Looking around, Jesus said to his disciples,
"It will be very hard for the wealthy to enter God's kingdom!"
His words startled the disciples, …
"Children, it's difficult to enter God's kingdom!
It's easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle
than for a rich person to enter God's kingdom."
They were shocked even more …, "Then who can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them carefully and said,
"It's impossible with human beings, but not with God.
All things are possible for God."…
Peter said to him, "Look, we've left everything and followed you." …
[Jesus said,] “…many who are first will be last.
And many who are last will be first."
Mark 10.23b -25, 28, 31 *
I don’t know about you, but Hal’s sermon this past Sunday really challenged me to think again… and again and again….about my financial resources. Hal and I may live in the same house, but we rarely hear each other’s sermons before the worship services on Sunday morning. We often surprise one another. Echoing Jesus’ words, Hal’s words us challenged how we look at ourselves and at our lives as Americans. None of us may be in the top 1% of the wealthiest, but we are in the top echelons of the wealthy in comparison to most of the world’s people. If we have a place to live, food to eat, education, healthcare of some kind and opportunity for work – and meaningful work at that - we can consider ourselves “rich.”
The difficulty of being “rich” in our world is that it has the potential to cut us off from the wealth of God’s kin-dom or realm that is here and now on our earth. The possessions and accoutrements of first world wealth, even middle to upper middle class wealth, can distract us from seeking God first in our lives. We get distracted with taking care of houses and cars, etc., etc. We are distracted with worrying about investments or getting ahead in jobs so we can make more money. We think we have built our small “kingdoms” of family and resources all by ourselves. We forget that God is the giver of all we have! Living in God’s economy, in God’s song of abundance, there is more enough for all!
Jesus invites those of us who are “first” in line in the world’s eyes to move to the back of the line. My imagination shows me a line of people waiting to receive food — perhaps in a buffet or cafeteria situation or maybe it’s an abundant potluck. Some of the people are emaciated and look as if they have not eaten for days while others are healthy and robust. It is quite apparent that there is enough food for all on the table. Which group should go first in line? It is too obvious for words. Yet this is not the justice in which our contemporary competitive systems always operate, is it? Even if we care deeply about changing the world for justice, we are often overwhelmed by the challenge.
What is an action item we can each do to move from “first” to “last” even as we remember that there is really no linear order in God’s realm. We are ALL God’s people interconnected in love. What can we do – each of us, right now?
We can consider our resources, their abundance. Some of us are at a more abundant time in life than others, true, yet we all have something to give. And we can each give out of what we have to build the ministry of Plymouth as part of God’s realm on earth.
What can you give that challenges you to acknowledge and celebrate God’s abundance? $10 a month? $25? $100? $150? $300? $500? $1000? More?
Give out of prayerful consideration, out of a full and grateful heart! Yes, you will be helping others as our budget dollars go to our Outreach and Mission partners, to supporting the spiritual formation of children, youth and adults, to facilitating inspiring worship, to building the administrative infrastructure of our church that provides transparent communication and a solid logistical foundation for our ministries. More importantly, you will be intentionally remembering that your whole self, body, mind and soul, live and move and have their being in God and God’s Spirit of Abundance.
The prophet Amos reminds us. Seek the LORD and live, … Seek good and not evil, that you may live; … the [Holy One], will be with you. (Amos 5. 6a,14a) “All things are possible for God," says Jesus. Even giving more than we might imagine at first glance that we can give!
Take the challenge with me,
*Bible, Common English. CEB Common English Bible with Apocrypha - eBook [ePub] (Kindle Locations 39604, 39607-39608).
The Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson, Associate Minister, is a writer, storyteller, and contributor to Feasting on the Word, a popular biblical commentary. She is also the writer of sermon-stories.com, a lectionary-based story-commentary series.