The Pious Rich, Young, Ruler
of the things they teach you to never do in a sermon is to merge the gospels,
to conflate Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It is from such conflations that we get too-busy
Christmas Scenes—mangers with Magi and Shepherds and Angels tripping over one
another. That’s always the danger in conflating Gospels.
it is worth breaking that rule occasionally. Today, it is worth conflating the
descriptions of this man who kneels before Jesus in Mark’s Gospel with those of
other Gospels. When details from Matthew and Luke—that he is young and a
ruler—are added, and those details are rounded out with his admission that “I
have kept all these since my youth.”
us conflate all of this in order to end up with a more complete idea of who
this man is and what this man is giving up, let us think of him, at least for
today—at least for the next 10 minutes or so of sermon—think of him, as The
Pious, Rich, Young, Ruler.
before this Pious, Rich, Young, Ruler plunked down before Jesus, Our Lord had
let it be know that the Kingdom of God must be received like a child—receive the Kingdom like a child.
this, the Pious, Rich, Young, Ruler responds,
“What must I do.”
Hear this brothers and
“I buy into the system of buying and
selling, of earning
—coin and credit for good and
service. What can I do to earn this inheritance?
I build a magnificent building of inescapable opulence. Might I purchase a
piece of that pie in the sky with long nights, skipped Sabbaths, and bone weary
might I earn an inheritance?
Hear me again my siblings in the faith.
“I am young, filled with so much
life. It seems like, by sure willpower,
by my strength, by my plucky idealism I can wrestle from the hands of God this great prize, eternal life—that
I’ve been told I will receive.
all I’m so full of life that I’m half way there already, I’m so optimistic, so
naïve, that I believe I’ll never quit,
I’m already eternal. Yes, with my great vitality I can wrestle away those things
that you ask me to receive.
“From my position, from where I
stand, as a man who is in command, I
just want to know what words I must say, what order I must give,
that I might be captured by God’s
seen Pharaoh order men to bury themselves in his tomb when he died—and he died
and they did it. Yes, rulers know how to get things done, how to be in control,
how to be in charge—yet this thing you offer—it captures me!
One last time—in case you’re not hearing me.
“I am a very religious man. Dotted every I
crossed every T. I’ve been more
Pious than Peter, more zealous than Paul. My Spirituality has more practice
than an Olympic athlete—yet the Kingdom of God, all of this, is simply provided!
can quote line and verse, speak with the tongues of angels, have the Bishop on
speed dial, and pray so hard my knees bleed—yet at the end of the day, God
simply provides—Providence provides!”
all those things we invest ourselves in
—all those things that become the
building blocks of our identity
—our possessions, health, power, and
—they don’t have anything to do with inheriting the Kingdom of God
relationship with God our Father
captured by God’s amazing grace
—having it provided to us because we are beloved children and our loving
parent knows we can’t do it on our own.
Inheritance is always unearned,
you can’t wrestle away what you’ve
you can’t command when you’ve been
and practice does no good when the perfection
you seek is already provided.
it brothers and sisters, all those things we strive with and for—they’re puffs
are left naked before the face of God. Stripped of all our pretentious and
we come face to face with God, and
are surprised to find that we are already clothed with Christ.
alone is of any import
—that alone, Christ’s work for us
—Christ alone is our identity
—alone our center, core, the soil
from which meaning grows.
in him and with him, defined only as Christians, only as followers of The Way
—we are brought to a new place,
threaded, like some blended camel, through a needle, through the power of
this new place everything is different
—we are richer in our poverty,
healthier in our sickness,
powerful in our weakness,
and pious in our ungodliness.
Wrapped in Christ all those things we
lost are gained:
House and family and livelihood
—Siblings in the faith gathered, our
only Father God, our only job mission.
coming through that needle will happen again and again, because we are stubborn
and those things we’ve left behind, those things we ‘ve said are of secondary
importance will pull and tug at us
—Idols don’t like it when they are smashed.
we are pulled through
—pulled through the needle by the
loving God we find in Christ Jesus to a wide life,
a whole family spread open before us,
wide with a God we can address as
wide and long the path we follow,
following after Christ.