life can get in the way.

 

Jesus loved the young man[vii], and he didn’t let him off the hook.

Jesus loves us too, and he won’t let us off the hook, either.

 

Jesus called for the young man, to set aside his possessions.

He meant that for us, too.

Nothing metaphorical about what Jesus said.

The man’s stuff got in the way.

 

 

Think about it… if it were a mere metaphor,

why would be young man be so challenged and so bummed?

 

To follow Jesus we’ve all got to give up whatever is holding us back.

 

The solution is not to immediately react.

You probably don’t have to your TV or your family jewels,

although that might be God’s wish, for you.

 

The solution is to follow Christ, wherever He takes us.

Lay stuff down as you roll along with Jesus.

 

Mark was thinking about time, and he was thinking about

when  God’s Kingdom was going to come.

But, Jesus seemed to say it’s already here!

 

The Kingdom will come in fullness — in God’s good time –

but it’s already here. Right here. Right now.

 

When we look too far past today,

we lose the gift of this good life and, if we aren’t careful,

we lose sight of God.

 

When we get too far ahead, we take our eye off the Kingdom,

and get caught up in our wants and our worries.

 

When we look too far ahead, we lose track of our community here,

and the Kingdom people that we are called to be.

Right here. Right now.

 

Jesus takes us as we are. Jesus loves us as we are.

But that doesn’t give us permission to go down the road,

focusing on ourselves and our wants and our lusts,

stepping over the troubles and challenges of the world.

 

As one preacher reminds us:

in life God invites us to come as we are.

But He hopes we don’t leave as we came.

 

AMEN  

 

 

 

 

[i] This story is in three of the four Gospels.

 

[ii] Everything happens fast; the word “immediately” is used to describe Jesus’ actions.

 

[iii] In the end, when time really mattered, Mark  got as precise as he could, in an era where they had no clocks: he used military timing :1st watch, 2nd  watch.  When Peter denied Jesus, Mark tells us that the cock crowed twice: dawn, 6:00 am, 1st watch.

 

[iv]   Where we and all people since that moment, have lived.

 

[v] The article is tou, which is either masculine or neuter.

 

[vi] Jesus referred to God as his “Father”. And we can too. But in Greek, and other languages, the words used for “God”  may be gender free. In some languages the use of a masculine or feminine article is not, in any way, intended to express an understanding of the item in question possessing any gender.  I see God as like to think of God as being beyond our notions of gender; because he encapsulates  both.  The  Jews did not like saying God’s name; they thought it was a violation of the Law. So they often referred to God elliptically.  For example they would say “Kingdom of Heaven” instead of “Kingdom of God.”

 

In the NT we sometime see, written in GK the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven.”  The phrase Kingdom of Heaven in Greek is basileia ton ‘ouranons.   Sometimes it is plural, like heavens, sometimes, single, heaven.              Always neutral.

 

I really appreciate how Greek works, but it isn’t divine or magical.  It was their international language, like English is ours

 

When we hear “Kingdom of Heaven”,  we know that it is a quote of Jesus talking in Aramaic, and that his word was translated into Greek.  Sometimes, as our passage from Mark, the phrase was Kingdom of God, basileia tou theou.    So,  Jesus broke the rules and he referred to God directly; it was written the way he said it, in Greek.  That is how we know that  Jesus spoke both Aramaic and Greek, as did most folks in his day.

 

[vii] Mark 10:21.

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