Pentecost +20b – Sunday 14th October 2012
Mark 10: 17-31
The Conservative Party Autumn Conference begins today. Exciting stuff, I know. But just imagine how much more exciting it would be if the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne, stood up and declared in his keynote speech to the Conference:
There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth.
Their coalition partners, the Lib Dem’s, would be absolutely amazed. Ed Miliband and the Labour Party would label it an election stunt. His own party might have a collective heart attack. The rest of us would check to see if it was April Fools Day.
But it’s not going to happened, more chance of a camel, needle, etc, etc. Not going to happened because I misquoted too. I missed off the four most important words of the passage:
AND COME FOLLOW ME
Over at the GoodPreacher Blog Mary Donovan Turner asks some very pertinent questions of this passage:
- Does this text call us to sell our possessions?
- Does it call us to consider what blocks our participation in the realm of God?
- Does it call us to let go of our self-absorption?
- Does it call us to freely love our neighbour?
- Does it call us to consider what clutters our hearts?
But of everything that Mary Donovan Turner reflects on, the message that stays with me the most is prompted by her words:
“Mark doesn’t want us to explain the story away and minimise or diminish its radical nature.”
How often do we dismiss gospel stories because they don’t apply to us? This story has nothing to say to me because I don’t have riches to give away. Likewise, I pay no attention to the Prodigal Son story because if anything I’m like the other brother. The Good Samaritan seems pretty pointless because I would never walk by on the other side, and The Great Feast, anybody mention food and I’m there like a shot, so that’s another story I don’t need to think about much.
We pick our political parties to suit our pockets and our persuasion, probably in a very similar manner to the way we pick the gospel stories that we think speak to us. By applying our preconceived and conditioned thinking we miss the radical nature and depth of challenge that Jesus brings to our lives.
The biggest challenge facing preachers is not to explain away passages as if they’re the fountain of all knowledge, but to lay them open for their congregations with an honesty that shows that they too have walked this path and grappled with the dilemmas they present.
The biggest challenge facing the ‘preached at’ (is there a collective noun for the Congregation???) is that faith is not some sort of Reality TV Programme, a sort of religious X-Factor or Strictly Come Dancing where we can vote off our least popular Bible verses.
And whoever we are, do we hear those words, ‘And come follow me’? Because those words continue to hover over our faith as the most important challenge to face us. Day by day, we must become more like our Saviour, not with a power-hungry desire to be God-like, but with a real humility in our hearts and a longing to see justice all around us.
How will you respond to that invitation – And come follow me – that really is the sixty million dollar question.
Must wrap this up. George Osbourne is approaching the podium and he looks like he’s going to announce something very big! Here’s hoping…