This was what came out as a ‘sermon’ this morning at our 8am Morning Prayer. It’s a bit different, but received a couple favourable comments this morning, which is actually really encouraging because often there is little feedback at that time of the morning.
It should be read as ‘voiced’ from inside the head of the rich man (in the first two sections) and Jesus (in the last section) and should be read with the Bible reading split into two parts within it. Do please tell me honestly what you think using the comment box.
“How can I be sure,” said the rich young man to himself. “Sure, that I’ll be in the right place at the right time. You see, I’ve been listening, and I’ve been watching, and there’s this sense that the time is nearly here. The folk who I meet, and those that gather at dinner with me, are all saying the same thing. They have a feeling that the moment we’ve been waiting for is almost upon us.
“You know the world isn’t really a good place to be right now. We’re stuck here, restricted in how we can live our lives and struggling to apply the teachings of our faith among all the changes that this government and these new ideas are placing on us. We’ve been waiting for the trigger that will show us that God is giving us our freedom back, that justice and peace can reign again, and that we can once more be a prosperous community. There are rumours that the old prophesies are beginning to be fulfilled, and that those who’ve gone rotten and forgotten our faith, or who have stood against it, are going to be made to pay.
“And I don’t want to miss out on that moment. If God is going to bring heaven down to earth, so that we can enjoy his personal blessings for ever more, I want to be there, and watch it happen. I don’t want God thinking I’ve gone rotten, played the system, or colluded with the enemy; I want to be on the receiving end, enjoying that new life that so many of us have been craving. I want to see God.”
The rich young man continued to muse as Jesus approached. “I’m sure he’s got something to do with it. He’s a bit different and not altogether popular with the authorities, but he’s been teaching about this sort of thing for months now. He’s very good: when he speaks he seems to have some authority, and there’s tales I’m told of miracles, so if they’re true he obviously has some favour with God. But I can’t quite get a handle on how he thinks we should apply the law so as not to miss out when God brings everything together. And what does he think we need to do to recognise when it’s all going to happenn? I’ll ask him, that’s what I’ll do. I’m sure he’s got an answer that will help me.”
Reading: Mark 10:17-22
“I can’t believe he expects me to do that!” grumbled the rich young man to himself, as he moved away from Jesus. “It’s not like I’ve stolen my money from someone else. It’s just there, it always has been. I pay my servants good wages, I don’t cheat the tax man, I’m generous in the hospitality I offer my friends. So why should I give it away? If I did, it would make it a lot more difficult to do those things I’ve always done as part of keeping the law. And anyway, it wouldn’t be honouring my parents, or even their parents, if I were just to give all the money away, and sell all the lovely things they’ve collected together over the years.
“If I were to take him seriously, how does it answer my question? I know he heard me clearly, and when he looked me in the eye just then, it was like he knew me, right inside. Perhaps he wasn’t being deliberately unkind; and perhaps he just missed the point, that I was asking him about the law, and what emphasis I need to place on which bits of it so that God will notice me when he comes. Because I still want to be there when the time is right!
“He said it was just one thing…. But that’s not true! He asked me to do three things: to sell what I own, land, home, furniture, servants, the family business, the lot. (I’m sure that’s what he meant.) Then he told me to give all the proceeds, plus all my savings away to the poor. And then, rather than giving me some idea of how I’m going to live without them, he told me to follow him! How is following him into Jerusalem going to help me be there when God brings heaven and earth together and starts a new world?”
Reading: Mark 10: 23-31
“Why are people so impatient,” thought Jesus as he watched the rich young man move away among the crowds, and sensed the surprise and confusion of his disciples. “And why won’t they see that if they’re asking the right questions, the answers are going to involve them doing something so they can experience the final answer for themselves… I can’t avoid my involvement, and nor can they.
“I love them so much, and I know how hard it is for them to give up what they believe God has rewarded them with. The burdens that some of them carry aren’t anything they’ve done wrong, it’s just the things they’ve been loaded with by the circumstances of their lives, the things they’ve heard, the things they’ve seen, the things they feel they need to do. It’s like there is so much blocking out the light, they can’t see where it’s shining through the gap they need to pass through to enable them to be totally soaked in the love that my Father wants to offer them for eternity.
“Perhaps that rich young man should have stayed a few moments longer, and listened to my conversation with my friends here. Though I’m still not sure even they understand, so perhaps it wouldn’t have helped.
“I know they think they’ve done it, that they have succeeded where they see that young man as having failed. They’ve followed me nearly three years now, and he walked away before he even took the first step, so in a sense they’re right.
But,” reflected Jesus as he talked to his Father God “perhaps that young man was closer to the truth in asking his question, than Peter and the others are in asking theirs. Because rich though he was, he’d not lost sight of the end-game, the reason for all this talking, and teaching and sharing, the reason why I have to go to Jerusalem… Without all that, and especially without what I know must happen in Jerusalem, you, my Father, can not get as close to him as that young man really desires, if only he could admit it.
“If only all these people, that rich young man, dear Peter and the others, could understand how you crave for their love, far more than they ever realise. That you love them in a way that can break their grip on all their burdens, confusions and misapprehensions, if only they will just loosen their grasp and let you take the weight.
“After all that’s what I’m trying to show them, and what that young man had right; that you want them to focus on this new beginning where you have broken into this world. Father help them make a total commitment to you; break down the barriers that stop them from giving you a free hand to work through them. That way they won’t be on the sidelines at the end, and they will see you bring justice and peace, a new freedom, and new prosperity to all people, because you will be doing it through them, and they will all be sharing in the riches of your love, your grace and your mercy.”