Twentieth Sunday of Trinity
Introduction and Call to Worship
We gather together to worship and to thank God for the love and mercy shown towards us in Jesus Christ, our Lord. We offer to God all that we are and all that we have, trusting that, in divine wisdom and understanding, God will show us the way that leads to eternal life in his kingdom.
First Reading Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Amos warns the people of Israel to turn away from their sins and injustices against the righteous. He calls on them to seek God, who will then be gracious to them.
Second Reading Hebrews 4:12-16
We are assured that although God knows the thoughts of our hearts and minds he looks on us with sympathy and offers us grace and mercy because he understands what human life is like.
Gospel Mark 10:17-31
Through his encounter with a wealthy man, Jesus talks to his disciples about the cost of following him, the power of God in our lives and what is to be gained through true discipleship.
HOMILY “For God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27b)
Do you like collecting things? It’s sometimes a cause for amusement when we find out that a friend or neighbour has a strange collection: from stamps, to train sets, tea boxes or recipe books. But, a personal collection can be wonderful! There are all sorts of possession and interests that inspire us, and it is great to think that each of us is unique and able to have such varied and different interests. I collect jokes… well, at least I think they are humorous although some may choose to disagree. A friend once told me he collected old vacuum cleaners; I know, how strange. He decided to sell them at auction. Well, they were just collecting dust. Do you have a secret collection?
Being a disciple, a pupil in the school of Christ, is also a bit like collecting. Our task is to bring people into a relationship with Jesus, who accepts and loves them for who they are, unique and wonderful. Diversity is important – take today’s Gospel reading - the man who approached Jesus is unusually rich and is probably quite influential and even respected. He may have a level of power because of his status, but despite these advantages he knows within himself that something is missing. Yes, he keeps God’s commandments, he is righteous in many ways, but he still needs assurance from the Lord of Life and Love that he has a place in God’s eternal kingdom – as may we.
Jesus looks at the man with eyes that see straight into his heart; just as he does with us through worship. Jesus loves what he sees but also knows what is missing and how that can be put right. How amazing is that! Jesus sees what needs changing about this man, and about us too. But he still loves the man as he does us: ‘Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing… sell what you own… give to the poor … then come, follow me.”' (Mark 10: 21) In other words, come and really live the life of faith! Put everything you have into being with me, being a faithful Christian; it will be worth it!
“Sell what you own,” says Jesus, “sell… and give.” This incident does not imply that all Christ’s followers must become penniless! Our collections matter to us, we take great time over them. Some are more valuable than others and we should never see everything in purely financial terms, that is not God’s way. The measure for financial giving in the Bible is often referred to as a tithe, or 10% of our income. If that seems like an impossible challenge, the Church of England recommends a half-tythe of 5% of income as our gift into the common purse, so we can support the ministry and mission – the collecting of souls for Christ. But that won’t be possible for everyone, even if it is a realistic challenge for most of us. For in today’s Gospel Jesus is speaking to one individual about their situation, not to all. Here money has taken first place in this man’s life – but it could be all sorts of other things we collect. But first place is reserved for our relationship with God, not our hobbies or pastimes, not for collecting! And it’s a step too far for the young man and the encounter ends in shock and grieving, with Jesus also grieving the loss of someone who just couldn’t take that last step. Where are we then with such a challenge? Are we willing to take the next step in support of the ministry and mission of Christ’s Church, in support of St Mary’s? Could we give more, and give more regularly and more faithfully?
The Gospel goes on to challenge us further as Jesus teaches: ‘‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 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.” (Mark 10:23-27) And friends, collecting money is a pastime that many in our first-world society are rather good at. At the beginning of this Gospel reading, we may well identify with the young man. We might recognise the sense that even though we do our best to follow God’s commandments we’re still missing something. There’s still an empty place in our hearts that aches and longs for something we can’t fully identify. And that is true for so many others in society who long inside for something they don’t yet know about or understand because we have not yet reached out to them with words of faith – they have not yet been discipled. That is our mission here at St Mary’s – to draw people from everywhere!
There are so many different hobbies we could have – collecting something is just one example. Storing up treasure, collecting money is just one example, like the rich young man. Like him, we must kneel before Jesus and ask what we must do to truly follow him, and he will look back at us in love before challenging us to be his disciples anew today. For just as our Lord looked at the young man and knew what had to change, so He perceives in us, with love, what more is needed. His answer to us will be individual but it requires action on our part, it requires change. For the rich young man, at first reaction this challenge may have seemed impossible; remember that with God all things are possible, including to give generously of what we own. He went away heavy-hearted.
Friends in faith, we are only asked to contribute part of what we earn, and to do so faithfully and regularly. Just maybe that young man came around to see that whatever from his collection he had to give up would be worth it in terms of what matters in God’s Kingdom. My prayer is that we will grow in faith, following our Saviour Jesus Christ, giving willingly and generously of our own for the building up of God’s Kingdom knowing that we are dearly loved by the Lord. Amen.
There are many ways in which we ‘collect’ treasures today, including money.
When a rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, our Lord suggests he sells what he owns and gives the money away and follows Jesus.
Jesus goes on to suggest 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.
The disciples, hearing this, protest that it must be impossible for anyone to enter the kingdom of heaven, to be saved, but God is love and with God everything is possible.
We too are encouraged to kneel before Jesus and offer more of what we have for the building-up of his Kingdom.