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Sermon for Proper 23/Ordinary 28 B Who can be saved?

October 10, 2018

Who can be saved? Words from today’s gospel

 

In the name………

 

When I was twelve, I won a Bible Reading competition in Southampton.

 

Today’s gospel was the passage I had to read.

 

It has haunted me ever since.

 

 

I wish it wasn’t in the bible.

 

Or believe that Jesus was speaking to THIS man

 

Because wealth was HIS barrier

 

Your barrier might be a different one

 

So you can be rich and Christian

 

 

rope

That bit about getting a camel through the eye of a needle:

 

rope 2Some later manuscripts make a one letter change in the word for camel from kamelon to kamilon, which means “rope”.

 

It is easier to get a rope through the eye of a needle.

 

Another interpretation says that the “Needle’s Eye” was the name of a small gate into the city of Jerusalem:

 

gatethe way one had to enter after the main gates were closed.

 

the camel would have to be unloaded and bowed down to get through the small door.

 

 

 

But there’s no evidence for either of these.

 

 

 

So I’m not convinced.

 

I have sung those words; Take my silver and my gold, not a might would I withold.’

 

With my fingers crossed behind my back.

 

 

 

To be honest, I have felt smug about my Christian giving

 

I don’t give to beggars

 

I have made standing orders to charities – and they claim back the tax

 

So that it is an act of the will rather than act of emotion

 

But I still have plenty left in my current account at the end of the month.

 

I did that long Ignatian retreat which ends with the prayer where you tell God you give him everything

 

And found it difficult to say the prayer

 

One priest once told me it’s all right to want to want to love God.

 

To follow Jesus….at a distance

 

 

 

Remember John Lennon’s song Imagine?

 

Imagine no possessions?

 

Well, the Jewish tradition that our man in the story comes from

 

They saw wealth as a blessing

 

Because it stopped you worrying about all these things so that you could concentrate on your spiritual life

 

Wealth enabled spirituality, it didn’t hinder it.

 

Commenting on John Lennon’s song, somebody who grew up in the Gorbals, Glasgow

said it was utter rubbish

 

Lennon had several mansions and loads of dosh

 

In the gorbals they already had no possessions

 

Or what they did have was out of a catalogue, on the never never

 

They wanted possessions

 

 

 

So perhaps it’s about attitude.

 

Note the man’s question:

 

What must I do to inherit eternal life?

 

My bills are paid

 

The lesser anxieties – how to feed my family, educate my kids

 

They’re taken care of

 

I am insured against all sorts of disaster

 

Except death

 

I want to possess cast-iron security about the after life

 

but maybe the point is that the Christian faith is not about certainties

 

But about a longing for a God who goes beyond us

 

Who calls us to risk-taking and detachment

 

We are all attached to things that fill the aching void

 

Money, yes

 

drugs, houses, cars, social status, education, success

 

All of these little barriers we put up to stop us really encountering the other, encountering God.

 

 

 

What must I do to inherit eternal life?

 

You don’t inherit it.

 

Christian faith ís not passed down the generations.

 

You have to choose for yourself.

 

Commit yourself..

 

Maybe bit by bit, day by day, tentatively.

 

 

 

Meanwhite, I squirm and wriggle out of taking this story literally

 

but I also take heart that this story is the only place in the synoptic gospels where we are told that Jesus actually loved anybody.

 

Mark has a lot of anger and indignation from Jesus – not least directed towards the rich and the religious.

 

But here: ‘Jesus, looking upon him, loved him.’

 

So I’ll just muddle through, wriggle a bit more

 

But feel that Jesus loves me too

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