Sermon October 11, 2015
Jesus and the Seeker by Rev. June Fothergill Scripture: Mark 10: 17-31
I remember after I had been here a few months, I parked and locked my bike and its trailer on the side of the church. I had a hard time getting the trailer on and off so I figured it was safe. I was wrong. The trailer was stolen that afternoon. I felt upset because the trailer had been given to me by friends just before Joseph’s birth over 20 years ago and I had left my favorite hat in it! I was touched at how concerned people were and how folks tried to find it for me. Some of the folks helping me look for it had had their own stuff even all their possession taken away numerous times.
We’ve mostly all had the experience of losing a possession we valued. Somehow it often helps us put our lives and what we truly value or treasure in a new perspective.
Jesus encountered a man one day who was questioning and seeking. The gospels writers retold this story for us to continue to learn from today.
What does it mean to be a seeker? Are any of us seekers here today? Trying to figure out what we really treasure or what it means to have treasure in heaven? In a couple of weeks we will begin an all church four week exploration of the topic of Treasure using a program developed by James Armstrong. There are daily devotional books for each household and there will be at least 2 opportunities to join a small group to discuss the topics at Sunday school time and Wed. morning. You will be receiving a mailing about it all soon. We will discover together that Jesus has a lot to say about treasure.
Today let’s focus on this young man and his encounter with Jesus. He is clearly a seeker. He comes to Jesus with a question on his heart. What must I do to inherit eternal life?
I wonder about this question, is he asking how to get to heaven when he dies? Or is he asking for deeper meaning and purpose for his life now? Is he just wanting assurance that he’s heading to the kingdom of God? Whatever his intent, he is someone who asks the deep questions. What is it that you and I seek? What is the question on our hearts? Imagine coming up to Jesus and asking him the question of your heart. What would you ask?
I find Jesus’s response interesting. He seems to think that the man all ready knows the answer to the question. Only God is good he says, and as you know God has given us the law to show us how to live. Jesus knew and recognized his own tradition as a way to live a good godly life.
I remember a conversation I had with a woman in Wasco, Oregon, my first parish. She told me, “ I am a good person. I don’t really feel the need to go to church.” I looked at her and realized that as far as I knew, this was true. She was a good person. She obeyed the law, cared for her family, didn’t hurt anyone. That’s when I started wondering is being a good person and being a follower of Jesus the same thing?
The man in our story answers like that woman- “ I have done all that ( obeying the commandments) since my youth.”
Now that could have been the end of the encounter. He could have added, “Thanks for the re assurance Jesus “ and gone on his way. But the man stayed put. I imagine him looking at Jesus for more. In fact in some versions the man asks, “ What do I lack?” In Mark’s story Jesus looks at the man and loves him and then says you lack only one thing.
You see the man truly is a seeker. He’s not quite satisfied with a conventional “ good “ life. Are you and I like him? If your heart yearns, if you are a seeker- then stand there with this man and know Jesus loves you, too. And Jesus knows what you lack.
Jesus loved the man. Jesus saw his value, his potential. Jesus saw something in him that led him to challenge him in love to take his relationship with God to a new level.
You lack one thing
Go, sell what you own and give it to the poor
You will have treasure in heaven ( eternal life)
Come follow me!
There are people in history who have read this story and decided it applied directly to them. Most famous was Francis of Assisi. I knew of a person called “ peace Pilgrim” who also did this. Yet, most of us will not sense that call from Jesus to give up all our possessions, so what does this story mean for us?
1. As persons seeking to follow Jesus, we are clearly challenged to look at our possessions and their role in our lives. Some possessions are important for our physical and emotional health. Yet beyond these basic human needs we all share, our possessions are optional, a choice we make if we are able. This call of Jesus invites us to reflect upon these choices and their role in our life of faith.
When I was a young adult there was a movement to try to get rid of hunger in our world and nation. We talked about living simply so others could simply live. After traveling in Asia and seeing poverty and hunger, I decided to eat lower on the food chain- to become vegetarian. I gave up “ being vegetarian” but I still try to choose my food based upon by faith that God wants us to build a more sustainable and fair food system.
I had a colleague on the Inter Ethnic council of our conference on time who was a Shoshone Bannock man from Idaho. He told me once that he didn’t worry about people taking his stuff. His attitude was, “ they must need it more than me.” He reminded me of the book I had read many years ago that suggested we learn to live with our possessions lightly. Not to cling to them but to offer them to God for the sake of ministry of Christ. If I look at my possessions as a source of ministry for Christ, this puts them in a different light. I start to imagine how to gift them. How to use them can further Christ’s love. In this story Jesus helps us to see that we can make choices about our possessions based upon our faith.
2. That sounds great but, the man in the story turns away in shock and sorrow. Why? Because he has many possessions! Frankly, I am sad too. Sad because I have to admit I understand that man much better than the disciples that left behind fishing boats and tax collector boxes. I seek like the man to deepen my faith, yet will I chose to do what Jesus invites me, lovingly to do?
Jesus loved the man and knew what was keeping his seekers heart from full commitment to God. He follows this experience by telling the disciples how hard it is for someone with wealth to enter God’s kingdom. He has just said that one needs to be like a child to enter. And in those days children had no power or possessions. It seems the more encumberments of the world we have the harder it is to really accept, enter God’s realm, the world God wants to give us.
Although all of us are not called by Jesus to give up all our possessions, we still do have things that get in the way of our commitment to Christ and his kingdom. This man’s encounter with Jesus invites us to reflect upon our own lives. What encumbers us? What worries or possessions, or attitudes or fears keep us from fully following Jesus in our lives?
For in all honesty, sometimes our possessions can become encumberments. Does my TV really bring me closer to God? I have lots and lots of books- but do I need so many? I have a doll collection which I do like to share with others whenever possible, but I sometimes worry- what in the world would someone do with this collection after I die or when I need to move into smaller quarters? I have lots of clothes. Some of them I actually wear but some I hang onto for sentimental reasons! My closet is full of stories! The jacket I bought at the bazaar that was Ann’s, the dress from Corky, the hand me downs from my mom, the scarf my son brought me from Egypt, the sari from India, the wedding dress- you get the idea.
One reason we choose to hang onto possession is that often they represent stories of our lives. They remind us of experiences and person who matter to us. So letting them go can feel like letting go of a part of ourselves. Yet, the story invites us to consider the possibility that as we give up more and more of our earthly possessions, as we down size, or simplify our physical lifestyles- we just could become more open to connection with God, more ready for a deeper, richer spiritual life, to find emotional and mental time for prayer and listening to the Spirit. Could it be that having fewer possessions to worry about can free us to follow Jesus more closely?
One thing I have learned through being here at Ebbert is that whether one has many possessions or just the backpack on ones back- One can choose to follow and love Jesus. He looks at our hearts and loves each of us. He wants each of us to take his hand and follow in the adventure of walking with him. I am sad for that man in the story because he chose to turn away instead of continuing the conversation, instead of walking for a while and learning from Jesus how to let go of his possessions. I wish he’d invited Jesus to dinner like Zaccheus did.
And that is what I invite us to do. If you sense a challenge in this story, if you sense that there is something in the way of your commitment to follow Jesus with your seeking heart. If you have let the worries of possession keep you from joyful generosity. If you have fears and insecurities, past mistakes and shame that hinder your walk with Christ. Whatever is in the way- don’t turn away! Invite Christ to dinner, to a cup of tea, to a walk in the woods. Spend some time in prayer and listening and let the love Christ has for you help you choose to step out and follow Jesus in loving this world with courage and compassion.