What are You Willing to Leave Behind for Christ?

In the Gospel of Luke 18.18-27, we hear the popular reminder about wealth and heaven. “How hard is it 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 than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18.24-25) If we are waiting to see a camel get through the needle, we are missing the point of the lesson. We are the camel, and until we are willing to leave the burden of wealth and prestige behind, we will never follow Christ into heaven. Sound impossible? Don’t worry. “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18.27)

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Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Be Transfigured, where we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We pray that this episode is a blessing to you and will inspire you to rededicate your life to Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us for worship or study at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where visitors are always welcome. We'll be back in a few moments to share some more information about our ministry,

My brothers and sisters, again today, in the gospel, we hear about this struggle, this difficulty between the love of God and the love of stuff, money, jobs, family, homes. You could add boats, even positions of honor in our society. This difficulty that we have, my brothers and sisters, to love God enough to be willing to leave those things behind, to follow him into heaven.

In this morning's gospel, the question focuses about money. The rich man says to Christ, "What do I have to do to have eternal life?" And Christ says, "You already know the commandments. Do them," and the man thinking that he was going to outsmart Jesus, this is the theme the past few weeks, people trying to outsmart God, he says, "Well, I've done all of those things since I was a little boy," and Christ says, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor." He says, "And you will have riches in heaven, you will have treasures in heaven, you will have an abundance in heaven."

But this man went away sad because, as the gospel uses the word, he was very rich so he knew what it meant to give away everything. It meant having to give up his way of life. It meant having to give up his position in society, especially in those days, but it's still true today, the wealthy have particularly high positions in our society. And Christ says, give all that stuff up, give it all the way, and then he says, come and follow me. And even those who were looking on said, "It seems impossible to us." Christ says, "Do you see how difficult it is for a rich man? It is easier for the camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven." But then Christ says, "What is impossible with men is possible with God."

Now, do you think that Christ is actually suggesting that we're going to see a camel go through the eye of the needle? Although I believe God could make it happen, that's not the point of the story. If we are waiting to see the camel go through the needle before we respond, we've missed the point of the story. The truth is that with all of the baggage that we contain, of all the things that we put onto our back, imagine we are the camel and we load ourselves down, not just with money, but with all of the benefits of society. We continue to weigh ourselves down that we can barely get through life, let alone go through the needle. And Christ says, "Give all those things away and then come follow me."

You see my brothers and sisters, as much as we try, we cannot follow Christ into heaven until we are willing to unload all the things on our backs. And it doesn't stop with just money. In the gospel, although it is a couple of verses after what we just heard, Christ says this, "Assuredly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children for the sake of the kingdom who shall not receive many times more in this present time, in the age to come, eternal life." So the promise of God, my brothers and sisters, the good God, Ο Κάλος , the promise of the Good God is that if we are willing to leave all these things aside, he will not lead us down the wrong path. He will not abandon us. If we are afraid that we will not have enough food to eat, God has already promised to take care of us if we are willing to follow him into heaven, if we are willing to put all these things aside, if we're willing to shed the weight off our shoulders.

But too often we choose, instead of taking things off of our shoulders, we choose to pile more things on and we wake up another morning wondering how we can collect and gather even more things for ourselves. And it gets heavier and heavier and heavier, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that even Christ himself says God is good. In fact, he's the only good one in all of existence. And so if God is telling us he will take care of our needs, if only we are willing to leave all of the secular, all of the material world behind us, if we are willing to follow him without all that baggage, he will take care of the rest. That's his promise.

And so what a beautiful gospel lesson it is this week, just a few days before Thanksgiving when we have the opportunity to refocus our attention on being thankful to God for the many blessings that we have. But as I warned us last week, don't fall trap to the secular world. It seems like only in America can we spend Thanksgiving day being thankful for all the things we have and then wake up at three o'clock in the morning on Friday after Thanksgiving, pounding down the doors of the stores to get even more things for ourselves, as if we didn't even have the day of Thanksgiving. We have an opportunity. We have liturgy here for the morning of Thanksgiving and we have the opportunity to come and serve the poor, a beautiful Thanksgiving meal. Come and help Thursday. Offer some of your time. You see, it's not just about money. It's about what are we willing to give for Christ. Come and spend a couple hours on Thanksgiving, serving the poor here in Father Tryfon hall. Spend the day being truly thankful for the blessings that God has given us. And then we'll get to follow him into heaven without the burden of everything on our backs.

If you're asking yourself right now, how is it possible? You're saying, "Father, it's not possible," and that's exactly what they said in the gospel, and Christ says, "What is impossible for men, is possible with God." He has our back. He's there holding our hands. He's walking with us, struggling with us. He just asks us to follow him without all that other baggage behind us. I think it's the least we can do, especially this week, the week of Thanksgiving, as we begin to prepare in just a few weeks to celebrate the feast of Christmas. Glory to God. For all things

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