Sunday, October 11, 2009

From Inside A Lion

Sermon October 11, 2009

by Katie Mulligan

I am writing these poems
From inside a lion,
And it's rather dark in here.
So please excuse the handwriting
Which may not be too clear.
But this afternoon by the lion's cage
I'm afraid I got too near.
And I'm writing these lines
From inside a lion,
And it's rather dark in here.
               --Shel Silverstein, "It's Dark In Here"

First Scripture Reading: Job 23:1-9, 16-17
Second Scripture Reading: Mark 10:17-31

Today's sermon was very short and unscripted. First of all, it's hard to do much with this scripture without making it seem like we're trying to avoid giving our money to the poor. Second, I hate asking for money, which makes for very short "stewardship" sermons.  Here's about what I said:

Jesus says clearly in this passage that in order to get to heaven, the rich man must sell all of his possessions and give the money to the poor and then come follow him. I have had many discussions in several churches about this passage, and almost always we get into these questions: "How rich do you have to be before this instruction applies to you?" "What does Jesus have against wealth? There are lots of places in the Bible where wealth is considered a good thing." "Don't I have a right to support myself and loved ones?"  Each of us is going to have to read this passage and follow our conscience; even the disciples were shocked; this passage is supposed to hit us hard.

"Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor" is not the same as saying "Give your money to the church."  Yes, I hope you will give generously to the church. No, that's not exactly what Jesus said.  It seems repetitive and trite to point out that we in the U.S. have vastly more wealth than those in many other countries. Rather than repeat it (again), I invite you to reflect on that and see how the Spirit moves.

The rich young man in the story has done everything he was supposed to by following the commandments and yet senses that there must be more.  Coming to Jesus he asks what that might be, and after receiving a difficult answer, he walks away, grieving.  We have no way of knowing whether the young man was grieving because he was going to miss all those possessions he was going to sell, or if he was sad that he was going to miss God an awful lot.  Perhaps he hadn't decided yet.  But the rest of the story is that Jesus told the disciples that no one can get to heaven without God's help. And so I think today's message is that it is a good thing to stick together as much as we can as we try to figure out God's word.  Because sometimes a person comes across a scripture like this and gets too close, and all of a sudden you get swallowed up by the lion and you're not quite sure what happened to the light. It's not so much that today's scripture is confusing or difficult to understand, it's that if we truly give all of what we have to the poor, we will be living a radically different life.  And if one is going to get swallowed up by a lion, one might as well have company.

So today's "stewardship" sermon is this: keep coming to this tiny church and keeping us company. 'Cause it gets lonely trying to live out God's word.  Give of your time and skills (and yes, your money) as generously as you can, but what we really need is to know that we are journeying together.

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