Sunday, November 29, 2009

Let Go…and Follow Christ

Imagine you were inside a round room with a rope tied to a pole in the middle. The walls of the room are made of broken glass and would cut you to death if you touched them. As you walked into the room you picked up the rope and pulled it and immediately the room began to spin. As you pulled on the rope the cylinder began to spin faster and faster. Now you began to panic because it grew harder and harder to hold on to the rope and you were afraid you might fall against the broken glass. You notice a door under the pole where the rope is tied which says, “Safe Exit” so you try to pull yourself closer to the door, but the more you pull the faster you spin. The only way to safety is through that door in the middle but you begin to lose hope that you will ever be able to get there. The more you pull the faster you spin. Then the door in the middle opens and a man enters the room and calls out to you, “Let go of the rope, walk toward me, and you will live.” So you let go of the rope.

Doesn’t this sound terrifying? But how different do you think this imaginary room is from this morning’s Gospel? “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Luke 18.22) These are the words Jesus Christ speaks to a rich man who says he wants eternal life. For this rich man, his wealth was like the rope in our imaginary room. He was holding on tight but the all he could think of was the danger if he let go. What would he eat? Where would he sleep? What would he wear to keep himself warm? These are the questions I know I would ask if I was told to sell everything I had. Just like the death that loomed in our imaginary room, without his wealth the rich man was sure he would die. So, “When he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.” (Luke 18.23)

Right about now some of you are thinking, “Why is he talking about money again? Is that all he talks about? I am tired of hearing about money all the time.” I know you are thinking this because I have been told that you are thinking this. And I’m not surprised because Jesus Christ talks about money more than almost any other topic in scripture. More than 25% of his parables were about money and since I continue to preach about the Gospel that we read each Sunday, I’m bound to talk about money 25% of the time too, so don’t get discouraged, its only the Gospel.

There is one thing I have not told you about the imaginary room yet. What you can’t see is the rope is tied to a switch that controls the motor spinning the room. As long as the rope is pulled tight, the switch remains on, but once the rope is loose again, the room will stop spinning instantly and you will be able to walk easily to the center “Safe Exit” just as the man told you. Of course, it takes faith and trust in the man to let go of the rope, just like it takes faith and trust to let go of our riches and follow Christ to heaven.

Life has a lot of challenges; that’s for sure. In today’s economy, many of us wonder every day if we will have a job tomorrow or if our restaurants will stay open another month. We have mortgage payments, tuition payments, gas and electric payments, groceries, insurance; our lives seem to be surrounded by bits of broken glass like the imaginary room that threaten to cuts us to bits if we make one wrong move. God knows much more than I do how people are suffering. But He also knows how to save us.

The Gospel doesn’t say that it is impossible to get to heaven if we’re rich, just easier if we’re not. “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.” (Luke 18.24-25) “Various interpretations have been suggested for the impossible image of a camel going through the eye of a needle: e.g., that the word was not camel but rope; or that the eye of the needle was a city gate through which the camel might barely squeeze it if were first unloaded of all its baggage, symbolizing wealth.” (Orthodox Study Bible notes on Matthew 19.23-26, page 1306)

The real issue for us this morning isn’t whether or not it is a sin to be rich. This morning’s Gospel doesn’t address the morality of being rich, but simply the fervor with which we hold on to our wealth rather than following Jesus Christ. Remember that the rich man approached Jesus and asked how to get to heaven. “You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother.’ And he said, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. Jesus said, ‘You still lack one thing.’” (Luke 18.19-22) Following Christ takes a serious commitment and willingness to let go of our worldly possessions and give our entire life to Him.

God knows how difficult this is, which is why selling everything wasn’t the first answer He gave but the last. When we have done everything else there is to do, THEN Jesus might ask us to sell everything and give it to the poor, and of course some people do this very thing. They are called monks and nuns, and they have sold everything to follow Jesus Christ and dedicate their entire life to God. It is a special calling to become a monk or nun, and most of us haven’t been called to that level of sacrifice.

We have been called to be willing to trust that God will take care of us. We have been called to believe that God became man so that we could become one with God. It wasn’t the wealth that condemned the rich man, but his unwillingness to go the extra mile for Christ. Remember the conversation between Jesus and the Apostle Peter? “’Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ … ‘Tend My sheep.’ ... ‘Feed My sheep.’” (John 21.15-19) Peter had to go the extra mile.

We just finished celebrating Thanksgiving where we ate and ate until we couldn’t eat any more and then we ate some more. Christmas is just around the corner and some of us have already been shopping. The newspapers this weekend were stuffed (so much I thought I received three papers in my box Friday morning) with thousands of coupons trying to convince us to spend spend spend until we can’t spend any more and then spend just a little bit more. We won’t be happy until our arms and our trunks and our closets are full of news toys and gadgets, or so we are told by society.
And just when our legs are aching from all the shopping and our closets are full remember the words of this morning’s Gospel: “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (Luke 18.24) and then…let go of the rope. It’s never too late to let go. This year, consider how you can stay focused upon Christ during Christmas.
Read the bible every day. Participate in the New Testament Challenge.

Fast and pray every day. Call your spiritual father for guidelines.

Help at least one other person every day. It doesn’t have to be major, just help.

Come to at least one extra Church service every week – besides Sunday.

If we do these few things, our room will stop spinning and we will be able to see clearly the door to heaven.

1 comment:

Allan said...

Amen! Nicely said.
Thanks for sharing,