Act of Worship at Home
Reading Mark 10:17-31
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.” ’ He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were greatly astounded and said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’
Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’
The rich man who approached Jesus in today’s story from Mark’s gospel, was aware of some lack in his own life. He seems to have recognised in Jesus some depth, some new and exciting and vibrant and living quality to life, and he wanted it. But he didn’t want the pain of growth. He wanted a short cut.
“What must I do,” he asked Jesus, “for my life to be like yours?” To paraphrase Jesus he answered him “You know what to do. The rules are all there for you and have been since time immemorial. Keep the commandments.”
According to Matthew’s gospel, the man didn’t really want to hear about what he should be doing, so he put it off for a bit by saying: “Which commandments shall I keep?” As though it was OK to pick and choose. Perhaps he thought Jesus would place his hands on the man’s head and he would instantly receive eternal life. Or perhaps he thought he could buy it.
Interestingly Jesus ignored the first five commandments, the four about God, and the one about keeping Sunday special, and launched straight into the five social commandments, the ones about community life.
Don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, honour your parents and love your neighbour.
The man told Jesus that he’d kept these commandments all his life. He denied there was anything wrong, even though there must have been plenty of poverty and human suffering all around him.
In the gospel of the Nazarenes, an early gospel which never found its way into the Bible, Jesus is reported as saying to the man: “How can you say, I have fulfilled the law… when many of your brothers, sons of Abraham, are covered with filth, dying of hunger, and your house is full of many good things, none of which go out to them?”
In the version we know, Mark’s version, Jesus didn’t question the man’s self-assessment.
But Jesus did move the man out of the comfort zone, out of the short cut zone, and into the pain zone. “Go and sell everything you have,” he said, “and give to the poor.”
And for the first time, the man was made to face what his priorities really were. For the first time he realised that, for him, his wealth was actually the most important thing in his life. And he wasn’t prepared to face the pain of giving that up, the pain of growth, even to gain vibrant and exciting and eternal life.
So he went away. And Jesus let him go. He made no attempt to persuade him or to cajole him or even to engage him in discussion. For the decision to avoid short cuts and take the long and arduous and painful road, can only be a personal one, freely taken. The choice is ours, and the time is now. Amen.
Time of Prayer
Lord, you are God from everlasting to everlasting – alpha and omega, creator of mountains and seas, of valleys and trees.
With creation, we give you our praise, lifting our voices to you, offering our lives anew –
for you alone are worthy, God of all, to receive all our praises, now and always.
Giver of life, we think of our world today – where there can be so much greed and so little justice.
We pray for those for whom money is their great motivator, while other concerns get pushed aside.
We ask for a renewed compassion among those whose hearts seem so focused on their own gain, to the detriment of others.
We pray for situations we have heard about this week, where wickedness and corruption hold sway,
and where those who have little are trampled under the heels of the powerful.
We ask for your light to spread into the darkest places – the remote areas scarred by suffering we know nothing about, the anguish behind closed doors of respectability, the darkness that can lurk within human hearts.
Jesus, you defeated darkness by confronting it on the cross, and then rising to brilliant life again.
May we be your torch bearers, showing those around us a better way of living.
In your name.
Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee:
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love:
Take my feet, and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing,
Always, only, for my King:
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold;
Not a mite would I withhold:
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will, and make it Thine;
It shall be no longer mine:
Take my heart − it is Thine own;
It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store:
Take myself, and I will be,
Ever, only, all for Thee.
Lord God, bless and empower us in the coming days. Let us live in ways that reflect our holy calling as your children. In Jesus’ name. Amen.