Visit our new site at

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Lectionary Leanings - Life questions edition

Texts for the week are here
I've just come in from taking the funeral for a lady of 96 years, who apparently had a problem holding on to presents...Whenever she received one, she enjoyed it for a while but quickly passed it on to the next person whom she imagined might be in need. She'd clearly mastered the art of sitting light to material goods, of jettisoning the excess baggage that prevented camels from getting through the Needle's Eye Gate in old Jerusalem.

Except - hang on - didn't someone tell me at Greenbelt a year or two ago that there WAS no such gate? That all our comfortable accommodations with the text are actually based on a myth...That's a hard thing to preach, as I sit working on my computer (one of several in the house), in my comfortable, spacious vicarage, surrounded by all the things that I own just for the pleasure of it,rather than because they are needed.
I'm right with the young man - I have so many things I value, things that I'd struggle to let go of...I'm not sure if I'll have the courage to preach on the gospel text this week. I'd feel myself neatly boned and filletted, my own inconsistencies exposed by the two edged sword of Scripture.
But what comes across in both Old Testament and Gospel this week is that need to focus
"Seek the Lord and live...Seek good and not evil, that you may live..."
"What must I do to inherit eternal life?"
One question...the most important of all...
The question I'd like my congregation to ponder comes by way of a supplementary...
What do YOU need to do to make this real..?

In the wake of Harvest gratefulness last weekend this is the way my thoughts are tending...though I might yet go with an exploration of how we read Scripture, and what we expect of it, what we allow it to do with us...The Book that Reads Me...hmmmn...

What about you?


  1. Up here in the (almost) frozen north it's Thanksgiving weekend, and that's a challenging gospel to combine with the idea of giving thanks for what we have. Hmmm.

  2. Well, although not preaching this week, a couple of meandering thoughts with regard to the gospel lesson:
    I'm curious about Jesus' response to the use of the term 'good' by the young man: how do we define what 'goodness' is? And only God is good... not sure where that track might go if followed.
    And then following on from that, Jesus immediately listing the commandments to which the young man responds with a 'yeah, I've done that'.... Even though the young man has kept all the commandments it hasn't been enough.... So wondering about another possible track along the lines of 'when following all the rules just isn't enough'

  3. I'm pondering the gospel lesson and the start of stewardship season. Thinking about what we need to let go of to follow God more fully - possessions, money, our control on life, grip on something else.

    Reflecting on Feasting on the Word article about taking the first step, even if it's difficult.

    Anyone else out there freaked/worried/concerned about stewardship season this year?

  4. I am using the Thanksgiving lections this week and so avoid the issue posed by parodie. However istm that thanksgiving and good stewardship are inextricably linked.

    Then again that thanksgiving lections include Jesus' taching "consider the not worry". In the midst of recession telling people not to worry about what they need seems counter-intuitive. (mind you the Gospel is often counter-intuitive, and should be too!)

    Check out my early thoughts here

  5. Oh and this is the launching of a stewardship series for me.

  6. We have our big stewardship luncheon this Sunday and I didn't bother to read ahead before writing in the monthly newsletter that I generally don't preach on stewardship unless the lesson calls for it.
    So my "fix" is to preach Job. I did divorce last weekend and just don't think I can beat my head against MArk again this week. Nik, I like your idea of following the rules not being enough. The conundrum for me is that if this young man sold everything and gave it to the poor, wouldn't he then *be* poor?? Can we ever do enough, pray enough, everything else enough to gain the Kingdom? I rather doubt it.
    So. Job. I began reading last night and will likely spend the rest of the week reading. I'm tempted to do the whole book in one sermon and then get back to Mark for the rest of the month. The commentator (Gerlad Janzen) suggests that there are two questions: Why do the righteous suffer is Job's question. God's is, why are the righteous pious? Well, I have to think about that one!
    Happy Thanksgiving to all you Canadians.

  7. I was all set to work wonders on the "I've kept all the rules what more is needed" line -- using a staggering short story in the most recent New Yorker -- and then I realized we're Harvest Thanksgiving also...sigh, the Grateful Leper yet again.
    But you really would like the short story if you're planning to preach on "when the rules are not enough."

  8. I've always enjoyed this text (and I admit, I'm a Mark fan) because of the first part of verse 21.
    "Jesus, looking at him, loved him"
    Wow. What power there. And what absolutely amazing love that shows us how God loves us even in our weakness.

  9. This is such a rich passage, no pun intended, for the rich young ruler. I think it is is for us one that sends us into the valley of rationalizations. That is to say that we'd rather like to thing that this passage refers to those people... not us... not us who know the law an follow it but who keep trying to find new places for our stuff. Last weekend I slid into the sink a bowl my mother gave me, milkglass, not really valuble beyond sentiment. It cracked in half. It took my breath. But then I spent almost as much time convicted that there are things that would be hard to part with. For me they are links to my family no longer with me. Sigh..
    So wrestle with this text I will...and will probably share that within the sermon.

