Don't let yourself down - everything is possible for God!

St Mary’s Church, Thorpe

Sunday 10th October 2021 – Trinity 19 (Proper 23) Sermon Notes

Introduction and Call to Worship

We gather 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. Our Liturgy speaks of reconciliation and ends with prayers of Healing and reconciliation for those who wish in the Benedict Chapel (11am).

Today’s Bible Readings

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 we let ourselves down, God knows the thoughts of our hearts and minds, and looks on us with love, and sympathy. And God offers us grace and mercy because he understands what human life is like, through Jesus.

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. He longs for our commitment to regular giving and worship in his service.

HOMILY “For God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27b)

There were three balloons: Daddy, Mummy and Baby. And there was a problem. Every night after Mummy and Daddy had fallen asleep, Baby balloon would float in under the duvet and join them, and Daddy for one had decided enough was enough. “No more getting into bed with Mummy and Daddy from tonight,” he sternly told Baby in the morning. So that evening, hopeful Baby Balloon would take heed of the warning, Mummy and Daddy balloon slept a little closer than usual. Baby balloon decided to get into bed anyway – but there was less room than usual. So, Baby let a little air out of Mummy balloon, but there still wasn’t room, so Baby let a bit of air our of Daddy balloon, and there still wasn’t enough room. So, Baby balloon decided to let lots of air out of his balloon and he fitted in the gap and went to sleep. In the morning Mummy and Daddy balloons were not impressed, and Daddy said, “Baby Balloon, you have let your mother down, you have let your father down and worst of all, you have let yourself down!”

Have you ever felt judged by others or let down? It could have been in any context, from work to home among family, with friends or a neighbour, while out shopping or at the sports centre or even sadly at Church. I know I have, many times and often by those who don’t know me, the truth inside. Often the judgment of others, however unfair is based on assumption rather than the truth, which makes the result even more painful for us.

Perhaps this explains a little why the media and many in society believe we, as the Christian Church are judging them – it is a caricature of who Anglicans are, and it is untrue – well certainly it should be. Two weeks ago, speaking at St John’s Church Egham, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, suggested Church should never be a place of judgment, rather reconciliation and primarily about the worship of God.

In today’s Gospel we find various people trying to be disciples of Christ and live by his teaching. Many of them, like many of us, struggle. The man who approached Jesus is unusually rich and is probably quite influential, 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, that he lets himself down. 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. Have you ever felt a similar sense of personal questioning and struggle – we will be thinking about living a Christian life at our Emmaus Group this Tuesday 7:30pm and would love you to be a part of the discussion.

Jesus looks at him with eyes that see straight into his heart; just as he does with us today, not least in worship. Jesus loves what he sees, but also knows what is missing – how the man has let himself and God down. How amazing is that! Jesus see’s what needs changing within each of us and rather than judging, loves us. The Lord says, “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 and don’t let worldly things, possessions and desires get in the way. 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 or flog everything we have on eBay or wherever – should the cost-of-living crisis continues, some of us may well have to do a bit of that anyway! No, Jesus is speaking not only of financial commitment, but personal gifts, strengths, and talents. Here money has taken first place in this man’s life, but for us it could be all sorts of other things. You see we let ourselves down when first place in our hearts is not reserved for our relationship with God and our worship of the blessed Trinity of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Is that true of you? We start with our financial giving, but what else could we give? And are we regular in worship?

For the young man who follows, 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 Christs church, in support of St Mary’s? Could we give more, and give more regularly and more faithfully? What else can we commit in our support of the Church – are we regular in worship, as the archbishop has reminded us. Do we sometimes let ourselves down as Christians, being quick to judge others and their perceived lack of faithfulness while ignoring our own?

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) Goodness! Thankfully everything is possible for God, another key reason for faithful worship! We may identify with one of the people in this Gospel reading. We might recognise too, the sense that even when we do our best to follow God’s commandments, we are still missing something. Perhaps there is still an empty place in our hearts that aches and longs for something we can’t fully identify, or we just feel we let ourselves down - or let down by others. And that is true for so many in society who long for something they don’t yet know about or understand because we have not yet reached out to them with words of faith, reconciliation for which they long. That is our inclusive catholic mission here at St Mary’s, to draw people from everywhere into God Kingdom of love!

Friends in faith, don’t let yourself down! We are only asked to contribute part of our talents to God: and that includes the priority of worship and financial giving. Just maybe that young man came around to see that whatever 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 too, following our Saviour Jesus Christ, giving willingly and generously of our own, especially in our commitment to regular corporate worship, for the building up of God’s Kingdom. And remember, everything is possible for God. We must trust the Lord and worship. Amen.

Father Damian Harrison-Miles, October 2021

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