Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"What Do You Want From Me?" - In Advance of Pentecost 19

17 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?’ 18Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You 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; Honor your father and mother.” 20He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ 21Jesus, 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.’ 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. - Mark 10.17-22

So, a guy comes up to Jesus and needs help.

What's new about that? Nothing, really.

How many of those Jesus healed approached him first, sought answers to their problems, and found them in him?

This guy, incorrectly labled as "the rich, young ruler" has an existential question of the most serious sort.

Now, it's too easy for us to excuse ourselves of his issues because truly, we really don't think of ourselves as "rich." And I guess in comparison to big business CEO's, we're not. But on wordly standards, we know such an argument will never wash.

Because we know something of God's preferential option for the poor - it is chronicled in the whole of sacred texts. It cannot be denied, and to attempt to, I believe, is heresy.

We also know that money, in itself, isn't a bad thing. See "Of Hearts and Treasures" for more on that.

So, what's the big deal here - how is it that someone who seeks Jesus' counsel - seeks freedom goes away "grieving," and what has that to do with us?

Everything, really.

Don't we all, in some way or another ask Jesus "what do you want from me?"

And his answer is one that leaves us grieving more than we'd ever allow ourselves to admit in front of fellow church folks.

As I read it, Jesus simply asks of me to divest myself of what ever it is that I employ to define me. And let's make no mistake about it - we all seek to be defined by something or someone that communicates who we are without our ever saying so.

Power, position, prestige are all one end of the spectrum.

On the other end you'll find the capacity to perpetually wollow in misery, the adoption of victimization as a way of life, and the impotency of nondoing that accompanies each.

This "rich" man didn't go away grieving because he was rich. He went away grieiving because he was unwilling to divest himself of what he thought made him who he was.

The hard truth is, there is no room in our lives for the radical nature of Jesus' Kingdom program without some serious divestment in every realm of life.

And that means, each of us knows the answer to the question, "what do you want from me?" before it ever comes out of mouths.

Jesus is just honest enough to give us the answer we don't want to hear.

Turns out, I know what it takes to be free, to be whole - I've been shown the way - but I've got to want to go there.

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