  10. So Crimson, you gonna share the story with us anyway? *grins*

  11. Something is forming in my mind (slowly - but it had better speed up: it's not for nothing my blog is called 'Sunday's coming!')...
    The bit about the Word being like a sword. What's important is how you handle it. If you use God's word as a weapon the chances are you'll get caught yourself and find you are the victim of its sharp edge.
    At the same time if we are forgetful of the Word (stick it in a drawer and try to forget about it) it can damage us as we try to go about our lives and suddenly come upon it. What we need to do (there had to be third point, yes?) is handle it with respect and care and use it where a little 'trimming' is needed in our lives.
    So to the gospel. How is the sharpness of the Word challenging us? What do we need to trim away? perhaps not just 'stuff' but attitudes to stuff, or to law, or to others? Thanks Backwoods Rev for reminding us about Jesus' love - this sermon should be the gospel, nit a rant!

  12. That's NOT a rant!! too early to type straight!

  13. Preaching on Mark text. That's all I know for now. good day

  14. I'm preaching Mark and my title is "The Possible Impossible." This will be the third time I've preached this text, second time in this church (good thing it's such a rich text!). Have no idea yet how I'll preach this one differently than in years past. I do love Mark a lot, and this text has always felt like a Big Deal text for me, so I'm looking forward to it.

    FWIW, here is a "Living by the Word" column I wrote for The Christian Century several years ago on this text.

  15. Ohhhhh! I'm coming late to the table, and I just HOPE someone comes back to read and see!!! I'm wrestling with Mark and I can't tell who is winning. I've heard some warnings about not domesticating this one, making it less about money than it is, but at the same time I don't think it's only about money. The thing I like the best is the grace, in fact. That was is difficult for the man to do on his own, is completely POSSIBLE for God to do. No matter how close he comes to doing everything just right, it still takes God to get him through the needle. We could put just about any misassigned/ungospel priority in that blank about what we lack (by the way I love how having much is perceived as a lack!) and I think it would be just as hard..... I'm digressing horribly.

    Here's where I found something, but I'm not sure if I did.
    The man asks what does he need to do to "inherit eternal life." He's looking to possess something, even possess something through entitlement more than earning it. But mostly he's asking for something he can own.

    When Jesus laments to his disciples "How hard it will be..." he doesn't talk about inheriting or possessing something, he talks about "entering the kingdom of God." Entering the kingdom isn't the same as possessing eternal life to me. Entering the kingdom sounds like living a new way, in a new and different reality. It's not life that goes on forever the same old way; it's about life lived according to a different set of rules - - rules that level the playing field, rules that share our wealth with other, rules that share the blessings of God, rules that obliterate the lines drawn between rich and poor, powerful and powerless.

    Is this way out of the realm of interpretation???? I'm not sure yet how to bring it home. In the end Jesus does talk about eternal life, but it seems to be in the age to come. Is it that the kingdom of God is now and eternal life is later? Jesus isn't as concerned with the man's inheritance of eternal life later because there is a kingdom of God to live in right here and right now? The kingdom of God piece in v. 23 does have a future tense "will" in it though.

    Hmmmm.... Any thoughts?

  16. She Rev, I don't think it's just about money. This young man already obeyed all the commandments. Jesus was giving him a way to level up, by letting go of something that mattered to him, that gave him comfort and a sense of identity. That could be a lot of things other than money.
    And, oh crap, I just bit myself with this interpretation of the text. Crap.

  17. Thanks SheRev - I too have been battling with what Jesus is really asking of this young man & I'd focussed in a bit on the question - how can I HAVE life, form this young man who had so much... and the difference between what we can have & what God (who is good) wants to give us - but you put it better. Trying for a 'last push' on the sermon this morning & have been posting as I've gone along this week.
    And Songbird - watch yourself on the edge of that two-edged sword! God bless.

  18. Late getting here this week. But, songbird, you've nailed it for me. And I am being bitten this week. Reflecting on that security blanket that I might need to give up here
    Crap indeed! :)

  19. You gals are totally right, imho. This text is about WAY more than money.

    In my sermon, I am arguing that this is another healing story (it has all the marks). The man is possessed by his possessions, and Jesus offers him healing, but he can't receive it. He can't let himself be in that position of need (letting go of his possessions would make it clear to him that he is need, but as long as he has those, he can believe otherwise).

    She Rev, you are right - this is about God's grace way more than it is about what we do with our stuff.


You don't want to comment here; instead, come visit our new blog, We'll see you there!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.