Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Mark 10:17-31, David Ewart, 2012.
"The deceit of wealth is almost inescapable; the burden of guilt, both individual and corporate, impossible."
"First Thoughts on Year B Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 20, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.
"Jesus says that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. Maybe the reason is not that the rich are so wicked they're kept out of the place but that they're so out of touch with reality they can't see it's a place worth getting into."
"Money," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.
More precious than gold or silver, O God, more enduring than health and beauty, is the spirit of your wisdom: in her hands, uncounted wealth, in her company, all good gifts! Send this wisdom from your holy heaven that we may hear and follow the Good Teacher, Jesus, who looks on us with love, and gladly forsake all lesser wealth for the unrivaled treasure of your kingdom. We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
Oremus Online NRSV Text
In the last passage we read that Jesus invited us to embrace children and to invite children into our midst. We were told to be like the child as well. All of these are passages wherein Jesus takes a powerless, voiceless, person without authority and shows how central they are to the dominion of God which is spreading throughout the community as he teaches, preaches, and heals people. We are confronted then in this weeks passage with the opposite of the child (who has nothing) with a young man who has much.
The language used to describe the man is well off physically, financially, socially, and within the religious power structure of the day. He is a good man who is following all the rules set out before him and he benefits from his position. Again, he is the opposite of the child.
What many preachers will do this week (because I have routinely done this as well) is use this to speak about how the man does not give enough. Jesus tells him to give it all and the man cannot so he walks away.
The reality is that the kingdom of God is a gift, it is grace. The man simply receives it. He cannot earn it. Better stewardship will not earn the kingdom. Meeting the budget will not earn the congregation a dream year of abundance, not will it provide assurance for heavenly gate entry. The kingdom is something that is given freely.
It is with this that Jesus seems to confront the man. It is his wealth and self assurance of perfection that is in the way of the grace God offers. The man does not rely upon anyone or anything outside of himself and his wealth. He is the one who fulfills the law. Unlike the child who has nothing and is completely dependant upon God's grace and the kingdom mission; the young man has trouble coming to this place of acceptance because of his successes and abilities.
We find this sown up in the conversation between the young man and Jesus. What must he do to inherit if he has done everything? Jesus moves from the fulfillment of the law the notion of receiving the kingdom as grace. Human beings are alienated from God, we are different from God, we are not God. God is good, God is graceful, and God gives and invites. Elsewhere in scripture Jesus does speak of people as good. But it is here, for the point of reminding the young man that he is not able to enter into the kingdom without the grace of God, that Jesus uses the words from the Shema so effectively.
Jesus then speaks of the reality that wanting, coveting, desiring, and craving things just leads down a path which will ultimately distance us from God. Jesus then speaks again of the new family being formed in the kingdom and I believe he truly hopes for the young man to follow.
The man of course walks away because, I think, he just can't trust God enough.
This it seems to me is the core of the passage and the core of Jesus' teaching in this section. To be a little one, a follower of God in Christ Jesus, you have to trust God. The man's inability is what saddens Jesus as he walks away. Jesus then turns and begins to teach on how this trust in God and in the family of God is always eroded by not having enough.
Jesus says, it is just hard for people dependent upon money to receive freely the grace and dominion of God. Wealth gets in the way. As soon as you live as one of the "firsts," or order your life as a "first," and make your needs "first" one is in trouble and will continue to have trouble following Jesus.
Jesus again brings into the conversation talk about the new family and children - it is a family that is marked by discipleship and dependence upon grace freely given. It will be those who lose it all in the service of the kingdom who will gain the most. Jesus himself will model this as he descends to the cross and the valley of death.
I think as we think and ponder what to say on Sunday we must be prepared to offer a glimpse of those things which keep us from receiving God's grace. The passage is ultimately about discipleship. We have an intimate view of the teacher attempting to help the disciple see what it is that is holding him back from receiving grace or living in the new family of God.
How will we help our congregations see what holds them back from faithfully walking the way of the cross? How will we lose the binding cultural ties of being "first" in order to follow the one who is last?
"There should be no greater encouragement to us as Christians than that of the mercy and grace God promises to us, mercy and grace that are based on Christ having loved us enough to identify with us to the point of suffering and death."
Commentary, Hebrews 4:12-16, Scott Shauf, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2012.
"Compassion and kindness, grace and mercy, are there when we face our times of need. This is not so much about when we fail, as it is when we face hard times and are confronted with temptations which threaten to overwhelm us."
"First Thoughts on Year B Epistle Passages in the Lectionary,"Pentecost 20, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.
Remember that for the author of Hebrews Christ is our great high priest. He has come to be with humanity, lower than the angels, and in both his incarnation and in his suffering, death and resurrection he has freed humanity from the power of evil forces which insure death and separation from God. Christ is the reconciling agent which bridges God and humanity and the chasm below.
The word, the logos, is that from which all life flows. Through Christ, we proclaim, all things were made. It is through this very living word that we are known to God. It is important then that we lean into this relationship with Christ because it is this very relationship in which we are found, discovered, sympathized with us, and discovered by God.
So it is that our great high priest, God in Christ Jesus, is our mediator and our advocate before the throne of grace.