Things that hold us back from living!
Welcome and notices
Grace and peace be with you.
Welcome to this service from St Luke’s Uniting Church, Highton.
I am Paul Stephens the ordained minister in placement.
As you can see, we are in the church building for this video.
Today we will be looking at the implications for us of the account in Mark’s Gospel of the young man who came to Jesus and asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life?
By the way next week, we will be reflecting on our life at St Luke’s as we celebrate the ministry of our namesake, St Luke.
Please go to our website https://stlukesuca.org.au if you want to find out more about the life of the congregation.
Light Christ candle and Call to Worship
Let us start this service well, by reminding ourselves of the good news that Christ calls us … indeed calls all … to life in all its fullness.
As we pray, hear words of Scripture and reflect on our theme let us seek to be open to the prompting of the Spirit so that Christ can enlighten us …
Let us give time during this service to intentionally wait upon the living God who is always with us whether we acknowledge this or not …
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
You embrace all time and eternity in your care,
Your way is the way of love and compassion,
You are abundant in grace and truth.
All your works praise you,
And your way is revealed in Jesus Christ our Saviour and brother
Help us to honor you,
Blessed and holy Trinity,
One God, for ever and ever …
As we pause in prayer, Saving God, it is a relief to know that nothing we do or say, or do not do or say, can be hidden from you.
You know our needs even before we name them …
You see how we stumble along the path of life … often because we are weighed down by all the ‘stuff’ which keeps us from following Jesus.
Holy One, empty us of our tendency to cling tightly to unneeded things or unhealthy pretensions … instead fill us with your grace and hope. As we let go of all which might hold us back, give us the trust to follow Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, into that life with which he offers to each of us.
Silence may be kept
Declaration of forgiveness
My friends, Christ has come to loose our bonds
and give us liberty.
In his name I declare the forgiveness of sins
and the life that is eternal.
If Christ sets you free, then you are free indeed.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Friends embrace the life Christ offers. Amen. Amen.
The prayers are based on material from Uniting in Worship 2 an prayers written by Thom Shuman, and posted on Lectionary Liturgies. http://lectionaryliturgies.blogspot.ca/
Introduction to the reading
In the last video we looked at the way Jesus challenged his followers and challenges us by drawing attention to children.
The account of Jesus taking children into his arms and blessing them comes immediately before the passage we are about to here.
And you might remember that Jesus told his disciples that the kingdom of God belongs to children … that the way to the kingdom is not complicated … it is simple … it is about receiving God’s way with the wide-eyed joy and openness that little children display.
Let’s listen now to today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel about a man who found himself challenged about his approach to the things of God.
A Rich Young Man’s Question
17 Jesus started to leave on a journey, but a man ran to him and fell on his knees before Jesus. The man asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
18 Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commands: ‘You must not murder anyone. You must not be guilty of adultery. You must not steal. You must not tell lies about your neighbor in court. You must not cheat. Honor your father and mother.’”[a]
20 The man said, “Teacher, I have obeyed all these commands since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked straight at the man and loved him. Jesus said, “There is still one more thing you need to do. Go and sell everything you have, and give the money to the poor. You will have a reward in heaven. Then come and follow me.”
22 He was very sad to hear Jesus say this, and he left. The man was sad because he was very rich.
23 Then Jesus looked at his followers and said, “How hard it will be for those who are rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The followers were amazed at what Jesus said. But he said again, “My children, it is very hard[b] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 And it will be very hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. It would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle!”
26 The followers were even more amazed and said to each other, “Then who can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked straight at them and said, “For people this is impossible. But for God all things are possible.”
28 Peter said to Jesus, “We left everything to follow you!”
29 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth. Everyone who has left his home, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or fields for me and for the Good News 30 will get a hundred times more than he left. Here in this world he will have more homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields. And with those things, he will also suffer for his belief. But in the age that is coming he will have life forever. 31 Many who are first now will be last in the future. And those who are last now will be first in the future.”
Adapted from The Holy Bible, International Children’s Bible® Copyright© 1986, 1988, 1999, 2015 by Tommy Nelson™, a division of Thomas Nelson. Used by permission.
Sermon: “Things that hold us back from living.”
How do people know who you are?
Well obviously, there is your name. Which in my case is a little complicated because while I am known as Paul, Paul is actually my second name. My first name is William and after years of trying to explain this to banks, companies and government authorities I have given up. So, for example, when I travel and use my passport, I have to remember that when someone calls out, William. Well, that’s me.
But we are more than names …
“Elise is the lady who lives in the house on the corner with all those beautiful roses.”
“Fred is the guy who is into fishing in a big way.”
I remember many years ago hearing a funeral eulogy for a man, who I did not know personally but who had been described to me by his family. A friend of the man gave the eulogy, and he outlined all the important committees and company boards that the man had served on but said nothing about the man’s character … how he cared for is family, his kindness, his sense of humour … that sought of thing. So, I didn’t think the man who gave the eulogy really gave us a true picture of who his friend was. I frankly thought the man’s character spoke far more about who he was than the years he had served on a particular company board.
In todays’ reading it is clear that the identity of the man who came to Jesus and asked him about how he could inherit eternal life was bound up with his wealth.
It is for good reason that this passage is often entitled in Bibles “The rich man” or “The rich ruler.”
Jesus of course diagnosed this straight away. (Pause)
Jesus is about to go on a journey and the man rushes up to Jesus and kneels at his feet.
