The text contains a couple of Jesus’ classic aphorisms, but this sermon really isn’t about those aphorisms. Those aphorisms are given to heighten the shock that the disciples are feeling. They can’t believe what has just happened between Jesus and the Rich Young Man. Even less can they believe what Jesus says about it. Their surprise is our entry to think about our attitude to wealth. How does wealth form the soul? What are the deep dangers that Jesus is warning about? The sermon ponders these. It then follows Peter’s blunt but natural question: who gets it right, the disciples or the rich young man? If you saw Elon Musk walking away, wouldn’t you have some questions about the deal? Jesus’ answer, just like all of Mark Chapter 10, is necessary for the modern church to hear. And it leaves us with stuff to ponder.
This sermon is the continuation of last week’s gospel lesson (Mark 10:17-22). The focus in the text is on the difference, the astonishing reversal of the values of the Kingdom of God. That reversal gets everyone’s attention, but that reversal is put to sharp use. The full weight of the law is brought to bear in the saying “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom.” What wealth really does, as the lesson for the day from Ecclesiastes knows, is increase our responsibilities. The weight of the law becomes greater. The camel gets its full load. At the same time we become convinced that we are good at this, after all look at all we have. Jesus call out the huge mistake in that thinking. But he then tells us what the eye of the needle is. It is his promise. All things are possible for God. You will have treasure in heaven. You will be paid back 100-fold. Not in a prosperity gospel way. In this appointed time that comes with persecutions, but in the age to come eternal life. We enter life because God is good, and he has made salvation available by faith. Trusting in the work of Jesus and not our work. He is so good that he has extended to us the change to participate in that gospel. And that participation is part of our proof, part of the return.
Program Note: This is a re-recording. I messed up the original. So you don’t get any of the great hymns we sang. My guess is that you wouldn’t hear these at most American congregations. They are gems of the faith, but supposedly not what is “relevant”. Although given the text the are spot on. We opened with Lutheran Service Book 730 – What is the World to Me. The hymn of the day, was Lutheran Service Book 753 – All for Christ I have Forsaken. That link is not a informative because it is a newer hymn. But here is another congregation singing this haunting hymn from you tube.
This sermon explores two items wrapped by a question. The two items are: 1) the biblical view or warnings about wealth and 2) What it means that Jesus looked at the rich young man and loved him. Neither of these two things are as popular sentiment would have. This sermon attempts to instruct or correct that sentiment. What those two subjects are wrapped in is the question of the good. Not really what actions are good, because that is known defined by the law. The question is one of recognition, do we see Jesus as good? And do we recognize that God alone is good. The offer to the man to sell everything might sound like a law, but it is pure gospel. It is the offer of joining Jesus on his walk. Yes, the walk right now is toward the cross, but it is also heavenward, toward treasure in heaven. Our use of wealth is one way we are invited to participate in the kingdom now.
This text is also only half of a full section. The gospel assigned for next week continues in a similar vein but focusing less on our call and more on God’s action.
Musical notes: 1) The recording includes our choir’s first piece of the Season. 2) I’ve included the hymn after the sermon Lutheran Service Book 694 – Thee Will I Love My Strength My Tower.