Sermon by mifei


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A sermon preached by the Reverend Linda Harrison on the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, October 11, 2009
Year B – Amos 5.6-7, 10-15; Psalm 90.12-17; Hebrews 4.12-16; Mark 10.17-31

        “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” What a testimony of grace, mercy, and acceptance!
This short proclamation echoes the last verse of the selection from Hebrews: “Let us therefore
approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in
time of need.”
        Jesus looked and loved. Jesus saw who this man was and loved him, not “anyway”, or
“because of”, or “instead of”. Jesus loved him, period. In loving him, Jesus beseeched the man.
Jesus did not harshly command or coerce, but beseeched the man to go, sell what he owned. Jesus
called the man to a change in attitude, understanding, status, and relationship.
        The man approached the throne of grace with boldness and asked for help in understanding
what more he must do. The man knelt before Jesus, a bold posture, or, if you will, a courageous
posture of humility. I can almost hear the man beseech as well: what must I do to inherit eternal
life? What more is there I must do beyond what is expected of me in following the commandments.
The man seems to be struggling with a deeper hunger; as a deeply religious man and religiously
well attuned, he has an awareness that there is something more and asks Jesus for a clue. The man
senses within himself that he is on the cusp of change. Jesus responds to the man’s awareness in
        Jesus invites the man to embrace the change the man senses and invites him to join Jesus, to
come into community with the poor, the outcast, the children. In other words, Jesus invites the man
to come into community with the vulnerable of society by becoming one of the vulnerable. To do
so requires a major shift in his life; it requires giving up societal assumptions about where one’s
security and favor lie. It requires a change in attitude and status.
        A clergy colleague once shared with me that only after he resigned his position as senior
pastor at a large ethnic church did he feel freed to do the work to which God had called him. He left
behind a low six-figure salary. He left behind health benefits, and all the hidden perks such as
status and prestige, as well as vacations paid for by parishioners, free labor on home and car repairs,
and the like. He knew, as the man in the gospel story did, there was something more. It was hard
for my colleague to walk away from the salary and status and outward accolades of how well he did
God’s work in parish ministry. He also had to endure the disdain of his very ethnically, culturally
and traditionally rooted parents. In my colleague’s culture origin, men simply did not walk away
from lucrative jobs of power and position to become househusbands while discerning a ministry
among the sick and homeless for a starting salary of only $35,000 a year. My colleague gave up a
                                                                                                              2 of 2
A sermon preached by the Reverend Linda Harrison on the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, October 11, 2009
Year B – Amos 5.6-7, 10-15; Psalm 90.12-17; Hebrews 4.12-16; Mark 10.17-31

lot in order to answer God’s call. He told me that although there was much less money in the bank,
he and his immediate family were far happier and he was far more fulfilled.
        Whatever provides you with a false sense of security, like wealth or possessions, or job title
and status, is not evil in and of itself, unless you turn it into an idol, but that false security can
become a distraction. The wealth or status can divert you from hearing or finding your call and lure
you from your true self and answering your call. The Bible does not condemn wealth or status. The
Bible condemns wealth and status that are misused. My colleague learned what Jesus was trying to
tell the man in the story: a person can have a good, satisfying, and fulfilled life without those
secular trappings.
        God may not be calling you to ordained ministry, or ministry among a certain population
like the sick or homeless. However, God does call every human being to something. What false
sense of security is God lovingly and in all grace beseeching you to give up, in order to find,
answer, and follow your call? Is it job status or salary; is it emotions you rely on like anxiety or
anger, or behaviors like the need to control, or expectations that must be met by others?
        Jesus, looking at you, loves you. In that love and grace, Jesus beseeches you to come closer
to our Triune God. You lack one thing; go, give up your false sense of security, and feel what it is
like to be vulnerable before God, and you will have treasure in heaven, then go, follow the Christ.
        It is a hard thing that Jesus asks of us, even as he asks in love. Therefore, as the Letter to the
Hebrews tells us, approach the throne of grace with boldness, knowing that our Triune God loves
you just as you are. Receive God’s mercy and find grace to help you in this time of need, this time
of change. Receive mercy and find grace to discover God’s call and embrace the change to accept
that call.
        May our prayer be: Teacher, Rabbi, Christ, what must I give up in order to discover and
answer your call upon my life? Amen.

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