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Pastor's Notes from The Scribe (October 2014)

posted Oct 1, 2014, 12:31 PM by Pastor Russ Crouthamel

“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

In regards to the economic standards of the United States, I am not considered rich.  In fact, I have never considered myself “rich.”  Yet, in my contemplations on not being “rich” I have realized that I have never been impoverished – I have never lacked the necessities in life.  I have never been homeless, I have never experienced food insecurity, I was never short of adequate health insurance, and many of you know I am not lacking in the clothing department.  I was blessed by my parents with the gift of education; I was privileged enough to participate in multiple extra-curricular activities growing up; and I had a grandmother who spoiled my brother and I.  I may not have considered myself rich, but I have never known poverty.   

During the past 14 years, I had the opportunity to travel to different parts of the country and world that have granted me a deeper perspective of the gap between rich and poor.  In Central America, people lived in homes that had dirt floors and sheets for walls.  Our mission team would offer health clinics so people could be treated for ailments we, in our country, can easily treat with over the counter medications.  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 in a remote village in Western Virginia; and when I moved to Western PA.  Also over the years, I have recalled the stories my parents would tell me about their ministry in inner-city Philadelphia. 

Let me tell you, this passage from the Scriptures has troubled me over the years.  I may not be a millionaire with luxury vacation homes and expensive cars, but I have lived a comfortable life.  I typically received what I wanted and always had what I needed.  And I can tell you, it has been difficult 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).  Here are some thoughts that might help us wrestle with this matter Jesus calls us to think very seriously about – and who knows, maybe we might grow more in our faith.   

1.      The Problem with Humanity – This text reminds us of the disproportionate nature of wealth in this world and our human nature to choose earthly wealth over God.  Jesus’ requirements for the rich man were to “sell all he had and give the money to the poor.”  Jesus recognized humanity’s deep, emotional ties to wealth.  He also recognized that there were people who had great wealth while so many lacked food, shelter, clothing, and basic care.  I don’t think any of us in this parish are rich by U.S. standards.  However, most of us do not experience the extreme poverty that many in this world suffer from every day.  That gives us something to think about.  

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 (I am not there).  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.  Reflect upon your financial giving: take a step up towards a tithe and make regular donations to our local food pantry or World Hunger.  If you already tithe, take another step to move away from ties to earthly wealth and seek first the kingdom of God. 

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.  So, let us transform that love into loving action towards this world.  Think about how you might perform one act this month that takes the focus away from yourself and offers it for the sake of God’s kingdom.  

In Christ – Pastor Maureen