A Sunday reflection*.
The readings for the twentieth Sunday after Pentecost are here.
In the prayer for today, we ask that God’s grace always precede & follow us – surround us – so that we can do good works. The order is important: God’s grace enables us to do good works, we do not earn God’s gift by doing good works. Grace is a gift that costs the giver everything and the receiver nothing; God gives God’s self to us freely. We cannot earn God’s presence or favor; God alone makes us worthy of God’s love. As we accept this grace, recognize it for what it is, we want to spread it around, do good things for others because of who God is. God’s amazing grace transforms us to be who we are created to be in this life.
I grew up in a denomination that focused our faith on what happens after our physical death and taught that salvation was about having a ticket into heaven and avoiding going to hell in the next life. And as much as I’d like to say the idea of an eternal-life-insurance policy type faith doesn’t permeate the denomination I’m currently in, I have often seen it played out in the way some people live. I think it’s more of a cultural thing than a denominational thing. We want to live life on our terms with the peace of mind that we’ll have an easy next life, even if we aren’t quite sure there will be a next life.
Like the man in today’s gospel reading, we confront Jesus in an assumed posture of humility and ask for the minimum amount of work that we must do in order to gain eternal life. I show up on Sunday mornings several times a month and I contribute financially to help pay the church’s bills; I haven’t killed any one and I love my parents. Is there anything else that I can check off my list so that I sleep peacefully knowing I’ll go to heaven when I die?
And Jesus looks at each of us and reveals what it is we lack. For the man in our story, Jesus knows he lacks compassionate generosity, so Jesus tells him to sell what he has and give it to the poor. The man was unable to see others through a Kingdom of God lens because he let his stuff block the view. Jesus knew that in learning to give the man would gain a life that is other-focused rather than the self-centered life he had.
What do we let block our view? What do we lack? What keeps us from letting Jesus refocus our worldview to be a Kingdom of God view? What blocks our view of Jesus so that we can’t see where and how to follow him?
Jesus’ talk of lack has nothing to do with physical possessions but with the traits of our hearts, our character. When we choose to follow Jesus, we are asking to be transformed into Kingdom of God people. We step into the path of Love behind Jesus so that we learn more and more each day to be like Jesus and flavor the world with the light of God’s love because eternal life includes now. Eternity isn’t the future but always. Eternal life is the life we are created to live, a life grounded in God’s unconditional love for all.
We follow Jesus not because we think we are now perfect because we made the right choice but because we know we are not and that God’s grace surrounds us, it fills us so that we know we are loved and can give in love, lacking nothing.
God’s peace be with you, my friends.
*Now that I am back in parish ministry, I will be preaching every other Sunday. For the alternate Sundays I will still do a short(ish) reflection on the lectionary readings.