What Are You So Happy About?
I have to say that in many ways I think our denomination is in trouble. We all know it. We don’t have enough ministers, which is a problem that will increase dramatically in the next 10-15 years as most of our ministers across the country are coming to retirement age. We can’t seem to recruit new ministers, not to mention our outflow in terms of membership.
A lot of it has to be put on the leadership within our church for the last couple of decades. We have been feeding our congregations candy instead of the “full meal deal”. We’ve been sugar-coating the Gospel for so long we no longer have leadership who are able to engage and inspire people into a deeper relationship with God.
This is what I try to do each and every week. You don’t have to agree with everything I say, in fact if you don’t, you are the person I want to hear from. There’s nothing more enjoyable for me to sit and talk with someone and share our differences of understanding. It’s a fantastic time to learn from one another. We can agree to disagree if we have to. I love debating the finer points of the Gospel.
So, if any of you have concerns over what I said last week, please let me know. I know I spoke about a controversial subject in our church and society. I’d love to sit down and talk with you about it. This is course does not only apply to last week’s sermon, but anything you’d like to chat about. None of you have said anything negative about my sermon, though I did receive some feedback from it being online; both good and bad. I enjoyed the conversations there as well.
In the meantime, I promise you I will continue to preach with courage on difficult issues should they come up. I will continue to encourage you to seek a deeper relationship with our Creator. And I will work with you closely to bring about a Holy Spirit filled church and ministry here at Carman United, serving not only those who sit here on Sunday mornings, but also those who call this community home.
Are you with me?
Today we read the story often called the “rich young ruler”. A young man, possibly a leader in the community in some way, has come to Jesus seeking the secret to eternal life. Jesus answers that he has to keep the Commandments.
The young man responds that he has since he was a little boy.
Here’s where it takes a bit of a swing. If he’s followed all the Commandments, wouldn’t you expect Jesus to say, “Ok! You’re good to go!”?
But he doesn’t. Jesus looks at him as only Jesus can. Jesus peers into this young man, deep into his heart. This fellow clearly wants to be in close relationship with God. He longs to know if he will have eternal life with God. So Jesus peers deep into him and immediately sees what keeps him from believing.
It’s his stuff.
Something about what he owns is keeping him from getting close and intimate with God. It seems he has a lot of stuff, but we aren’t really sure what it all is.
There are people who think he went away sad because he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t come to grips with needing to sell all his stuff and give it to the poor. But we really don’t know that. He may have gone away grieving because he was about to go and give away all that he has, and have nothing to show for it.
We can’t expect him to go away happy. He’s spent his entire life with this wealth. He probably inherited it, so knows no other life than a wealthy one. One where he has servants, more food than he knows what to do with, money, gold, horses, he is living the “good life”. Hard labour? He knows nothing of it. He’s living the “American dream” so to speak.
But Jesus says he has to give it all away. It’s keeping him apart from God.
Now, Jesus is pushing us hard here. All our lives we are being told we need to be self-sufficient. We have to have big houses and a couple cars in the driveway. And here Jesus says “sell it all and give the money to the poor.”
But we keep reading. Jesus asks, “How hard will it be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God?” No one answers.
“It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Now, there are two lines of thought on what Jesus means by the “eye of a needle”. One is, he really is talking about the eye of a needle. Which is kind of an absurd comparison when you think about it. And is impossible.
The second line of thought, is that Jesus is talking about a particular gate in the walls of Jerusalem, which is a small, tight gate some called the “eye of the needle”. This gate was so narrow it was difficult for a loaded camel to fit through. To get through this gate, you had to unload your camel, carry everything through, squeeze your camel through, then reload all your stuff back onto the camel.
In other words, if you had too much stuff on your camel, you weren’t getting through the gate.
The disciples are shocked. And rightly so. So they ask, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus’ answer didn’t help much. “For mortals it is impossible. But not for God; for God all things are possible.”
Peter seems to be getting flustered by this. “Look, we have left everything and followed you.”
Then there’s those calming words from Jesus, “Truly I tell you…”
“Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left it all behind for my sake and the sake of the Good News who will not receive one hundred fold in this age, and in the age of eternal life.”
Here’s how it is. Following the law is not enough. First of all, it’s pretty much impossible to follow the law. We all know it. We all know we miss the target. I’m not going to stand here and run down the ten commandments to see if we all make it through the list. We just don’t. It’s our nature it seems to miss the mark on some of them.
So for us mortals, it is impossible.
But thank God, it’s not impossible for Him.
So the question from the disciples, “Then who can be saved?” God saves us.
Jesus Christ came to this world, died on the cross and rose again, so that we might be saved through him.
This weekend is Thanksgiving. A time when we often ask one another, “What are you thankful for?” I bet this rich young man was thankful for his stuff, until he talked to Jesus that day.
What are you thankful for? Is it your job? Your car? Your stuff?
Or are you thankful for the real blessings of life? Family… friends… community… the free gift of salvation from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ?
These are the true gifts from God. The people we travel with in life. The journey of faith within a community of people who help us grow together, serve together, and live and support together. It’s not about how much we have, because what we have can keep us from entering into a deep, intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
“For God, all things are possible.”
Is God in you? For you, are all things possible?