‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Mark 10:17-31
I remember the first time I met Maya Angelou. I don’t remember the exact question I asked her but it was something along the lines of “What must I do?” However, what I clearly remember was her answer “read.” I have to say at the time I was a bit perplexed on one hand and disappointed on the other. “Read what?” Why hadn’t I asked her something else? Maybe she would have given me something I could use. Today of course I read all the time but thirty plus years ago I only read out of necessity. It’s no wonder I was perplexed. Consequently, for some time I dismissed the advice of someone I still admire today. The old statement about being careful of what you ask for is very important in today’s gospel message. You’re not always going to like the answer that you get, particularly when the answer requires you to do something you don’t really want to do, regardless of how simple or complex. So, you go about finding other solutions to your quest, never fully fulfilling your desire.
The man in the gospel reading called Jesus “Good Teacher.” So we can assume that he valued Jesus’ authority. However, when he was advised to sell everything he had, he was left perplexed and discerning his true desire for eternal life. Honestly for me, asking us today to sell everything we have seems drastic and extreme. This is one of several events where Jesus advises drastic actions, including cutting off body parts (Matt. 5:30) and leaving the dead to bury the dead (Matt. 8:20). But I really believe Christ makes the point that no obstacle tangible or intangible should come between our desires to be in relationship with God. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph. 3:12). If we are bold enough to ask the question, we must be bold enough to accept the answer that challenges our commitment to God’s will. “Follow me.” Sometimes that means we have to let some things go completely. When we do, God’s graciousness rewards us a hundredfold in this life. Yet with the persecutions we will have to endure, the greater reward is eternal life, that being the assurance of God’s presence with us today and the life to come.
Hebrews 4:12-16 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee…He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. Luke 4:14-30
Even with our eyes wide open temptation has no beginning and no end in this world. Who among us has not wanted to give up, and surrender? The key is knowing to what you are giving up and surrendering. WWJD? Give up, the physical, and surrender to God. Captive, blind, and oppressed no more unless we choose to be. Boldly we must continue to chip away at the things which incarcerate our surroundings, cover our eyes and prevent us from moving in the direction God intends us to go. When Jesus left the wilderness, he went to the synagogue and claimed his purpose for the benefit of anyone who had ears to listen. To the glory of God, speak the Word and claim your purpose today. Don’t worry that some may want to “throw you off a cliff.” do your part and God will surely do his.
‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:21
“Are you the one to build me a house to live in?” This scripture from 2 Samuel reminds me of the times when I believed myself to be grown enough to tell my own parents what I could do for them. Of course they didn’t need me, but somehow it seemed important for me to let them know that I had in fact “arrived”, even though aside from my education I really had not accomplished very much. I had not saved any money. I did not buy most of my own clothes. I did not own a house or a car nor did I live on my own. Everything I had, the conveniences that I enjoyed up to that point were provided by my parents who I am sure loved me quite dearly, and yet probably thinking I had simply lost my mind, a momentary lapse in understanding graciousness and the reality of my true status and place in life. It was an event that was met with my mother’s usual snide response of “child please!”, and she was quick to remind me that I although had everything, I had earned nothing. So too, as children and inheritors of God’s grace we have everything; and as recipients of God’s mercy we’ve earned nothing. Who are we to say what we can do for God? In times like these it’s always a good thing to heed Paul’s warning in his letter to the Romans, that we ought not think of our selves more highly than we ought to think (Romans 12:3)! Unfortunately, it was a warning I failed to heed on several occasions.
2 Samuel 7:1-14a Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.”
Lent: Day 29 – Christians, God has given us ears to hear his voice, eyes to see his face (in the image of each other) and a mouth to proclaim his Word, which reveals his faithfulness and his steadfast love for us. In doing so we give praise glory and honor to his name. Christ continues to be lifted up and is revealed so that those who have not heard, seen nor speak his truth will come to believe. This is all that is required of us, our bodies. When we think of the benefit of peace, strength and courage that we are enduring as we journey in this life lived through Christ we can and will be assured that it is the one sacrifice worth making. Don’t be fooled by what the world values (burnt offerings). To give up material and physical pleasures means nothing, if we are not also willing to live for Christ in our bodies to the glory of God’s name. Praise be to God!
Luke 1:26-38 ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’
Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt-offering and sin-offering
you have not required.
I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
Hebrews 10:4-10 ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me’…
Lent: Day 5 – As humans we have an uncanny propensity to latch on to people. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for no one person is an island unto one self. Personal, business or otherwise, I believe we need relationships. As mature adults, our relationships, in connection with how we think and respond to one another, says something about who we are. For example, Paul in all of his education had one goal, to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who would believe. He did not consider, that it was his responsibility to speak in educated terms, thus selectively appealing only to those who could understand what he was saying, by using eloquent speech. No doubt we are all drawn to people who are most like our selves. We have a tendency to travel the journey, in the direction of who we believe our selves to be. However, as Christians, regardless of the road we travel, it should always lead to the one common goal to proclaim the gospel. What purpose does it serve us, as brothers and sisters in the Lord, to argue about the road we travel as long as Christ is the only lead we follow? Lent is the opportunity to create a habit of meditation and contemplation of the scripture, in order that the Holy Spirit becomes the one who leads us to God who guides, supports and protects us along the way. Then ultimately, God’s purpose prevails.
