Pentecost XX Gospel Mark 10.17-31
As clergy and Synod reps prepare to head back to Synod later today, it is back to school for
teachers, chaplains, and children this week. With thoughts of school, you may have memories stored with pride or shame, often ascribed in our
school reports forever.
As a teacher the best comment I ever wrote – I thought – was for a bright lad yet a student who
never seemed able to complete his work. I wrote on his Year 11 report "Neil’s broken arm is the best excuse for no work he has come up with all year."
He now functions as a highly respected lawyer in Perth, and I do not. I wonder how he would report on me.
My report card throughout primary school repeatedly stated something along the lines of Wendy is a good little girl who tries hard. While my sister’s was more of the ilk generally speaking Debbie is generally speaking. I bet the teacher smiled as she wrote that. And your school report comment? One you choose to remember? or have you forgotten?
If God was moved to put pen to paper to report on the young man of the gospel this morning it may be something like He does everything asked of him, except what he most needs to do. And if God was so moved to put pen to paper in regard to us and our life, I wonder what would be
This morning’s gospel is between a “good teacher” who cares enough to show us the truth about ourselves, and a well-meaning human being who can’t bear to gaze into the mirror God holds up for him. Can we bear to gaze into the mirror God holds up for us?
The young man of today knew there was something missing in his life. His possessions and pieties notwithstanding, he is consumed with a longing for more. This gospel demonstrates that spiritual growth begins with the open acknowledgement of desire.
This gospel is not about money. It is not about anything we have, or don’t have. This gospel is about who we are and how we are with what we have and what we don’t have. Tell me to what you attend to, and I will tell you who you are. Gassdtt said. "Tell me to what you attend to and I will tell you who you are."
The man from Mark’s gospel today attended to doing everything right when it came to the Law and to making money. He became what he attended to, his identity was in what he had, and choose to stay with what he could trust to be true. He turns and walks away from Jesus. He turns to attend to his possessions. And we never hear of him again. Although he knew there was something missing in his life, he was not prepared to miss what
he already had.
We hear Jesus loves him, as he walks away. For Jesus, love is surgical; it cuts in order to heal. It is because he loves the young man, Jesus tells him the truth. Not the half- truth, not the watered-down truth, but the whole truth: 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." We hear the man was shocked because he considered his wealth a reward from God, not an obstacle standing between him and God. How terrible to be told that his best credential is in fact a liability and a burden. He is unable to trust the promise of
“treasure in heaven” enough to relinquish the treasures he has on earth. He doesn’t want to follow Jesus; he wants to admire the “good teacher” from a comfortable distance, and go on living as he has always lived. And he chooses to do exactly that.
If Jesus said that you lack one thing, What would that be? As the man was shocked in Jesus’ ask of him, what could Jesus say which would shock you? What do you hold so sacred? What do you least consider a potential obstacle in your relationship with God? What is the “one thing” you lack, the one thing that might cause you to walk away if God points it out to you and says, “Let it go?"
Jesus answers the initial question, What must I do to inherit eternal life? with an offer of companionship. Of friendship. Of shared life. Follow me, Jesus says.
But that’s not an answer the man can bear. The man isn’t ready; he opts instead for fear, control, and independence. And Jesus lets him. Jesus lets him because that is the terrible and beautiful requirement of love. Love lets go. Love bides its time. Love hopes in absence, in shadow, in interims of silence.
All the while, love dreams of return, because even when a situation appears impossible to us
mortals, for God, all things are possible.