Monday, October 8, 2012

The Costly Kingdom Decision. A Homily for Mark 10:17-30


Homily for 10.14.12
MARK  10:17-30  (see below)
Year B









The Gospel Lectionary reading for this Sunday offers us a Kingdom case-study on the confrontation we find within the Kingdom-Way.

In these latest few Marcan readings, ever since Jesus revealed to his disciples the new teaching of his coming suffering and death, the disciples have been offered the challenge of true Kingdom living -- deny self, take up the cross and follow the King. We see this formula birthed into reality in his challenge concerning servant leadership -- leaders serve so the greatest of all is the servant of all, in his challenge concerning divorce and remarriage -- stay married as a display of Kingdom relationships. But, nowhere do we see this Kingdom challenge more profoundly than here when the King calls his disciples to follow him with their resources.

This account of the Rich Young Ruler (cf. Mt. 19 & Lk. 18) is familiar to most Gospel readers. This man comes to Jesus asking,

"Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Now, we must be careful with this question about eternal life. We must not read into it our concerns about going to heaven when we die. The eternal life this first century Jew is wanting is his inclusion in the promised, coming, and vindicated Kingdom that GOD would bring to his covenant people, as evidenced by the resurrection of the faithful at the end of the age.

This Daniel 7 style Kingdom is not about “going to heaven when I die” circa Western Christianity. That’s why, when Jesus ticks off the commandments:
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother."

he is offering an answer that fails to make much sense to a 21st century Christian living in the West, but offers the normal answer given to the question in Jesus’ day:
What must I do to be part of GOD’s coming Kingdom?
Answer: Live the Torah in gratitude of God's grace.
But, then, Jesus sees something different in this man. What was it? An honesty? An openness? A genuine, true desire?
"Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth."
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
"You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
And there was the rub. The riches held tight to the man.
At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
To which Jesus replied to the disciples:
"How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"
This statement shocks the disciples:
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God." Peter began to say to him, "We have given up everything and followed you."
What are we to make of this story, those of us who live in the wealth of privilege and power at the beginning of the 21st Century America?

There are three ideas uncovered in the text that I want us to think-through:

THE KINGDOM DEMANDS A DECISION

THE KINGDOM COST US OUR LIVES

THE KINGDOM OFFERS TRUE LIFE




THE KINGDOM DEMANDS A DECISION

Let’s be clear about this truth, to face the true Kingdom offered to the world by Christ the true King, is to face an ultimatum. The demands of Jesus the King, whose Kingdom both has arrived and is on the way, forces a decision: Will we hold on to what we have, or will we let it go?

Will we be part of the Jesus-way of being,

the Way of reconciliation and sacrificial love,

the way of leaders as servants,

the Way of healthy, loving homes that reflect the love of GOD for the world,

the Way of self-denial and shared suffering,

or will we live in selfishness and self-promotion?

This young man walked away sorrowing because he had much possessions. He made his choice. I wonder if we in the West were ever faced with such a choice what we would decide -- Follow Jesus or Follow our Possessions?

As it is, I wonder how often we explain a gospel to the newly converted that consists of only Easter and not Good Friday. We talk about going to heaven when we die, but we fail to bring to the front of their minds the calling to lose ones life for the sake of the Gospel right now in the moment:
34 Then he called his disciples and the crowds to come over and listen. "If any of you wants to be my follower," he told them, "you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life. 36 And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If a person is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, I, the Son of Man, will be ashamed of that person when I return in the glory of my Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8:34-38 NLT)
This, of course leads to the second thought:


THE KINGDOM COST US OUR LIVES

The reason this decision is so difficult is that following Jesus is so costly. To follow the King costs us what is most precious to us, whatever that might be. That is, whatever we wish to withhold, that is what is demanded by the King.

For the individual, the old-timers called this renunciation and abandonment, and it meant the suffering that came with relinquishing of that which we quite naturally seek most for consolation in this life -- be it family, money and possessions, sexuality -- or, you fill in the blank.

Abandonment says, “Lord, I am yours, first and forever."

We sometimes sing here the John Michael Talbot song, “I Abandon Myself,” and each time we do I wonder if we really understand what we are singing, and if we do understand it, do we mean it:

I abandon myself to your will 
Do with me whatever you want 
I will only be grateful for whatever you do 
I’m prepared for anything at all 


I commit my life to your hands 
I offer it all not to you 
The only affection of my heart and my soul 
Because, Oh Lord, I love you 


This opens to us the depth of Peter’s remonstrance:
Peter began to say to him, "We have given up everything and followed you."
This, of course was true to a point, they had left their homes, their business, their families to follow the LORD. They had left all except one thing. They had yet to abandon their preconceived understanding of just what Messiah would be and do. They would not hear Jesus’ new teaching that Messiah must suffer and die because they held on to the hope of a Messiah champion who would finally free them from Roman tyranny.



THE KINGDOM OFFERS TRUE LIFE

But, this was not what Jesus had on offer. Jesus offered his followers new life and true life. Jesus responded to Peter’s defense:
Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come."
This sounds pie in the sky, doesn’t it? But, what is actually in view is the moment when all things will be set right. So within the movement of abandonment and renunciation lie the seeds of promise of the world set right. This is a world where justice is done, where loss is compensated, where true and living justice reigns supreme, where the iniquity and negligence of today gives way to the virtue and blessing of a world remade in GOD’s image.

But, Kingdom living in the present is what true humanness was supposed to be all along. We are called, together (and this kind of decision and abandonment can only be attempted in a community), to give of our time, our gifts, our possessions to insure that the human community beside our own flourishes with pre-Kingdom establishment. Said differently, the community of faith lives our the future agenda of the Kingdom so that others will taste the true humanness and humaneness that comes from the empowered church, sourced in the Spirit as she daily living out the practices of Jesus the King.



_______________________________

Mark 10:17-30
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
"Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother."
He replied and said to him,
"Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth."
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
"You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
At that statement his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
"How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the kingdom of God!"
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
"Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
"Then who can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said,
"For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God."
Peter began to say to him,
"We have given up everything and followed you."
Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters
and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come."