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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




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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