XXI Pentecost

October 14, 2018

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

This morning’s Gospel Lesson begins with this encounter between Jesus and an un-named man:
“And as (Jesus) was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’  And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: `Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'’
And he said to him, ‘Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.’ And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’  At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.”

There were some initial thoughts that came to my mind.  The first is, “Well, I don’t have enough money to have that problem.” – How about you? 

The second was, “How much does Jesus expect from people?”   After all, the man was living a righteous life.  He was following the commandments.  He was living the way that a good Jew at the time would live.  Why would Jesus expect more?

If you have not already figure this out – Jesus always expects more!  And this is not a negative thing.  It all comes back to the word that is at the core of my understanding of lives as Christians – Relationship.

When you are in a relationship with someone, as that relationship progresses, the relationship gets deeper and the expectations get greater.  A cordial acquaintance with someone requires a nice “hello” and a smile.  If you are a friend to someone for many years – a true friend – then a smile and a nice “hello” just will not cut it.

As a relationship progresses, the expectations are greater.  Jesus does not chastise the man’s answer to His question.  The man answers correctly.  He knows the commandments and lives by them.  What the man may have expected was for Jesus to say, “You are doing all that you can do”.

But, as we know, Jesus very rarely does what people expect.  What Jesus is doing is that He is inviting this man into a deeper relationship.  “You are living by the commandments – that is great”, but… (Don’t you hate when there is a but?) “But”, Jesus says, “Your wealth is a stumbling block to a deep relationship with God.”

That brings me back to you and me.  I would guess that most of us would have the same sort of reaction that I did to this story – “I don’t have enough money to have that problem.”

That may be true.  But that does not mean that there are not stumbling blocks in our lives which keep us from a deeper relationship with Jesus.  This requires some thought and self-examination.  What are the stumbling blocks to our relationship with Jesus?

What about our “things”?  Do the things which we possess become a stumbling block?  What about our egos?  Do they get in the way?  What about our fears or anxieties?  The stumbling blocks in our lives are as numerous and diverse as the people who are here today.

What we have to remember is that Jesus is happy with those things which we do to be in a good relationship with Him.  But, Jesus always wants more from us.  He does not want more for His sake, but for ours.  The deeper we go in relationship with Jesus the more there is expected – and that is a good thing!

Let us take some time this week to examine our lives.  What are the stumbling blocks in our relationship with Christ and one another?  And what can we do to get rid of those stumbling blocks?

“And (the disciples) were exceedingly astonished, and said to (Jesus), ‘Then who can be saved?’  Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.’” AMEN.