October 10, 2021
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “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.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
| Centering Prayer |
In 1989 I was left an inheritance.
Our neighbor George
Left me his tackle box and all of his fishing equipment.
It was enough to fill the back of his son-in-law’s pickup truck.
George loved the fact
That I led a fishing camp for Junior High boys at Casowasco,
One of our United Methodist Camp and Conference Centers
on Owasco Lake.
I recruited volunteer staff and led this six-day camp
Each summer for many years.
Most of George’s equipment went to support efforts to teach kids to fish.
What remains today, 25 years later,
Is safely tucked away at the family cottage.
It was a privilege to have had George remember me in his will.
With his inheritance has come a few lessons I still ponder.
I didn’t do anything to earn his inheritance.
We were simply friends and neighbors.
Over the years our families grew together.
We both loved to mow our lawns at the same time on our
Nearly identical gray Sear’s lawn tractors.
We both loved being members of the Dresden Fire Department.
During the day when most others were at work
George and I put out a lot of fires together;
Just the two of us.
Inheritance can’t be earned.
Rather, inheritance is about belonging.
Inheritance is about growing, developing, maturing relationships;
Sharing together this journey of life and faith.
I’ve also learned that for there to be an inheritance,
Someone has to die.
This is a bitter lesson.
I’d give back all George’s fishing equipment ten fold
Only to have an afternoon with him talking over the back split-rail fence.
I loved George dearly, and still miss him a lot, 32 years later.
“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
All of us who follow Jesus
Belong to a pretty special group.
We are known by our love,
Our authentic desire
To lead our lives the way Jesus led his life,
Our desire to discern and follow God’s will, and
Our commitment to live according to God’s Law.
At our baptism we were accepted by God,
Hereafter, we belong.
We are accepted and included.
Inheritance is about belonging.
According to the researcher Erik Carter
Belonging in a community
United by faith
Is about being
- Cared For,
- Needed, and
(Thanks to Professor Erik W. Carter, as found at erikwcarter.com/belonging)
Jesus, the Good Teacher first correctly steers this anonymous man
Towards that which gives identity to Christians,
And to our Jewish ancestors:
Living according to the Law of Moses,
Which came as a gift from God.
We don’t follow laws to belong.
We belong, therefore, we desire to fit in.
We want to follow God’s Law.
Jesus establishes the Law as the bare-bones foundation,
Upon which he builds out the rest of his kingdom.
Eternal life cannot be earned any more than an inheritance.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ grants eternal life for all who accept it.
There isn’t enough righteousness, or right living,
To earn someone a ticket to heaven.
Saying “yes” to Jesus Christ,
Accepting salvation as a divine gift of grace,
Means living in relationship with God and others.
Belonging to the “Eternal Life Club” individually, and collectively,
Means changing priorities.
We don’t live for ourselves.
When we live according to God’s Laws,
We live for others and
We live for God.
When Jesus tells us
“go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor,”
He is calling us to reorder our priorities in life.
Place the needs of the poor before your own needs.
Make the last first.
Making the last first in our lives
Is all about belonging,
Of being in community,
Of living as benefactors of God’s inheritance;
Of God’s amazing grace.
Jesus does one other amazing thing here.
Belonging to the “Kingdom of God Club”
And accepting the inheritance,
Is about rejecting the idols of this world.
When we think of idols,
We are most likely to think of a golden calf and pagan worship.
Not so fast, partner!
An idol is anything that is owned, possessed, or sought after
That steals attention from God,
Impairs our ability to discern God’s will, and
Damages our ability to fulfill God’s will for our lives.
Stuff becomes our idols.
The house, the car, our property, our savings;
All of it, from man-caves to the Mercedes in the driveway,
From flower beds to 401k’s,
… all of it has the ability
To become the focus and purpose of our life
In place of …
In substitution for …
Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Property and wealth can become a barrier between us and those Jesus calls us to serve.
It makes it nearly impossible to follow him
Unless and until we remove those barriers.
Give it away.
Even still, recognize the fact
That we are dependent on God
If you and I are ever going to get through the eye of a needle.
Getting to “follow me”
Means that we are willing to go out on a limb.
We are willing to stop trusting in ourselves and our own accumulated resources.
It means that we are willing to place our trust in Jesus, and
Follow him wherever he leads.
I have to sit on my hands, close my mouth, and submit my will
All the time
If I am to faithfully follow Christ.
This is my choice.
It isn’t a simple one.
But, for me, it’s the right choice.
I invite you to make the same personal choice.
Allow Thy will be done; not my will be done.
Getting to “follow me”
Means belonging to a community of people
Who are crazy enough for Jesus
To place the needs of the poor in front of our own.
Being Christ’s disciple doesn’t fit in American politics.
We don’t comfortably fit in an
Endlessly consumer driven, materialistic, self-centered world.
Christians don’t belong in a world that is racist,
That doesn’t welcome the sojourner, the alien, or the refugee.
We don’t belong in this kingdom, or any other earthly kingdom;
We belong in God’s kingdom!
We belong kneeling beside Jesus
Washing the feet of others,
Serving the poor;
Those who live in poverty
And those whose spirit is broken.
Stop blaming welfare abusers.
Start thinking about single parent moms trying to raise a family.
Think about elders, spent down and spent out,
In the twilight days of life,
Feeling warehoused until they die.
Think about our neighbors who weave cloth
Sunup to sundown
For seven bucks a month,
So I can wear beautiful stoles and
My Thanksgiving table can be adorned with a lovely table runner.
Think about our friends whose delayed development
Means a lifetime of dependence, isolation, segregation, and loneliness.
Think flood victims, hurricane victims, and those who have lost their homes to wild fires.
Think about refugees at the boarder yearning to be free.
Think about people who lost everything to addictions, medical conditions,
Or just plain lousy circumstances and tough luck.
Think about the poor.
Think about others first.
Before thinking about ourselves.
“Blessed are the poor,” Jesus preached.
Who are the poor in your life?
Who are the poor Christ is calling you to include in this belonging community?
It is time to act:
sell what you own, and
give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then
Go. Sell. Give. Come.
“Follow me,” Jesus commands.
Getting to “follow me”
Is a daunting, yet awesome task.
I’m here to assure you,
It is well worth your effort.
Finally, to receive an inheritance
Someone must die.
To lead our lives the way Jesus did,
To discern and follow God’s will,
Means we must be willing to follow Jesus to his cross.
Selling all that I own and giving the money to the poor
Is relatively simple
Compared to being willing to give up my own life
For the sake of Jesus and his Gospel.
Christ died to grant us this inheritance.
Where, death, is thy sting,
Come Easter morning and
Our resurrected Lord steps out of his tomb?
Death no longer has a hold of us.
Will our death be painful for our family and loved ones? certainly.
Mourning and grief still cuts like a knife.
Provides a divine inheritance;
The gift of eternal life.
Don’t work for a place in heaven.
There are no tickets to be had.
Take your place with me,
Side-by-side with Jesus.
May we trust Jesus enough
To sell as much as we can,
To give all we can to the poor.
May the bonds of belonging to the Body of Christ
Give us the courage
To make the last first and
To take our place at the end of the line.
Belong, and invite others to belonging.
Be one with Christ and one with each other.
Claim your inheritance.
Eternal life is already yours.