Mark 10: 17-31
October 11, 2015
There was a rich woman.
She had a good job and a 401K.
She had a nice apartment in a neighborhood where she felt safe.
When she was hungry she went to the store and bought food.
When she was sick she went to the doctor and bought medicine.
She was rich.
She had a closet full of clothes
and even more which were in storage for the next season.
She had a shelf of coats and a rack of shoes.
She had a car which she took to work,
and when she went on vacation, she sometimes took a plane.
She was rich.
She had a dog for whom she bought food and toys,
(and the occasional Halloween costume),
and brought to the doctor when the dog was sick and bought medicine.
She had wifi and Netflix,
and an iphone and an ipad.
She was rich.
And as Jesus was going by…
she ran up to him and asked,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
or maybe she asked,
“What must I do to see God’s presence in my life?”
“What must I do to see the sacredness of life?”
“What must I do to feel satisfied, to feel loved… to feel God?”
Jesus said to her,
(or maybe it was the voice of Mr. Reid her 8th grade Sunday School teacher…)
”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 (well, that wasn’t a commandment, but he thought it was good to include anyway.)
Honor your father and your mother.”
“I’ve done all those since I was a kid!
I grew up Lutheran!”
And then Jesus looking at her, loved her.
not her iphone or ipad;
nor her apartment nor car nor wifi nor her Netflix subscription;
not even her dog.
Jesus, looking at her, loved her…
You who are rich, will not know what it is to have eternal life…
You will not know what it is to be loved for who you are and not what you have…
You will not feel satisfied…
You will not be able to learn to trust God and God alone…
You will not be able to experience the sacred…
until you give it away…
It is only with empty hands that you are able to receive.
It is in the process of letting go,
selling and giving what you have to the poor
that you will receive what you ask.
When you have nothing left.
When your hands are empty…
Then you will have eternal life.
Then come and follow me.
She turned away shocked and sad
because she had many things
and she knew she would not sell them.
I don’t think it’s my job to make this passage easier for us.
I don’t think it’s my job to soften it
or to make any of us feel guilty either.
My job is to proclaim it.
This is the kind of text that has inspired people
to do just what it says…to sell everything and give it to the poor.
A few years ago, Londoner Aaron Moore did just that.
In the space of a week he emptied his bank accounts
and gave the money to charity.
As he sold off the things in his flat, he writes,
“Strangers sat on my bed and rummaged through my bedside table drawers; a woman placed a bid on my university degree; a flatmate handed over a few dollars for my beard trimmer; a man tried on my suit; someone inspected my half eaten boxes of cereal; …; a middle-aged man flipped through my tax records and other files to find an old X-ray, withdrew it from its envelope and held it up to the light to get a better look.[i]”
“The end result was strengthened relationships with friends and family as we bonded together … to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
Over the past six months, funds raised from (the selling of his possessions)
”supported numerous social development programs throughout Africa and Asia.
Enough to cover the full operational costs
of a rural Togolese medical clinic,
which delivered tens of babies,
treated hundreds of patients from life threatening conditions like malaria and cholera,
and immunized thousands of children.
It was enough to provide further funding
to food security programs in Malawi and Zambia,
training poor farmers in conservation farming methods, nutrition, gender and HIV/AIDS,
all of which is enabling them to become self-sufficient and feed their families all year round.
And enough to further support sewing classes for impoverished women
in both India and Bangladesh,
providing them an opportunity to secure work,
increase their incomes and pay for necessities like food, toiletries, medical costs and school fees for their children.”
What must I do to inherit eternal life?
Jesus, looking at him,
loved him, and said,
“Go and sell everything you have and give the proceeds to the poor.
Then come and follow me.”
This is the kind of text that over the centuries
has inspired people to make tremendous sacrifices for the sake of others.
We may be next.