Thursday, October 08, 2015

Pentecost 20 (Proper 23)
Year B
Mark 10:17-31    

…he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions… Jesus said…”It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”

Fine. Here he is having another go at us. What’s this all about then - rich men and camels and the eyes of needles? One more reason to squirm at the back of church on Sunday. You wouldn’t be alone.
Any focus group gathered together to discuss the passage would think that they were being criticized for having possessions or for being born in the most prosperous hemisphere of the earth when so many other people in the world make do with less. Whatever… That same group of respondents, however, when fed a different saying of Jesus – let’s say, for example:

“Come unto me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest”

wouldn’t bat an eyelash. This is good! This is Jesus promising something to us rather than criticizing us. Burdens are bad and if Jesus wants to divest us of those burdens then we should say yes. You’ve figured out where I’m going with this: It amounts to the same thing.

In the larger story of this Sunday’s Gospel reading a young man who is pious and eager asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. After having checked the boxes of both eagerness and piety, Jesus tells him that he needs to free himself up to be a follower – and that the discipline of the Kingdom is not a party membership badge which one adds to an already completed wardrobe.

Those who follow are those who are free to follow. Many of us are burdened. Some carry the burdens that others put upon them. The mission of the Church (as it was the mission of Jesus) is not only to reassure such folks that they may be free but, through both evangelism and activism, to free the oppressed in Jesus’ name. We do something in word and act which defies the necessity of such burdens on others. Let my people go! 

Some carry their own burdens. With an eye to safety and security they make themselves prisoners. In the name of financial stability they make it nigh on impossible to say yes to anything which is “off message” or “off the beaten path”. Why have we become our own worst enemies? Do remember that repentance, generosity and service to others are acts of defiance. They defy the tendency to self-preoccupation which keeps us bound, which denies us our liberty to follow, to change and transform – to say “yes” to the big and beautiful things which come our way. Look at yourselves the way you look at another who has been unjustly burdened or enslaved.

With compassion and tenderness you might say of yourself-as-another“What can I do to set that man or woman free?”