Sermon for 14th October 2018 by Rev Ellen Goldsmith

SERMON for 14TH October 2018  20th after Trinity

 

OT: Amos 5.6-7,10-15
Psalm 90.12-17
NT: Hebrews 4.12-16
Gospel: Mark 10.17-31

 

Do you ever wonder what happened to the rich and sad young man who walked away from Jesus?

We don’t know, but we would like to think he had second thoughts about the way he lived his life, and came back to discover a second chance to follow Jesus.

 

We know that can happen, but it’s a dangerous strategy –

The Psalmist advises, ‘Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.’

The writer to the Hebrew Christians emphasises the word Today:  several times he quotes from the Psalms, ‘Today, if you hear God’s voice, do not harden your hearts.’

 

And he opens his letter by saying that Today, nowadays, in our age, God has spoken to us by his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the one we should be listening to, who commands our attention and our obedience.

This is the one the rich young man met.

He met the living word of God, in action! 

And he discovered that Jesus was sharper than any double-edged sword. He found this out to his own un-doing. 

Jesus had found him out!

  • everything uncovered and laid bare; nothing hidden from God.

Jesus puts in his 2-edged sword to reveal the real issue in the rich young man:  there were some gaps between his

Beliefs and motives

Between Thoughts and attitudes

Beliefs and actions.

He was to be admired for not murdering, or committing adultery, nor stealing nor giving false testimony nor defrauding, and for respecting his parents.

Was this just dutiful keeping to the letter of the law?  Where was the Spirit of the law – the love and mercy, justice and righteousness?  Going the second mile?

 

And what about the first 4 commandments, those about God, especially the one that forbids any other god?

For the young man, it seems his riches had become his god; he couldn’t give them up; they were more important than following Jesus.  And he knew it, for he was sad. 

And we wonder if he was sad for the rest of his life  … or perhaps his heart hardened till he forgot or didn’t care.  And if so, what sort of old man did he become?

 

He could well have known the 8th C BC writings of the prophet Amos:   ch. 5:

SEEK me and live v.5; seek the Lord and live v.6; seek good not evil that you may live, v.14

How different his living might have been!

 

Someone who did take notice of Amos, and who would have known the story of the rich young man, was another rich young man who lived in the 13th C in Assisi – St Francis. We’ve just been on holiday near there, and I’ve been impressed again by his life and the rich legacy he has left.

Francis was born into a wealthy family, son of a prosperous silk merchant.

He was handsome, witty, gallant, and delighted in fine clothes. He spent money lavishly, and as a young man, lived a life filled with wine, women and song!

 

But a gradual disillusionment towards the world began to creep over him, as is shown by his act of generosity when confronted by a beggar:  Francis gave him his cloak and all the money he had in his pockets.

This sense of ‘there must be more to life’ began to take root when he was ill and held prisoner for a year – fighting against Perugia actually! - after joining Assisi’s army. 

And it was soon after his release that he joined a community of monks, and he fully responded to God’s call to ‘build the church’.

His devotion to God, to people and animals is legendary, inspiring so many for over 700 years to follow the Lord Jesus with obedience and poverty, and chastity for those living a monastic life – quite the reverse of his early life.

 

In contrast to the rich young man who turned away from Jesus sad, was Francis happy following Jesus? we might ask. I think we hesitate to say he was. 

Jesus didn’t give that promise to his first disciples; but he did reassure them of the many material blessings that would come to all his followers through sharing the homes and belongings and fellowship of their extended Christian family – so long as they, and Francis, and we, can also be prepared for some persecutions.

 

But we are promised happiness in the sense of fulfilment and peace – often described by Jesus as eternal life, which begins in this age and continues in the age to come. 

This is what the rich young man was seeking; this is what he gave up.

 

Eternal life is what St Francis wrote about in the hymn we know as Make me a channel of your peace:

  • serving others, consoling, loving, pardoning, giving, and dying to self to be born to eternal life.

 

So, are you sad or happy today as God speaks to us by his Son about life, about eternal life?

What sort of legacy will we leave?

 

No doubt there is some reluctance and anxiety in all of us about following Jesus too closely, wondering what he will ask of us.

So we must hold on firmly to our faith, not giving in to our temptations and weaknesses.  Today may be the day of testing, but it is also the day of mercy and grace.  We can ask for help to be true disciples, building God’s church, doing whatever he asks.

 

Let’s do that now.

 


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