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All Things are possible for God

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Normal style='margin-bottom:0cm;margin-bottom:.0001pt;line-height: normal'>I speak to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - Amen 

This morning we are mixing things up a little bit,

The first two hymns were changed from what is in your bulletins, as the choir felt they could better lead you in praise and worship filled song with something a little more familiar

And as you likely have noticed I didn’t read the Gospel reading earlier in the typical place in our liturgy

The reason for the change in the latter was because I want to approach the Gospel with a certain framework

I wanted to suggest how you might approach hearing this story in the life of our Lord Jesus which I will read momentarily

First – right before our situation that we have today the Pharisees have been part of the crowd that has been following Jesus around

They have infiltrated those disciples and have taken the opportunity to ask difficult questions of this Rabbi that has attracted the attention of the whole region

            Why the Pharisees have done this we don’t know

But Jesus has just faced questions on divorce, and if you think it is a problem for us these days… at Jesus’ time, it was practiced far more frequently and carelessly, and usually at the whims of men looking for any excuse to shed responsibility

Second idea to keep in your head as I read the gospel story today – is that all the questions that people pose to Jesus reveal a deep heart desire – a deep search

            Thirdly and finally, Jesus responses are caring, loving, pastoral responses


Prior tricky difficult questions, followed by deep heart searching questions, with pastoral loving responses

The Holy Gospel:              Mark 10: 17-31                    (page 40, NT)

  Leader:          The Lord be with You

  People:          And also with you

  Leader:          The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. Mark

  People:          Glory be to Thee, O Lord


17 As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.

19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’”

20 He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”

21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to (the) poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

22 At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”

24 The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!

25 It is easier for a camel to pass through (the) eye of (a) needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?”

27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”

28 Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.”

29 Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel

30 who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.

31 But many that are first will be last, and (the) last will be first.”[1]


(After lesson)               Leader:                        The Gospel of Christ

                                                People:                        Praise be to Thee, O Christ.

As you can see in our gospel story we get faced head-on with one that is seeking God – One that is looking at his life, and asking the question of our Lord – “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17b)

What is happen in the moment is that this seeker longs for something deeper, and at the least, longs to be affirmed for his duty filled life – his life which due to his wealth appears to be blessed

This man kneels before Jesus, and then lays his life out for judgment

Jesus, fresh off a few testing questions of the Pharisees trying to trick him, responds carefully at first, with a question and statement – “why do you call me good, only God is good”(Mark 10:18)           

                                          Then Jesus reinforces the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments)

                                                      The man states boldly that he has keep the law his whole life

                                          To which Mark reveals to us that “Jesus looked at him and loved him”

These are an interesting few words that St. Mark has included - and in my imagination I have Jesus in that moment, Sharing a comforting, pastoral look

A look like a kindly wise Grandparent might have when they share with their grandchild a look of love and pride for something good that the child has done.

The man in this moment is all exposed – he is longing for the Lord’s blessing – he is seeking help

            In fact St. Mark clearly states that he came to Jesus and knelt before Him.

The only other times that someone came to Jesus on their knees was when they were sick and in the need of healing

            And, so too, it is for the rich young man

He too, is longing for healing for what he deep down knows is out of place, for his dis–ease

Although he does not know what it is that troubles him, he comes in need of help and guidance

Not of physical illness,

Obviously not of outward prosperity, as prosperity was commonly understood as God’s blessing – and this young is not identified by name or appearance or even whose son he was or his companions – but he is solely identified by his wealth

No, what Jesus identifies as needing healing is - “Priority sickness”

Many years ago Rudyard Kipling made a commencement address at McGill University in Montreal.

He said one striking thing which deserves to be kept in remembrance.

He was warning the students against an over concern for money, or position, or glory.

He said: "Some day you will meet a man who cares for none of these things. Then you will know how poor you are."

That has happened on a grand scale. Jesus cared for none of these things.

