Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Youth and riches blur the Kingdom of God...

Sermon for Pentecost 20, Proper 23B, preached on Sunday, October 11, 2015.

    When you have everything you can afford to dabble in spiritual things.  But even then there are limits to how far you will go.  A rich, young man came to Jesus.  God had placed eternity on the mind of this man and so he goes shopping for meaning in his life.  His is not unlike our own modern pursuit of spiritual meaning without religion or faith.  We like our things but we also want more.  We are very comfortable in a world of means, technology, and creature comforts but we want more.
    This man was sincere but sincerity is not faith.  He had been conditioned by the very things he wanted to transcend.  But Jesus forced him to choose between faith and things, between eternity and the moment, between God and self.  The folks who want spirituality are not bad people but very much like the the rich, young man of our text.  They are not willing to exchange one kingdom for another but want to dabble in both at their whim.
    Not everyone is hurting.  Not everyone's life is spiraling down to destruction.  Many are quite content with their lives.  Life is good we say to those who ask us.  The truth is that at least on the outside not everyone is hurting or broken or in despair.  Many folks in our culture seem to be doing just fine.  Not everything in life is bad.  There is nothing bad about money,  technological toys, sex, freedom, pleasure, and so on.  They are not evil in themselves but only when they are torn from the place and purpose of God.  Yet as good as this is, it isn’t enough. 
    God has placed the longing for eternity in us and not even sin and death can silence this voice of God within us.  Left to our own we are hard pressed to know what to do with the voice or how to satisfy the longing within.  So God has given us His Word to guide us and to reveal where eternity alone is to be found.
    The problem is that instead of hard choices, we want to have it all.  We want what we have and more.  We do not want to choose.  Like the rich, young man, we presume that we are already good at avoiding evil and doing good.  It is a popular but sacred lie that sin is outside of us and holiness is merely a matter of navigating the good and bad choices around us.  Our sinful nature tells us all the time that we are mostly good, that we have tried hard and mostly succeeded at not doing evil and doing good, and so it is easy for us to discard the Commandments as anything but preliminary stuff.
    We are also confident that we can be who we are and have it all and that we cannot be who we are if we have to choose.  Giving away his possessions was a question of values and not merely about the things themselves.  In the end we do not want so much to follow Jesus but to walk with Him for a while and we want to be treated as equals by God.  When and if we decide we need Jesus, we seek Him out and walk with Him for a time until we are strong enough to go it alone or when we have satisfied the momentary longing for something more.
    Jesus did not hate this guy any more than He hates us.  The text is clear; Jesus loved this guy – He loved him enough to tell him the hard truth.  Spirituality is not faith and it does not save.  Only faith does.  Trust in the Lord and you will be saved.  But this young man found this too much to swallow. He chose the fading glory of His things over the true glory of Jesus, his feelings over truth, sentiment over doctrine, and the moment over eternity.  He was glad enough to be spiritual but he was not ready for faith.  The Psalms tell us not to trust in earthly rulers or kingdoms.  This is the most basic stewardship principle.  I cannot count how many times I have spoken these words at the graveside but what death often brings into clear focus, life can blur.
    So where are you in this?  Are you ready for honest faith or do you just dabble at spirituality?  Do you trust in your life as it is or in the promise of life to come?  Is the treasure of your heart defined by the things of today or the forgiveness washed in blood and the righteousness borrowed from Christ?
    In the end, we are all in the same spot.  If our lives are in shambles we despair of God and wonder how could He love us and let these bad things happen to us.  If our lives are good, we despair of God and wonder why we should have to choose at all between earthly things and treasures and eternity.  But the call is same to both, a call to faith, the invitation to redemption freely given by the Savior who paid its whole price with His life given in suffering and death upon the cross.  Do not be disheartened by the Gospel nor by the call to faith alone.  It is the path of true and eternal life for all who believe.  Do not be offended by the hard truth of the God who loves you enough to shake things up.  The only treasure that is full and complete, the only treasure that endures, is the righteousness of Christ, the forgiveness of His blood, and the life that death cannot overcome.  Love this saving Lord with all your heart and He will give you all things.  Amen.

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