We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Not from today's Lectionary as usual, but from my Bible group's reading last week.
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; Honour 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 moneyto 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.
23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it isto enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another,‘Then who can be saved?’ 27Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’
28 Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ 29Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.
Just back from a dreadful service at my church so cranky. If our new minister had preached on this passage, he would have given the same tired sermon I hear at least once a year in this obscenely rich communithy where I live. That it's not being rich per se that Jesus condemns, but being unreasonably attached to our riches. That if you are prepared to give up your riches for GOd, that is the proper attitude for Jesus, so you can go on and keep them and be happy.
I personally like the tag about how with man these things are impossible, but with God all things are possible. But I don't think that it's advocating cheap grace either, or the BS touted by all those greedy twits who liked that verse about prospering a few years ago, retreading that tired and nauseating doctrine about success being a mark of God's favor.
The reason why a comfortable gospel, spiritualizing this message works around here is that ministers know their hearers will be so relieved that they will then pony up mountains of cash for the minister's missionary work of the moment. You're not damned, after all, now give to the starving kids in Africa. Such ministers are like all those agonized articles about the hungry world poor in the NYT magazine that you demonstrate your compassion by feeling bad about, directly opposite the Ferragamo ads that underwirte the whole sordid edifice...
I am a miserable sinner myself. I have not sold all my possessions. I hold things back. "All" I want to keep are: my Powerbook, my Blackberry, my house in a safe neighborhod and a good school district, my golden retriever, my SUV, money set aside for my children's education and my own retirement. But I live "simply" because I don't go out to restaurants, or buy new clothes but shop at the thrift shop....Obviously, Jesus would be pretty disgusted at me, and would see me going away sorrowfully if He put me to the test right now....
And yet also it is such a beautiful story because Jesus loves the young man. You can imagine his disappointment as the kid goes away to live out a hollow but comfortable life, always uneasily wondering what might have been. Personally, I have always cherished death bed conversions. Have prayed with dying people whose fed-up families assured me they were irredeemable sinners, and nasty to boot, and been utterly convinced of the sincerity of their repentance and joyful turn to the Lord when everybody around them felt that it was too late...It's nasty human nature to sneer at them, but I believe that the Jesus who comforted and welcomed the repentant crucified thief, will hold out his arms to us, no matter when we finally realize that the dross we clutch close is as nothing compared to the riches of His love.
There is that story about the laborers in the vineyard that maddens hard-working, well behaved, judgmental Christians, but whenever He calls people and they respond, He rejoices.
Off to work perplexed by the proverbial cares of this world (job insecurity, litigious relatives in particular today) and realizing that many of them concern money. As many in this blog have rightly said, it represents freedom. But when you are administering a family estate, it also makes you a target, keeps you sleepless, opens you up to accusations by unscrupulous relatives who want more than their share...