Perhaps that was why the rich man was so sorrowful when he walked away from Jesus; he saw how "poor" he was, contrasted with the life of Jesus.[2]

You see, Jesus looks and loves him for his achievement of faithfulness, but He asks for more

            Jesus asks him to sell all he has and give to the poor, Jesus directly challenges his priorities

                        This call of discipleship is a costly one…More than we might imagine

                                    It certainly means the loss of life’s creature comforts

But it also means a loss of the outward appearance of blessing

                                                            It means the loss of status …money, then as now, is power

                                                                        Well, at least worldly power

It means, no less than, the complete loss of identity

And it is too much

Our Lord never put discipleship in fine print in the contract.

He called on us to forsake all, take up our cross, deny self, love Him more than anything else.

We are not our own, we are bought with a price, the personal property of Jesus Christ with no right to anything.

“Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”—Vance Havner[3]

It is worth noting that this is the only time in the gospels, when Jesus calls one to discipleship – to follow Him….And he does not

The would be disciple selects life as usual over the offer of a transformed life

The press chronicled the trial of Claus von Bulow, the Newport, RI, aristocrat convicted of attempting to murder his wife, Martha (Sunny) von Bulow, with insulin injections.  

You remember it better from the movie “reversal of fortunes” starring Jeremy Irons & Glenn Close.

      An article in the San Francisco Chronicle carried this summary comment:

"The characters in this story — Sunny, Claus and their friends — don't worry much about how to make the world nicer for others;

They worry mainly about how to preserve every cent they have inherited, how to increase their fortunes and how to have as much pleasure as possible.

The trouble is, in the end none of it seems to have given them much pleasure."[4]

The word “Intelligence” is derived from two words — inter and legere meaning "to choose" and "between."

An intelligent person is one, who has learned to choose between good and evil,

Who knows that trust is better than fear, … love than hate,

Gentleness than cruelty, …. forebearance than intolerance,

Humility than arrogance, …. Truth than falsehood.[5]

Maybe as we consider this story we might look to the age of the rich man – he is often described as the ‘rich young man’ – and although not stated in Mark version, when Matthew tells the same story, he is clearly described as young

And maybe we can attribute that this would be disciple rejects our Lord’s offer to follow Him because he is young and therefore not wise

I like personally like to think that it is in fact his youth that causes him to not choose the Lord

My image of the Lord Jesus was that He was so dynamic, so compelling a person in all other stories that it would take some big factors not to follow him

Like youthful indecision and a lot of distracting world wealth

I also like to think that he will get a second chance – and with wisdom will choose differently – but that is my own neurosis

We should not lose sight of the power of money to influence our lives

One things that there is never a short supply of, is new books or conferences on how to get rich, beat the system. For a small fee, you too, can learn the secrets to success

These books purport to show you how to make a million dollars on or off the stock market or how to run in the "rat race"

In almost all of these books money is the ultimate value against which everything else is measured.

But that is of course not the only ‘value’ of life,

Other values of life might be: family, friends, health, knowledge, vocational satisfaction, giving to one’s community (in time, talent or treasures), to name just a few.

Rarely, if ever, is money put in the larger context of what people want out of life and what kind of society they want to live in.

The rich young man, when he reflects on his life, when he looks at all the worldly blessings that are before him – he chooses not to satisfy his yearnings for life eternal, but for a comfortable earthly life

I don’t know about you, but if I am honest, I understand his choice

                        I understand how difficult it is to give up stuff

If we were to have a fire at our house and everything was completely destroyed

I would be most upset, not about the house, we have insurance for that,

But I would be most upset about all our stuff, the very personal stuff and even the not so personal stuff – … in ways beyond what we might like to admit, our stuff is a big part of our identity

So I understand the difficulty of the rich young man to sell all that he had and to lose his identity

Beyond questions of wealth and priorities - the man's initial question is flawed.

