12th Sunday after Pentecost, Aug. 12, 2018. Mt 19:16-26

In Jesus’ time people thought that if a person were living a proper moral life then God would bless them with material prosperity. This is why the apostles asked, “Who then can be saved?” when Jesus said how difficult it is for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus’s answer to them reflects his answer to the rich young man. “With God all things are possible.”

The young man had being doing a lot of things to live a proper moral life, according to Jewish teaching. You might say that he had come to the entry level to eternal life and wanted to know what the next step would be. He was confident that he was observing all of the commandments but sensed that there was something more – and there was.

Jesus let him know that perfection required an all-out commitment, not just doing certain good deeds or observing rules and regulations. It required living the spirit of the law, not just the letter.

The rich young man wasn’t ready for that total commitment and turned away from Jesus. It wasn’t that his wealth was the problem. It was his total attachment to that wealth that prevented him from progressing toward eternal life. You might say his spirit was willing but his flesh was weak.

None of us may be rich or attached to wealth but that doesn’t let us off the hook. We need to consider what other attachments we have that are keeping us from advancing toward eternal life. The commandments and the laws of the Church, are only the introduction to the Christian way of life not the total package. Our Christian way of life is not just following the commandments, it is following Jesus Christ himself.

What interferes with that? Right now we are in the Dormition fast. How are you observing it? Is it too much trouble? Does it get in the way of your comfortable life to observe some aspect of the fast?
What about time for prayer? Is it an afterthought in your life? Do you stick it into a busy day filled with lots of things you have to do or do you put prayer ahead of all of the other tasks of life?

I’ve already spoken many times about doing a little extra for the Lord’s Day such as coming to church early and leaving late, or coming for vespers or matins in addition to the Liturgy. Is it too inconvenient? Ask yourself why you don’t want to spend the extra time in communal worship?

What is your attitude to the poor and less fortunate? Do you have an understanding that God’s blessings to you are meant to be shared with others? Do you have a true spirit of generosity? You don’t have to sell all of your possessions and give to the poor but some of your material prosperity should go to help the poor. Our food collection has not been as generous lately as in the past. Just buy one extra non-perishable thing the next time you go to the grocery and put it into one of the baskets at our church entrances.

The Lord calls us not just to do more but to be more. He calls us to be more of whom he has created us to be. He always blesses us with his loving care, whether we deserve it or not; whether we are good, not so good or downright bad.

In his response to the rich young man Jesus not only quotes a few of the commandments but he slips in the one that he uniquely expressed, “You shall love you neighbor as yourself.” This would be the stumbling block for the young man. I can imagine people in the crowd saying that Jesus was being unreasonable. Here was this fine upstanding citizen and Jesus was turning him away with impossible demands. And yet, there are people today who think that the demands for an increasing relationship with Jesus Christ are unreasonable and content themselves with staying at the entry level of Christian life.

There was an old lady attending her Baptist church service one Sunday morning in a small Southern town. As she sat in the back of the church she was chewing her tobacco. The preacher was going strong in his sermon. He shouted out, “All you people who drink that beer are goin’ to hell!” The old woman shouted out, “Amen, brother!” The preacher declaimed, “All you people who drink that whiskey are goin’ to hell!” The old woman shouted out, “Amen, brother!” The preacher yelled out, “All you people who drink that wine are goin’ to hell!” The old woman shouted out, “Amen, brother!” The preacher shouted, “All you people who smoke those cigars and cigarettes are goin’ to hell!” The old woman shouted out, “Amen, brother!” The preacher raged, “All you people who chew that tobaccy are goin’ to hell!” The old woman stood up and yelled out, “Now you done stopped preachin’ and done started meddlin’”

It’s easy for us to become satisfied with our lives as they are and not want to change. It’s easy for us to close our minds to the quiet call of God for us to be more than we currently are. It’s easy for us to turn away from a deeper relationship with God.

Being perfect is required for all Christians. God calls us to rid ourselves of everything that would interfere with becoming perfect, not just riches.

You see, you don’t have to be rich to turn away sad – to turn away from Jesus and the fullness of life. It’s harder to remain open and accepting of God’s invitation to have a deeper relationship with him but well worth it.


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