The man, in the process, almost overdoes the greeting by describing Jesus as “Good teacher,” which Jesus later picks up on.
And after this startling entrance and greeting, the man asks Jesus, what he must do to inherit eternal life.
Now the word inherit is important and we will come back to it in a moment.
But, as you heard, Jesus’ response was to point to the law.
And the man tells Jesus that he has kept the laws since he was a boy … which we have no reason to believe was untrue and which was therefore pretty amazing. No doubt he was thus known as a good man.
But when Jesus challenged the man to give up his riches because they were holding him back from inheriting eternal life, he just couldn’t do it.
Jesus looked straight at the man and loved him. Jesus said, “There is still one more thing you need to do. Go and sell everything you have, and give the money to the poor. You will have a reward in heaven. Then come and follow me.”
He just couldn’t do it. He just couldn’t give up his wealth and all that went with it. And so he went away sad!
It is not that having stuff in itself is wrong … but when wealth … when stuff defines who you are … defines your identity … as it did for this man … then there is a problem … it is a barrier to inheriting eternal life … it is a barrier to being authentic … to being truly alive … alive in God … alive in Christ.
The discomforting word here for us, of course, is that we are being provoked by Jesus to ask ourselves what are the barriers to us inheriting eternal life?
When Jesus looks at us with love, what would he have us let go of?
If not wealth, are there other things … obsessions … anger … an inability to forgive … attitudes or patterns of thinking. What might be acting as barriers for us to inheriting eternal life????
And now back to that word “inherit.”
The point about the life that Jesus offers in this life and the life to come, is that it is inherited!
What normally happens when you inherit money or a house or a box of your grandparent’s stuff? Unless there has been some skulduggery going on, you simply receive it. To inherit something is to receive a gift.
To enter into the way of life that Jesus offers means accepting that we can do nothing to earn it!
Like the wide-eyed joy and openness of a child we are simply to receive the undeserved gift of the life and love of God poured out in Christ Jesus.
Faith means simply being ready to receive and trust Jesus …
And then allow the life and love of Christ to shape the way we live, the way we relate to others, the way we honour God …
In a world where we so often are told we have to work for something, we have to buy, we have to do something to get it, we have to create our own image, this is pretty weird. But it is the Gospel.
Real hope … real life … involves receiving the gift.
The rich man had allowed his wealth to define who he was. His wealth had become something unhealthy and a barrier to living God’s way.
Jesus loved him and challenged him to let go of it and live … to begin living a little of eternal life of God right now.
Jesus wants that for you and me to be free and alive …
So be open to Jesus’ challenge to you about what you might need to let go of … what might act as a barrier to inheriting …to receiving … life in all its fullness … the life of Christ.
To the fisherfolk Jesus said:
“Follow me and I will make you fish for people.
To the tax collector Jesus said:
To the rich man Jesus said:
“Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
At the last supper Jesus said:
To you and to me and to all of us Jesus says:
~ written by Rev. Kathleen Sheets, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Jesup, IA.
Great God of Heaven and Earth,
you call us to leave behind our preoccupations
and to follow you into the future.
Sometimes we find your call challenging.
We are comfortable, maybe even complacent, in our present.
May this act of giving be a gesture of our willingness
to follow where you lead.
In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
~ posted on the United Methodist Foundation of Michigan. http://www.umfmichigan.org/offerprayers.html
Sharing the journey
Prayers of intercession
We give thanks that in many ways we have
known Your love,
and experienced Your care and provision.
You invite us to extend that love to the world around us—
to care for others….
We pray for the many who do not have enough:
enough food to eat, or shelter to keep warm;
enough employment, or money to pay their bills;
enough medicine or medical care.
We also pray for those who have more than enough,
but who still struggle to find meaning and purpose in life;
who indulge in dangerous or self-serving activities
to dull their pain or loneliness.
We pray for those impacted by COVID 19 and for all those … like intensive care nurses … who are serving so self-sacrificially to care of others.
We pray for our planet … teach us to be good stewards of the environment.
We pray for the Church both locally and globally that your Spirit might continue to stir its leaders and members to a faithful and energetic living out and sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ … and we remember particularly the Catholic Church in Australia which has been meeting in recent days to consider its future.
Compassionate God, Your grace reaches out to all of us.
You call us to live as citizens of heaven,
working together with one heart and mind.
Strengthen us to live in a manner worthy
of the Good News we have received,
offering our lives in service of Your kingdom,
where the last are first, and the first are last,
and there is grace enough for all.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord, Amen.
Based on a prayer by Christine Longhurst, re:Worship
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.
Being sent to share in God’s Mission
Word of mission
Hymn: “I the Lord of sea and sky…”
Unless otherwise stated prayers are either by the author or based on resources from Uniting in Worship 2 © Uniting Church Press, Sydney, 2005. And images are from Wikimedia Commons and are in the public domain.
When nothing is right,
when we are weary and lost,
when clouds dull the sky,
help us to be still.
When our cries are unheeded,
when no effort bears fruit,
when the sun sets,
help us to be still.
When love is over,
when hope is gone,
when darkness covers the land,
help us to be still.
For in being still,
in refusing to panic or despair,
we shall come to know that God is there,
suffering alongside and with us,
waiting to show us stepping-stones through the swirling waters,
and to help us sing a new song.
~ written by Kate Compston. Posted on the Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday website. http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/