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Pastor's Notes from The Scribe (October 2012)

posted Oct 2, 2012, 8:03 AM by Punxsy Lutheran Parish Pastor

Pastor’s Notes

“As Jesus looked at him, he felt love for him and said, ‘You lack one thing. Go, sell whatever you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’  But at this statement, the man looked sad and went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.” ~ Mark 10:21-22

I have never considered myself “rich” by our country’s standards.  Don’t get me wrong, I have never lacked the necessities in life.  I always had a roof over my head, clothes on my body, plenty of food to eat, and good health care.  My parents gave me the gift of a wonderful education amongst many other things.  I was privileged enough to participate in multiple extra-curricular activities growing up.  I also had a grandmother who treated my brother and me very well.  Yet, I never considered myself “rich.” 

During college, I had the opportunity to go on mission trips – domestic and international.  In Costa Rica and Nicaragua, I witnessed abject poverty for the first time.  People lived in homes that had dirt floors and sheets as walls.  We would offer health clinics so people could be treated for such ailments as foot fungus and digestive complaints (problems we can easily treat with over the counter medications in our country).  In Appalachian Tennessee, we built porch roofs and wheelchair ramps with crude materials on homes that were falling apart.  My eyes continued to be open as I made educational trips to Mexico, visited homes and villages in Western Virginia, and when I moved to Western PA.  During the past 12 years of my personal “enlightenment” my parents have reminded me of the situations they encountered in inner-city Philadelphia (I was just too young to remember). 

Needless to say, this Scripture passage has been very troubling for me.  I may not be “rich,” but I have a lot of possessions.  I may not have thousands of dollars saved, but I have always been able to take care of my bills and household expenses.  It has been hard to reconcile all I have with the exhortation Jesus makes (which is an exhortation to all of us as much as it was to that rich man).  But here are some conclusions I have made about this text over the years (and I encourage you to share with me any thoughts you have about Jesus’ words to the rich man). 

1.     Sinful Humanity – This text reminds us of the disproportionate nature of wealth in this world.  Jesus saw that this man was rich.  His requirements to that man were to “sell all he had and give the money to the poor.”  Jesus recognized that there were people who had great wealth while so many lacked food, shelter, clothing, and basic care.  This story also reminds us of our inability at times to relinquish our wealth – “but at his statement, the rich man looked sad and went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.”         

2.     Call to Action – Jesus calls us to use what we have for the sake of the poor.  Yes, many of us will not ever reach the ability to sell all our possessions and give the money to the poor.  Many of us may not have great wealth.  However, we can all work towards being better stewards of what we have been given for the sake of the poor, homeless, hungry, and sick of this world.  There are always opportunities to make sacrifices and give more.    

3.     God’s Love – Notice how the beginning of verse 21 says, “As Jesus looked at him, he felt love for him…”  Even when we sin in our need for more, even when we fail to act as Jesus would have us act, Jesus still loves us as he loved that rich man.  And since Jesus acts on behalf of his father, we can be assured that this love Jesus has for us is the love of God.  When we sin by what we have done or left undone, God continues to love us and, by the Spirit, call us to action for the sake of those in need.

In Christ – Pastor Maureen