He asks, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Of course, we, who have Easter, know that the answer is… "Nothing."

There is nothing he can do… or we can do;

It is only in what Christ was about to do for the people of that time …and what he has done for us.

There are no frequent flyer miles that can be earned.

            No special gems in our crowns that can be earned

                        No observance of the law that earn God’s grace

It might be said that the man is not interested in pleasing God, growing spiritually or pursuing the truth.

He figured he has a firm grip on this life, he wanted to be acknowledged for it and he wanted to ensure the life to come.

Consider how is it with us? … We in our culture today are affluent by world standards,

Most are educated and we possess much more than we really need. Life is good.

The occupy movement of last year focused some of their concerns with the ever-increasing gap between the 1% and the 99%

The dwindling of the middle class and the gross abuses of power and money that have transformed the world in the last 15 years

            And although true and a concern, in some sense many of us live sheltered lives.

Our suffering has been minimal; we have faced few injustices;

But compared to the rest of the world, even our poor are rich in a global understanding

We live in a world of simple answers and over-simplified theology.

God, just tell me what you need and I'll write you a check.

As the cartoon character Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us." (Pogo daily strip from Earth Day, 1971)[6]

Author Max Lucado once envisioning a further conversation between the rich young man and Jesus and what Jesus might say to this man:

"What costs far more than you can pay?

You don't need a system, you need a Savior.

You don't need a resume, you need a redeemer ...

God does not save us because of what we've done.

·         Only a puny god could be bought with tithes.

·         Only a temperamental god could be satisfied by our sacrifices.

·         Only a heartless god would sell salvation to the highest bidders.

Only a great God does for his children what they can't do for themselves." [7]

Thanks be to God that the story doesn’t end with the rich young man walking away dejected

It continues with the conversation with the disciples, who were still caught up in the misconception of earthly blessings equaling God’s blessing,

They ask astoundedly “Then who can be saved?” (Mark 10:26b)

                        And Jesus brings home the pastoral message of grace

                                    Jesus tells us what we need to hear

                        Jesus finally clarifies His tough statements on the wealthy by saying

                                    “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God;

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

As we go about our lives trying to build a sense of security

            Trying to pay down mortgages, trying to build a comfortable life of possessions

                        Jesus burst that bubble of security and declares that true security lies in the hands of God

                                    Our efforts of achieving security, lasting security of eternal life

                                                Is impossible – … ‘by ourselves’

                                                            However not for God – for God all things are possible

                                                                        The rich young man’s quest and plea

                                                                                    What must I do to inherit eternal life

Is answered by God in the flesh… Nothing…. there is nothing that anyone can do to inherit eternal life

It is all grace – it is all God… For God all things are possible.”

In closing I share with you one last quote. It is from the man that Billy Graham said was "the man who most influenced my ministry." – Rev Dr. Stephen Olford

If Christ isn’t Lord of all, He isn’t Lord at all. [8]

Gracious God, help us in our affluence to understand that there is no price on salvation. Forgive our shallow thoughts and help us to respond to your grace in Jesus Christ and to trust: For God all things are possible. Amen.


[1] Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. Board of Trustees, Catholic Church. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, & United States Catholic Conference. Administrative Board. (1996). The New American Bible: Translated from the original languages with critical use of all the ancient sources and the revised New Testament (Mk 10:17–31). Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.

[2] Illustration Sourcebook, Series II # 1440 - WEALTH, JESUS

[3] Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (818). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Illustration Sourcebook, Series II #1939, WEALTH, GREED - — "The Case of the Dying Socialite"

by Lally Weymouth, Jan. 22, 1982

[5] Illustration Sourcebook, Series I # 0952 - CHOICE, WISDOM— J. Martin Klotsche, "America's Moral Crisis", Vital Speeches

[6] God Pause for Thursday, 10/11/2012

[7] Cast of Characters: Common People in the Hands of an Uncommon God, by Max Lucado

[8] Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (818). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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