20th Sunday after Pentecost [Ordinary 28B] (Year B)
- Have you ever wanted to confront God like Job dreams of doing? To what questions would you demand answers? Do you think it is possible to “reason with” the Almighty?
- There is a beautiful, almost “edgy” and “raw” quality to Eugene Peterson’s version of this in The Message. Plus, I actually prefer the pericope suggestion of Job 23:1-9, 13-17.
- This passage pairs nicely with the passage from Job.
- The Psalmist seems to be throwing the ultimate pity party in this text. I can’t help but read this text with a slight “whine” in my voice. Or, if not a “whine”, perhaps it should be read with a self-righteous, bratty attitude.
- Like it is with the Job text, The Message offers us a really neat take on this passage.
- Before the throne of God, all is laid bare. Nothing escapes God’s sight. That can be a pretty terrifying thought, really. Let’s face it – we all have things that we would rather hide from the Almighty… But, the amazing news is that the one whose job it is to judge us is not unsympathetic! Christ was tested – just as we are tested. Jesus knows how tough it is to turn away from sin, and – even though he (the Son of God) was able to perfectly turn from sin – he doesn’t hold us to an impossible standard (since we are not divine, God-in-Christ shows us mercy).
- You may want to consider other versions of this text: The Message, the Common English Bible, and the Good News Translation are all really good.
- I have suggested using the “liturgical throne” that you may have in your sanctuary as part of a worship display at other times. If you have access to an ornate chair (that looks throne-like), it could be used in your display this week. I suggest that you drape some “royal-looking” fabric on part of the chair (so it looks different from how it normally looks in your worship space), and be sure to place it in a different place in the worship space (again, so it sets it apart from where it is on other Sundays).
- Many of the pastors I have spoken with recently have mentioned that the churches they serve are in the midst of “stewardship season” (meaning, they are preparing budgets for the upcoming year, gathering pledges, etc). This text is one that I know several folks use to discuss issues of money… That said, I would caution against a message of “Jesus wants you to sell what you have and give the money to the church” — that isn’t what the text says.
- The man questions Jesus about what he (the man) needs to do to inherit eternal life. This is a guy who is probably used to being in charge of his life — completely in charge and in control of every aspect of his life. He has mastered the commandments. And, he has (apparently) mastered his business dealings in some way (as he has “many possessions”). So, he wants to know how to be the master of the next life (eternal life). And what does Jesus tell him? Jesus tells him that he is going to have to let go. Let go of what you have, give it away, and follow me (Jesus). Jesus tells the man to let Jesus be the one in control, and that is not “good news” to this man.
- What do we hold onto that we need to let go? What do we need to “sell”? What is it that is holding us back from giving Jesus complete control of where we go? (Because, that’s what it means to follow Jesus – that means letting Jesus be at the front of the line, not us.)
- During a political season (here in the U.S.A.) where people on all sides are accusing one another of “class warfare”, it may be tempting to put words in Jesus’ mouth and have him say that “the rich” will never enter the kingdom of God. He doesn’t say that. Neither does he say that the rich are going to have better seats (or worse seats) in the kingdom. He says it is hard – it is difficult to enter the kingdom when you have something that takes a greater importance in your life than God and the rule of love. Whether we are “rich” or “poor”, if money is our focus in life, then we are missing out on the treasure we already have in one another and in Christ.
- Leaving things and people behind for the sake of the Gospel is rewarding, but it also brings other troubles (as Jesus states in the last few verses). But…doing so helps to bring about the kingdom…
- This seems to be a theme with the texts for this Sunday, but… You may want to read this passage from a version other than the NRSV. I am particularly fond of the Common English Bible, the Easy-to-Read Version, and The Message for this text.
- If you are focusing on this passage, you may want to decorate with money-related items (coins, piggy banks, wallets, coin purses, etc.). You could also use a “For Sale” sign, or a “Clearance Sale” sign in your worship display.
- This would be a great Sunday to host a clothing drive or a toy drive (collecting gently used or new clothes, toys, etc), giving the collected items to a local shelter or other charity.
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