“Getting to ‘Follow Me’”
October 11, 2015
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor
East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches
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?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You 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; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
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!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It 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.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus 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 good news, who 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. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
I have only received an inheritance once in my life.
Our neighbor George
Left me his tackle box and all of his fishing equipment.
It was enough to fill the back of a pickup truck.
George loved the fact
That I led a fishing camp at Casowasco,
One of our United Methodist Church Camps on Owasco Lake,
Each summer for many years.
Most of his equipment went to support efforts to teach kids to fish.
What remains today, 25 years later,
Is safely tucked away at the family cottage.
It was a privilege to have had George remember me in his will.
With his inheritance has come a few lessons I still ponder.
I didn’t do anything to earn his inheritance.
We were simply friends and neighbors.
Over the years our families grew together.
We both loved to mow our lawns at the same time on our
Nearly identical Sear’s lawn tractors.
We both loved being members of the Dresden Fire Department.
He and I put out a lot of fires together;
Just the two of us.
Inheritance can’t be earned.
Rather, inheritance is about belonging.
Inheritance is about growing and deepening relationships,
Sharing together this journey of life and faith.
I’ve also learned that for there to be an inheritance,
Someone has to die.
This is a bitter lesson.
I’d give back all George’s fishing equipment ten fold
Only to have an afternoon with him talking over the back split-rail fence.
I loved George dearly, and still miss him a lot, 25 years later.
“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
All of us who follow Jesus
Belong to a pretty special group.
We are known by our love,
Our authentic desire to lead our lives the way Jesus led his life,
Our desire to discern and follow God’s will,
And our commitment to live according to God’s Law.
At our baptism we were accepted by God,
Hereafter, we belong.
We are accepted.
Inheritance is about belonging.
Jesus, the Good Teacher first correctly steers this anonymous man
Towards that which gives identity to Christians,
And to our Jewish ancestors:
Living according to the Law of Moses,
Which came as a gift, down from God.
We don’t follow laws to belong.
We belong, therefore, we want to follow God’s Law.
Eternal life cannot be earned any more than an inheritance.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ grants eternal life for all who accept it.
There isn’t enough righteousness, or right living, in the world
To earn someone a ticket to heaven.
Saying “yes” to Jesus Christ,
Accepting salvation as a divine gift of grace,
Means living in relationship with God and others.
Belonging to the “Eternal Life Club” individually, and collectively,
Means changing our priorities.
We don’t live for ourselves.
When we live according to God’s Laws,
We live for others and we live for God.
When Jesus tells us
“go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor,”
He is calling us to reorder our priorities in life.
Place the needs of the poor before our own needs.
Make the last first.
Making the last first in our lives
Is all about belonging,
Of being in community,
Of living as benefactors of God’s inheritance;
Of God’s amazing grace.
Jesus does one other amazing thing here.
Belonging to the “Kingdom of God Club”
And accepting the inheritance,
Is about rejecting every idol of this world.
When we think of idols,
We are most likely to think of a golden calf and pagan worship.
Not so fast, partner!
An idol is something that is owned
That steals our attention, thanks, and praise from God.
Our stuff becomes our idols.
The house, the car, our property, our savings;
All of it, from man caves to Mercedes,
From flower beds to 401k’s,
… all of it has the ability
To become the focus and purpose of our life
In place of …
In substitution for … the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Our property becomes a barrier between us and those Jesus serves,
And it makes it nearly impossible to follow him
Unless and until we remove those barriers.
Getting to “follow me”
Means that we are willing to go out on a limb.
We are willing to stop trusting in ourselves and our own resources,
And that we are willing to place our trust in Jesus,
Where ever he leads.
I have to sit on my hands, close my mouth, and submit my will all the time
If I want to follow Christ.
This is my choice.
It isn’t a simple one.
But, for me, it’s the right choice,
And I invite others to make the same personal choice.
Allow Thy will be done; not my will be done.
Getting to “follow me”
Means belonging to a community of people
Who are crazy enough for Jesus
To place the needs of the poor before our own needs.
Being Christ’s disciple doesn’t fit in American politics.
We don’t comfortably fit in an
Endlessly consumer driven, materialistic, self-centered world.
We don’t belong in a world that is racist,
That doesn’t welcome the sojourner, the alien, or the refugee.
We don’t belong in this kingdom, or any other earthly kingdom;
We belong in God’s kingdom!
Where we belong
Is kneeling beside Jesus washing the feet of others,
Serving the poor;
Those who live in poverty
And whose spirit is broken.
Stop thinking about welfare abusers.
Start thinking about single parent moms trying to raise a family.
Think about our elders, now spent down and spent out,
Feeling warehoused until they die.
Think about our neighbors who work sun up to sun down for $7/month, Weaving cloth so our Thanksgiving tables will have beautiful table runners.
Think about our friends whose delayed development
Means a life time of dependence, isolation, segregation, and loneliness.
Think flood victims and refugees.
Think about people who lost everything to addictions, medical conditions,
Or just plain lousy circumstances and tough luck.
Think about the poor.
Think about others
Before we think about ourselves.
“Blessed are the poor,” Jesus preached.
Who are the poor in your life?
Who are the poor Christ is calling you to include in your life?
It’s time to act:
“go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
Getting to “follow me”
Is an awesome task.
Yet, I’m here to assure you,
It is well worth the effort.
Finally, to receive an inheritance
Someone must die.
To lead our lives the way Jesus did
And to discern and follow God’s will
Means, we must be willing to follow Jesus even to his cross.
Selling all that I own and giving the money to the poor
Is relatively simple
Compared to being willing to give up my own life
For the sake of the Jesus and his Gospel.
Christ died to grant us this inheritance.
Where, death, is thy sting,
Come Easter morning and our resurrected Lord steps out of his tomb?
Death no longer has a hold of us.
Painful for our loved ones? certainly.
Mourning and grief still cut like a knife.
The gift of eternal life.
Don’t work for a place in heaven.
Take your place with me,
Side by side with Jesus.
May we trust Jesus enough to sell what we have
And to give all we can to the poor.
May the bonds of belonging to the Body of Christ
Give us the courage to make the last first
And to take our place at the end of the line.
Be one with Christ and one with each other.
Receive the inheritance.
Eternal life is already ours.