October 6, 2019
Mark 10: 17-27
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is[b] 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.”
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Our passage this morning is probably one you recognize- it’s used a lot when we talk about stewardship and money, and usually results in a lot of guilt and people not making eye contact with the preacher.
But today, instead of heaping shame and guilt on your heads, let’s go camping. Shall we? But first, let’s pray.
God, help us to feel your presence this morning. Help us to sense your love. Thank you that you promise in your word to be with us wherever we go, and to help us discern how to get there. Thank you for this place and these people. May we be more of who you have created us to be as we discover that together. Amen.
So Sam and I go camping every summer with a group of friends. And, when I say a “group of friends”, what I mean is this (show group pic).
These are our camping friends. Looking at this picture, we all look deceivingly put together. Everyone is making eye contact, shockingly. But in reality it’s a weekend of joyful chaos and madness. And somehow we keep coming back.
So, let’s pack for our trip, ok, honey?
Ok, ready to go? How far do you think you could get like this? What’s missing?
Two choices- drop some stuff or find a better way to carry it.
So, when we pack for this trip, a month or so beforehand we start a massive group text about how to pack. Each family brings different stuff to the trip- some have two kids, other crazy people like us have 4. Some have older kids who are much more self-sufficient, others still have infants. So, the gear we all need varies according to our needs. But also according to our priorities. One family in our group brings a portable toilet. Now, the place where we set up camp is within a few hundred yards of a bathroom, but for this family, the priority is that they don’t want to get up in the middle of the night to go. For us, here’s one priority- (explain fan pic).
Because we also have to eat, our group text has a sign-up for us to bring food and drinks to share. Each family is in charge of certain foods, camp stoves, dish soap, and other things that we share throughout the weekend. If we all insisted on bringing these things independently, the weight would be too heavy and we wouldn’t be able to get where we need to go.
So, since we are official campers, one of Sam’s and my favorite places to go is REI…I went on REI’s website this week and saw that they sell over 1,000 different camping backpacks. They sell all colors, all materials, and all sizes. Why? Because each of us can carry differently, based on our size, strength and preferences. Each of these backpacks has a different weight distribution.
In our text this morning, we see the rich young ruler approach Jesus with a question. He has done all the things written in the law, without fault. No murdering, no adultery, no stealing, no lying. He’s dropped all of those things. But he’s standing there, in front of Jesus, and his hands are still filled. He’s rich, both in actual wealth and in privilege. In those days (not much has changed) if someone was rich they were considered to be blessed by God. So, he is holding money, privilege, and quite a bit of pride in what he’s already chosen to lay down. But, if he was considered blessed by God already, why does he even ask Jesus the question? His question is interesting- he is asking, “WHAT shall I DO?” And Jesus answers in a curious way- here are all the things you shouldn’t do.
But perhaps he is asking a deeper question- WHO should I BE to inherit eternal life? My hands are full and I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere. And Jesus says, essentially, you still need to put some stuff down. You need to trust that a life of following me means that your needs will be met by the community, and you don’t have to carry everything alone. Put some stuff down, and let me introduce you to the priorities of this community. Shift the treasures you are holding to get a better grip on the life I have in mind for you.
When we think about the work we are doing around our mission, vision, and budget, I think there is much we can learn from this story. As a community, we have done the really important work of discerning the priorities we have in this place. We know that, in order for this work to be done, we need to distribute this weight in our common church backpack. This requires creativity and good packing skills. We’ve identified some weight that we want to carry together- caring for our kids, becoming a place where all people feel their inherent worth, showing up for Woodburn McCabe in tangible ways. These are weights that make sense to carry together because they require all of the strength of our community to do so. We can move more efficiently and with more ease when we are certain of our collective priorities.
But we also know that we all have our own individual backpacks. We have the priorities and callings that God has placed in our hearts, and they will be different for each of us. And that’s a beautiful thing. Each of us brings our piece of the puzzle together to make up the divine will of bringing heaven to earth. It’s a both-and. It’s a yes-yes. We have our backpack together, and we can move further and perhaps faster because of it. And we all have our own packs, filled with exactly the things that make us unique and precious to God.
We have also done the hard work of asking God what we might need to lay down. Where there are ways we are trying to carry too much and it is hindering our movement. These conversations can be hard and painful, especially when, like the rich young ruler, our hands are filled with blessings from God and we want to keep hold of them. This collective discernment requires lots of trust- trust in God that God will show us how to carry what we pick up, and trust in each other that we can come together and make hard decisions with love.
So, as we continue the work of filling our church backpack with the weights we have decided to carry together, let’s remember that the secret to camping is even distribution. We have places to go as a people of God, and we have an eye on our destination. May we ask for the wisdom to lay down what we can’t carry, to pick up what we can as individuals, and to evenly distribute the rest.