For God all things are Possible
14 October 2018 –Lectionary 28/ Proper 23
The rich young man is not rejected by Jesus; he eliminates himself from becoming a disciple because he won’t part with all he has. In all the New Testament, this episode may be the single most difficult ‘‘hard saying’’ of Jesus. It seems that if taken absolutely literally, not even some of Jesus’ close associates and friends completely obeyed this, since they seem to have had enough money to support the ministry, and we find no accounts of them begging in the streets. On the other hand, Peter and some of the rest had indeed parted with everything. . .
Jesus indeed probably owned one set of clothes and a spare pair of sandals. When asked about paying taxes, he borrows a coin to show the image on its face; he obviously doesn’t carry around money. True, he does not live completely as an outsider to human society. John the Baptizer, following the model of Elijah, did so. He dressed and lived as a wild person in wild places, from where he could see the kingdom of God in advance of its arrival. . . Jesus ate bread, not bugs, and he moved from town to town, a guest in people’s houses rather than camping out.
. . . Jesus’ primary insistence is that attachment to goods and money and security via the world’s stuff is an impediment to knowing and following God. God does not like competition, God does not want to be one choice among many. God wants our full, undivided loyalty and attention. –– Lucy Bregman
Jesus challenges this young man, and us, with his words. Respectability is not enough. Referring back to the commandments, Jesus is saying it is not just about not doing the bad things. Faith is not just negatives. Faith with God, building the kingdom, is about doing good with what we are given. –– Michael Beck
Amos 5:67, 10-15
The reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel (786–746) was one of great financial prosperity for the well-to-do of the land. Through Amos, the LORD warns of judgment for trampling on the poor, extortion (‘‘take from them levies of grain’’), taking bribes, and pushing aside the needy so as to support a flamboyant lifestyle (‘‘you have built houses of hewn stone’’). The prophet’s words speak to every generation. . . Verse 15 gives the only recipe for redemption: ‘‘Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.’’ –– Joseph McHugh
The word of God . . . is living, communicating not mere words but the substance of God’s love. The word is active—it fulfills its purpose. The word is penetrating and can cut either in judgment or in blessing . . Jesus is our merciful high priest from whom ‘‘we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’’ Jesus has faced the same temptations and troubles as the rest of humanity. –– Joseph McHugh
Lucy Bregman, professor of religion at Temple University, is the author of several books including Beyond Silence and Denial: Death and Dying Reconsidered. She is a member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Norwood, Pennsylvania.
Michael Beck, an Anglican parish priest with a DMin in preaching (2004) from the Association of Chicago Theological Schools, serves as tutor for preaching at the Lindisfarne College of Theology, Durham University, United Kingdom.
Joseph McHugh is a freelance writer on scripture and other religious topics.
Homily Service 42, no. 4 (2009): 59-69.