God of the Impossible; Kingdom of the Possible
Season of Pentecost: Proper 23
12 October 2003
"God of the Impossible; Kingdom of the Possible"
Rev. Philip R. Taylor
Amos 5:67, 10-15; Psalm 90; Hebrews 3:1-6; Mark 10:17-31
17He was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, 'Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?'18Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.19You know the commandments: You shall not kill; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not give false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.' * 20And he said to him, 'Master, I have kept all these since my earliest days.'21Jesus looked steadily at him and he was filled with love for him, and he said, 'You need to do one thing more. Go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.'22But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth. 23Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, 'How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!'24The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, 'My children,' he said to them, 'how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!25It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the kingdom of God.'26They were more astonished than ever, saying to one another, 'In that case, who can be saved?'27Jesus gazed at them and said, 'By human resources it is impossible, but not for God: because for God everything is possible.' 28Peter took this up. 'Look,' he said to him, 'we have left everything and followed you.'29Jesus said, 'In truth I tell you, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel30who will not receive a hundred times as much, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land-and persecutions too-now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.31Many who are first will be last, and the last, first.'
Faithful people are continually asking two questions. The questions must have started in pre-history and they continue today. "How can I reach the kingdom of the divine?" "How can I have a secure relationship with God?"
In the two verses that precede the Gospel lesson (vs. 15 & 16), Jesus has just finished telling us how to get to the kingdom. He tells us to welcome the kingdom as a little child would welcome it. That would be with enthusiasm, trusting, and without the cynicisms of adulthood.
Then…a rich man runs up to Jesus, kneels, and offers flattery. Without even a pause, Jesus interrupts the man's shallow flattery and points him to God's commandants about how we are to live in community. It seems that the Kingdom of God is many things to many people but at the top of the list must be that the Kingdom of God is about community. It really is 'us and God' not 'me and God'.
Many times at the drug and alcohol treatment center where I serve as a voluntary chaplain, one of the residents will say something like this at the end of a conversation about the difficulties of recovery. "There is nothing that me and the Lord can't handle."
When I hear those words and I have heard them and said them myself in one form or another many times over the years, I try to begin a conversation about God and community. Jesus chose community over operating as a 'lone ranger'. He even needed help carrying the cross. What makes us think we can finish our journey outside of community?
Back to the Gospel story… Much has been made of the fact that the rich man's wealth separated him from God. Perhaps his wealth separated him from God's people, God's community, and the Kingdom of God.
The question for each of us then becomes not so much, "What separates me from God?" but "What separates me from family, from neighbors, from enemies, and from community?" When we search for answers to those questions, we may be taking the first baby steps toward the Kingdom. When we journey more fully into fellowship and communion with those around us, we also journey into fellowship and communion with God.
For those who can't give up what separates us from community and the Kingdom, Jesus tells us that we still have a loving and forgiving God who forgives us, who loves us, and who can even carry us through the eye of a needle.
Yes it is impossible to do what Jesus is asking us to do, impossible if we go it alone, impossible if we don't accept the help of God's angels all around us. However, with God nothing is impossible, even the rich can enter the kingdom, even the rich are redeemed, and even the rich are brought into community and joined to the God of the Impossible in the Kingdom of the Possible.
Let us pray:
May the God of the Impossible touch us, redeem us, heal us,
and carry us through the eye of the needle into the Kingdom of the Possible.