1 Corinthians 1:1-19 …for Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.
Mark 1:1-13 He (John the Baptist) proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’
Genesis 37:1-11 His brothers said to him (Joseph), ‘Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?’
Lent: Day 3 – At all times, is not the common goal a heavenly one? Yet, we argue. We disagree. Somebody has to be right. Right? How can this be? But what right do we have to expect others to think as we think, want what we want, and be what we are, when we our selves are imperfect? For the Christian, Christ is the only perfect model. To be of the same mind is not to be like one another but rather to be of the same mind as Christ. When our role models fail us most times we forgive them. As soon as we feel God has abandoned us we turn our backs. We lose faith. We ignore the perfect and cleave to the imperfect. Is it any wonder why the arguments and disagreements don’t stop?
John 15:1, 6-16 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Philippians 4:1-9 …be of the same mind in the Lord.
Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 Hear now, …Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? …get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.
Psalm 51 Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
Lent: Day 2 – It’s tricky. We say that we are Christian. We say that we have faith. Yet, our actions don’t reflect what we say we believe and we blame our life as it is, or at least as we see it, for our lack of faith. We begin our day with the words “If only…” conjuring up the spirit of the world we know and live in, allowing it to take precedent over the world God promises. Yet, the goal is to press on in this life towards that life God promises, knowing that through Christ we will in fact get there. We want to be reconciled, but where is “there”? What does “there” look like? How does “there” feel? What will I be doing when I arrive “there”? Consider this: perhaps today, “there” is wherever you are because God is willing to meet you in that place. “There” looks like whatever you see around you because all the earth belongs to God. “There” feels like peace, which passes all understanding of where you are, or what it looks like, because fear, anger, frustration and discontent has served no purpose, and won no victories. Ultimately, the beauty and comfort is, knowing that when you arrive “there”, you will find yourself imitating the one in whom you say you truly believe, living and responding in the presence of God’s promise because it fulfills the right purpose and glorifies Christ’s victory over the world. Perhaps, soon you will realize that “there” isn’t really a physical place at all? I told you it’s tricky, but keep the faith. God knows all the tricks.
John 17:1-8 …And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Philippians 3:12-21 …Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Habakkuk 3:1-0, 16-18
Though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will exult in the God of my salvation.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return (BCP 265). This is where it all begins and this is where it all ends. From the dust of the earth God created us and look at us now! Great and small, rich and poor, free and enslaved, we all occupy each of these phases throughout this journey called life, never really understanding the difference between the contrasts and never discerning their mystery. In reality, seeking this knowledge can occur at anytime in our life. However, the season of Lent within the Church is our official opportunity to understand and discern. When you see the ash upon the foreheads of those marked as Christ’s own, know that you are not alone.
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
2 Corinthians 5:20b – 6:10 …we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God …and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.
For he knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust.
BCP – Book of Common Prayer – according to the use of Episcopal Church
Beginning February 29 – March 28, Wednesday’s Blog, follow Crustybread Lenten Meditation: See My Face, Hear My Voice.
Is it possible that Peter’s denial of Christ was because he didn’t want to believe what was actually happening? This kind of denial is based in fear. We think denial protects us. We think denial will eventually make a situation go away. We even think that perhaps the situation is just an illusion or a keen diversion attempt by the enemy to keep us from believing in the true power of God. The fact is that if it were just an illusion there would be no need for the power of God. The works of the enemy such as fear are real, and we conquer fear by confronting it with our belief in the power of the Word of God. Even as newly transfigured followers of Christ, fear becomes a greater enemy. Previously, like Peter, when we journeyed this life with a veil, what was once used to protect us, now convicts us, because like Peter, it conflicts with what we now believe, as a result of being transformed by Christ. Peter’s multiple denials are not unfamiliar to our lives. More than once I myself have been there. Jesus knew that Peter would deny him (John 13:38). Jesus also knew that Peter would not always live in contrast with what he knew to be true within him self. He knows that about us too. We have only to be encouraged by his Word, and know that Christ is the faithful neighbor that we seek who always forgives and redeems us from all our troubles.
John 18:15-18, 25-27 …Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.
Philippians 2:1-13 ... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Proverbs 27:1-6, 10-12 …Faithful are the wounds of a friend…
Psalm 9 …And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
“Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, …make perfect those who approach.” What then, does the law make us? By confession and repentance it makes us accountable. It also reminds us of our sin. However, Sanctification through Christ makes perfect all those who approach (1 John 4:17-21). By confession and repentance, we are also made accountable. Yet, rather than continuing to remind us of our sin, in all circumstances Sanctification through Christ continually forgives. Although in both ways we are made accountable, only in one way is salvation be revealed. Therefore seek always to do God’s will.
Sanctification through Christ; One way of Salvation; Seek God