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Pentecost 20 Proper 23B RCL October 11, 2015

Job 23:1-9. 16-17
Psalm 22:1-15
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

In our first reading, we meet Job once again. When the story began, Job was wealthy. He had 7,000 sheep, 1,000 oxen, 500 donkeys, and 3,000 camels. Best of all, he had seven sons and three daughters. In ancient times, a person’s children were his or her future. But things have changed. Raiders have come and taken away all his livestock and killed his servants. A terrible wind has come up and leveled the house where all his children and their families were gathered. His skin is covered with boils from his head to his toes. Once, he was respected. Now, people avoid him.

Except for three so-called friends, who are now telling him that he must have done something awful to deserve all this suffering. They subscribe to the belief common at that time that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.  So, if bad things are happening, you must have done something bad.

Job does an honest and searching self-examination. He has always tried to be faithful to God and compassionate to his fellow humans, and, with God’s help, he has pretty much succeeded. It really hurts that his friends dream up a theory that he has been especially mean to poor people who can’t defend themselves. This is simply not true.

Job really wants to talk to God about this, but he cannot find God. Today’s psalm captures the situation perfectly. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When everything is going wrong, we sometimes feel that God has deserted us. Of course, God is right beside us, but, in the dark night of the soul we don’t realize that God is with us. When he cannot find God, Job wants to be swallowed up by the darkness. Most of us know exactly how that feels. Our life is unraveling, and we think that God has abandoned us.

In our gospel, Jesus is setting off on a journey. He is going to Jerusalem. He is going to the cross. A man runs up, kneels before Jesus, and asks, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Scholars tell us that in ancient times, if you flattered someone and he accepted the flattery, that created an obligation. He had to do something for you. Jesus does not accept the flattery. He points out that none is good except God. Jesus goes on to tell the man that he knows all the commandments, and Jesus enumerates them, but he adds one. “You shall not defraud.”

The man said he has kept those commandments all his life. Now, this man has asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. When we inherit something, the inheritance is a gift. There is nothing we can do to earn the gift of God’s love and grace. Perhaps what he is really asking is, what must he do to become a follower of Jesus?

Jesus looks into this man’s eyes and sees right into his heart and soul, as he does with all of us. This man has great wealth, and that wealth has become his identity. The wealth has gotten to the place where it is going to get in the way of his following Jesus. But without the wealth, the man feels he is a nobody. And so Jesus tells the man that he is going to have to sell everything and give the money to the poor.

The man can’t do it. He walks away grieving.

Is our Lord telling you and me that we must sell everything and give the money to the poor? In my opinion, no. When Jesus gives this guidance to this man, that advice is tailored to that man and his situation.

For us, the question is, what is getting between me and Jesus? What is keeping me from giving my whole life to him? If there is something in the way, we need to ask his help in moving it out of the way.

It is true that, compared to the rest of the world, we are wealthy. So many people do not have a place to live; they do not have enough food and water. They do not have clothing. We all know this, and this is why Grace Church recently gave $778.00 to Episcopal Relief and Development. Thank you for your generosity. We are so blessed. We have so much. And we know that we are called to share God’s blessings with others.

Jesus makes it clear that wealth and power can throw us off the track very quickly. He says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Why is he saying this?

We need to remember the context of this gospel passage. Just before this part of the gospel, he took children into his arms and he told us that we need to become like children. We need to trust God. We need to be open to God’s love grace, and guidance.

When we humans accumulate great wealth and power, it is easy for us to forget about God. It is easy for us to think that we are God. After all, I can do this and buy this.  With huge amounts of money, humans get a great deal of power in this culture, and it is easy to forget God. With great wealth, it is difficult to trust in God as a little child.

We have all had times in our lives when we really needed God’s help, and sometimes we may have felt that God has left us. I hope those times are few and far between for you. Jesus knows how that feels. He felt that on the cross. We have a great high priest who knows how that feels, He knows how everything feels. He is one of us. He understands. Knowing that, knowing that he has walked every step of the way before us, we can throw ourselves into his loving arms and ask him to help us. We can even ask him to carry us.

And he will.    Amen.

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