1 October 14, 2012 20th Sunday after Pentecost Pastor Dena Williams Denver, Colorado Amos 5:6-7 Psalm 90:12-17 Hebrews 4:12-16 Mark

10:17-31 The Holy Gospel according to the Community of St. Mark in the 10th Chapter Glory to you, O Lord 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; Honour your father and mother.” ’ The man said to Jesus, ‘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.

2 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.’ The Gospel of the Lord Praise to you, O Christ Jesus Looks at Us Across the summer, around the bread stories from the Gospel of John, we heard stories from the Gospel of Mark.

3 We watched as Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, comforted the lonely. Jesus roamed the countryside with his friends sharing God’s love for all people, teaching the good news in story and parable. Remember? Then, suddenly, in September things changed. The summer of wandering around helping and healing ended abruptly. In the Fall, along with the weather, the story in Mark’s Gospel took a turn. The journey to Jerusalem began. Jesus warned his disciples of what was to come— an arrest, suffering, a cross. Remember? These were the words of Jesus: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny their needs, their very selves, and take up their cross, and follow me.” And then these dire words from Jesus: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” And so, we talked about what it means to take up our cross. How caring for others, caring for ourselves— these are our small crosses. It is unlikely we will be called upon to carry a cross that requires us to give our lives on behalf of others, but we lift our small crosses in loving response to God’s love for us. We lift our small crosses . . .

4 Jesus looks at us and loves us. The next Sunday on the road to Jerusalem, we heard these words: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me and welcomes the one who sent me.” We talked about how God welcomes us. We talked about how God calls us to welcome all people. Jesus looks at us and loves us. As we continued our journey to Jerusalem with Jesus, we heard these words: “If anyone of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.” Jesus seems to get a little carried away here. His point, however, is well made. If you want to live your life in the Kingdom of God, act like it. Who are these little ones that we are to care for? Certainly they are children, they are also those who live on the fringes of our society. They are those who live in poverty, those who live with loneliness, those who struggle with illness, physical or emotional. The little ones are those who are sad and in pain. And, yes, some days all of us take a turn at counting ourselves among the little ones. We care for the little ones. We are the little ones.

5 Jesus looks at us and loves us. Then last week we heard more hard words from Jesus. It seems that knowing the fate that awaits him in Jerusalem, Jesus’ words have grown stern. “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” We considered divorce as an imperfect solution in our imperfect world. We saw how Mark’s Jesus turns immediately from talking about divorce to talking about children. He took the children up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. Then we heard Jesus call us to become as little children in order to enter the Kingdom of God. Calls us to let go of our defenses, to leave behind our excuses and our false pride. Jesus takes us in his arms, lays his hands on us, blesses us. Jesus looks at us and loves us. Today Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem. Today, once again, the writer of the Gospel of Mark tells of Jesus’ encounter with another person. It is a man this time, a successful and wealthy business man, and, once again, the writer takes the opportunity to reveal the teachings of Jesus, to this man, and to us.

6 “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Keep the commandments.” “I have all my life.” Jesus looks at him, and loves him. “You lack one thing. Sell all you have and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven.” The man goes away grieving. Jesus looks around at his friends. He does not speak now of heaven and eternal life. Jesus speaks now of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God . . . a way of life that is available to us here and now, in this time and place. The Kingdom of God . . . The rich man does so many things well in his life. He is a good, law abiding citizen. He is married, and faithful to his wife. He provides food and shelter for his family. He minds his own business, never intentionally or thoughtlessly hurt anyone. He cares for his elderly parents. Jesus looks at him and loves him. In one area of his life, however, he is lacking. One area of his life he guards jealously. There is one area of his life where he has not allowed God to work. Jesus looks at him and loves him,

7 and knows what is keeping him from entering fully into the life, here and now, the life of the Kingdom of God. Jesus knows that this man is clinging to his wealth, that he is unwilling to share with those in need. Jesus looks around and says to his disciples; Jesus looks around and says to us: “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.” We are sometimes more or less generous with the gifts God gives us. Jesus looks at us and loves us. Jesus looks at us, at our riches, and loves us. Make no mistake, everyone in this room is rich. If we have a dry, warm place to live, electricity, running water, food on our table, medical care, education for our children, we are far richer than most of the people of the world. Far richer . . . Most days it’s hard for us to remember how relatively rich we are . . . That’s why it is important for us to learn about others, especially those in developing countries around the world. Beginning in 1994, I began to make regular trips, accompanied by teenagers or adults to the El Paso/Juarez border. We go, not to help the poor brown people, but to worship with them, hear their stories,

8 learn from them, eat and dance and laugh and cry with them. We call these journeys, immersion trips. We immerse ourselves in another culture, another socio-economic system, another language, another way of being children of God. We immerse ourselves in the lives of our brothers and sisters on both sides of the border. I don’t know why others go with me— I invite them and they go. Perhaps they go because, like the rich man, they have a deep longing to live in the Kingdom of God. They go in search of a life changing experience, an experience that brings them closer to the Kingdom. I don’t know why others go with me. I know why I go. I go to renew my mind and spirit. I go out of respect for those who are not rich. I go to stand beside mi companeras, my companions who seek what I often take for granted: a warm and dry place to live, electricity, running water, food on the table, medical care, education for their children. I go because it is at the border that I feel most a part of the Kingdom of God. It is in the cinder block home of Aurelia and Raul, in the midst of the former Juarez City dump that I find the Kingdom— mercy in the face of misery, hope in the midst of despair, love at the center of the struggle to survive. It is not always pleasant or pretty or easy to be there. Will you go with me?

9 We have heard Jesus’ teachings as he journeyed toward Jerusalem. We know what he expects of us: that we take up our cross and follow him, that we welcome the children and do not become a stumbling block to the little ones, that we do our best to keep our marriages and our families together, that we accept the kingdom as a child and share what we have in generous ways with others. These are the teachings of Jesus. These are the things God expects from us. With the rich man, we go away grieving for we know we cannot keep all of these teachings, we do not live in the Kingdom all of the time. What, then, is to become of us, we wonder? Jesus knows what keeps us from entering fully into the life of the Kingdom of God. He says it’s hard for a rich man to find the Kingdom, it’s hard, but it’s not impossible, for nothing is impossible with God. Jesus knows what keeps us from life in the Kingdom. He knows, then Jesus looks at us, and loves us anyway. Amen

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