This is the first of two in a series of sermons with the goal of clearing the clutter that we tend to pile around the Bible. Join with us as we explore these stories together.
Did Jesus ever tell a joke? Some people act like He was only the man of sorrows and that sour, and harsh actions are Christian service. Jesus was constantly at dinner with people and speaking to diverse groups. He was fully human and fully God, yet capable of weeping. It is reasonable to think that he would also laugh. Some believe that this comment about rich people was a joke! Granted, the punch line is lost to the centuries BUT that does fit.
Scripture is dealing with life and death seriousness in our story today but Jesus is not afraid to laugh the truth into this crowd. Still this is not a comedy but a love story.
This is a picture of 19th century graves of a Catholic woman and her Protestant husband, who were not allowed to be buried together. On the Protestant part of this cemetery Colonel van Gorcum, of the Dutch Cavalry. His wife, lady van Aefferden is buried in the Catholic part. They were married in 1842,the lady was 22 and the colonel 33, he was a protestant and didn’t belong to the nobility. This caused quite a commotion in the day.
After being married for 38 years the colonel died in 1880 and was buried on the protestant part of the cemetery against the wall. His wife died in 1888 and had decided not to be buried in the family tomb but on the other side of the wall. Two clasped hands connect the graves across the wall telling a love story that is bigger than the grave. The barriers weren’t brick-class, denomination/style, family relationships, background, or gender-they were spiritual. Even in death they found a way.
Their love story reflects the love story that the Gospel has for us. Jesus is in the region of Judea and across the Jordan. He is teaching at a furious pace to prepare his followers for the crucifixion. His inner circle of disciples is trying to “get it” and temple staff members are there to make sure they don’t.
A man rushes up and asks the central question of all life, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus starts listing the 10 commandments, but the man hastily interrupts-saying Come on, I know this. Jesus “Looked at him and loved him”. He saw his spiritual brick-wall and told him to give away all of his riches and follow. The man clung to his money and went away sad, unrepentant and unredeemed.
Jesus rounded up his disciples, laughed and quipped about running a camel through the eye of a needle being easier than that rich guy entering into God’s kingdom. Jesus laughed the truth into them that God gives us the gift of possibility where we have none without on our own strength.
Good old clumsy Peter piped in that they indeed left everything to follow him. He was trying to live out of the rich man’s spiritual problems instead of his own. Thus pointing out that they were way ahead of that rich guy. Of course Christ’s closest ones there wasn’t whole lot of riches to leave behind.. I am sure that Jesus just shook His head.
The point is not what they lost by following but what they gained, which was everything, Nothing we can lose by faith can compare to What Jesus Gives us. Indeed the more we leave behind by faith the higher the capacity to reap spiritual riches. “But many who are first will be last, and the last first. Come on… we know this! but it is hard to walk away from our walls. Our real separation is not brick, class or background but a Spiritual relationship with God that show us and then removes the false separations built in our own minds. Even in death Jesus found a way to overcome the wall that is sin/separation, and he did that through the Cross and our inheritance of an empty tomb.
So what do we learn from this? The love story of Jesus is bigger than the grave
We have walls between us and God of our own making. God is assertively reaching over them to grasp our hands. Of course we have to live inside our own walls, not those of someone else. God reveals our separation, our sin, and the Grace of Jesus removes them one brick at a time. Keep reaching! Grace reaches back when we risk losing something personal to gain everything. The empty tomb is a better place to live than the grave yard.
Salvation is a personal gift but is lived out in our church families. Congregations build walls too. When we hide behind the walls of style, denomination and tradition we slap God’s nail scarred hands away and retreat into our four lonely walls.
Unity is as tough now as it was in Jesus’ earthly ministry. Like then, we are living in a world of change and are left to witness to an unchanging God in our ever changing cultural reality. How, by looking at to Jesus as our ground and goal rather than trying to cling to people. By gladly preparing our church for the next generation instead of trying to make them look like us. Focusing our vision is listening to God rather than just making better plan.
We settled on “Welcome Home!” This is what I want to hear when my time on earth is done and what we want others to hear when they step through our doors. Rather than just doing good things, we will test our ministry and ask if we are following Christ, serving the community and unifying the body as we do them. If the answer is no then we are probably only serving ourselves and need to re-think. Live in Christ, you cant lose.
Let us work according to Christ’s mission and we have already succeeded. and when we quit telling God, as the rich young man did, how smart we are and move toward disciplined listening we will grow in Grace and live a life of significance.
This is a follow up to our sermon from Sunday and I pray it touches your heart. Please find a church that gives you a hearty “Welcome Home”. If you find yourself in our corner of East Texas, Come and see us!