Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sell Everything Rumage sale

Westminister Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe
Mark 10:17-31
October 11, 2009
Cost of discipleship:  Sell everything
Last night was a special night.  I had a blast at the Spanish Supper. Great food, Good companyAn interesting dance performanceGood singing ;). It’s a good fund raiser, people chipping in to help out even as they enjoy the evening. So are we ready to do another fund raiser? I was thinking about a yard sale….A rummage sale—that’s the word right? Now before you object: I know this church has put on some pretty impressive rummage sales.  I’ve seen the evidence: -boxes labeled Rummage Sale, with markers and labels.. -clothes rack and hangers.  These things used to be huge. 

Speaking of huge rummage sales: there was this Baptist church, not far from where I grew up, and they had this huge yard and this huge yard sale every year.  They started dragging stuff out there on Monday of the week before.  And covered the stuff up with tarp—big blue tarp—tarp city. You should have seen the people as they drove by. slow down, roll down their windows and just gawk, Wow…look at all that stuff.  Sales would begin Thursday morning at 7 am, and the line to buy stuff would stretch for a mile down Clairemont Ave, If there was any grass ever exposed because too much had sold they would go back to these storage trucks and bring more stuff out!  And the sale would last for three days!  Three Days!  It had to end before Sunday because you know Baptists don’t work on Sunday.

Trasie and I went to it a few years ago, and gawked and looked and touched, and bought a few things. Some of which is sitting in our crawl space—I’m sure there’s a perfect place in our house for it. When I went to pay, I asked the woman at the register (yes they had registers), so how much do yall usually make at this thing? 
Well last year we made $40k.  And what do you plan to use the money for?  
Our church youth group. Hmm. $40 grand for the youth program; wow.

Well, let me drop the idea of yard sale for a second and talk about a different sale going on. We continue our series on the cost of discipleship…and today’s passage, today’s challenge of Jesus may be the most liberating…or perhaps the most challenging we’ve had yet.  I mean, before Jesus was just telling us if we want to become disciples…we just needed to become like childrenPiece of cake
Or if we wanted to deny ourselves and take up our cross ha, that’s nothing compared to today’s challenge! Because see today…Jesus is getting personal. He’s talking about our stuff.

[act it out]Here comes the man to Jesus.  He is dignified, hes thought about this for a long- time; He has a lot of stuff, and Jesus has something else he wants.  A good consumer.  He bows, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life.
What must I do…hmm.
Jesus response:
why do you call me good, no one is good but God alone. A loaded statement, We can talk about after church.
You know the commandments, Jesus presumptuously tells the man
Indeed he does—such a good studenthe even drops the good,
“Teacher, I have kept these since my youth! 
He’s just beaming! Jesus looks at him, and loves him, the passage says, what detail. 
No judgement, no contempt, Does Jesus want what’s best for the man?   Good, but you lack on thing.  Sell your stuff, give the money to the poor, and follow me.

How’s that for a plan for redistribution of wealth? It’s very systematic.
He doesn’t say give your stuff away.  He says sell it—so as to get into the pockets of those who can afford to buy the stuff—and then give the money away to the poor.
Don’t give your stuff to them…it might corrupt them. Give them money, something that they can use, to buy food, to be able to live in a decent place.  It levels the playing field.  Then, then follow me. 

What an invitation Right! I mean it’s Jesus we’re talking about…inviting that guy to follow, to hang be with him!  Is this guy excited or what..I mean Jesus gave him an answer.. told him exactly what to do! Woo HOO! What was that man’s reaction? SHOCKED…and grieved. He had been so happy, what had made him so sad now?

A decision: follow Jesus or follow what we in our society call the pursuit of happiness, the acquiring, the possessing, the taking of more stuff. A consumerist’s dilemma. I’ve got everything that I could ever want, just give me one more thing: assurance of eternal life. Is this Jesus saying: you can’t buy your way into heaven.

Do you remember when you first encountered Jesus?  Did you take the initiative and go to him and say, Good TEACHER…what must I do to inherit eternal life? OR did Jesus come to you, and say, drop your nets and follow me..  Sell your stuff or drop your nets, either way you’ve got to give something up to follow.  Right?

See why this is may be the hardest price to pay of discipleship for many of us…Even the disciples are thrown off by what Jesus says especially when he starts talking about a camel and a needle.  Where did he come up with that?
Who can enter the kingdom of God? They gasp. 

And Jesus throws them a little incy wincy tiny tiny bone:  Well, for mortals, it’s impossible, but for God…?   So, you’re saying there’s a chance.[1] 

But the disciples are like….Look Jesus we’ve left everything..are we okay?  Having left everything, the disciples wrestle hard with this issue…And do we, will all of our stuff, do we wrestle? I love it when we can say about God, and the bible it’s a both/ and scenario.  The bible is both inspired by God and written by humans. Jesus is God and human. You can have a lot of stuff, and you can participate in the kingdom of God.  Hmm. Is that what Jesus says?

That’s the way most people read this passage:
Try to explain it away.  Well, that just applied to that man, not to me.” Is that what you think?
Or they spiritualize it and say,
so long as my things don’t own me, they don’t possess me, then I can follow God and have my stuff.” Does that make sense?

Or say, well God is in charge of everything, if I have a lot of stuff, it’s because I have been blessed by God.

And who’s approach is to just not bother reading it..Is that that story about that rich guy…quick turn the page!  turn the page!

I don’t think most people in America, where we consume more than any other place in the world, really like this story: I don’t.  I know I have too much stuff, and how does the stuff affect my life and my discipleship? 

We had a yard sale recently because we needed to get rid of things—declutter a bit, simplify. We filled up our drive way with stuff, and we still could have put more stuff out there. We thought it would be nice to declutter a bit…simplify our lives.  What do you think our plan was for the proceeds? Oh, how pious do you think we are? We wanted to sell our stuff so that we could buy a dishwasher.   Remember, we’re simplifying our lives J. My excuse: I hadn’t prepared for this sermon yet, otherwise, I’m sure I would have given the money to the poor.

There I go talking about rummage sales again.

I think most american’s don’t like this story because we, like that rich man, see Jesus as a threat to our very identity.  If we don’t have our stuff, who are we? If we don’t have our stuff, are we secure? If we don’t have our stuff, will others think we are successful? It’s so engrained and it starts at an early age:  What do we tell our children.  To get an education, why? So they can get a good job. Why? SO they can make money. Why? So they can buy a lot of stuff! This story is about stuff, it’s about wealth, and what Jesus says flies in the face of his Jewish culture that would have viewed this man Jesus talks to as one blessed, one favored by God, and it flies in the face of our culture, both the secular society that would place all meaning and value on accumulation of possessions and wealth, and a Christian culture that has been seduced by the allures of this world, and preaches prosperity and wealth are blessings from God. Jesus says SELL IT…give the money away…and follow me!

How did that rich man feel?  How do you feel?  Is Jesus trying to torment him?
Does Jesus say this to make us feel bad?  I feel bad….

But I don’t think that’s Jesus’ intention.  He loved him…Is it possible that Jesus wants what’s best for him, for us…and for the thousands are people in the world who don’t have enough to eat because of a screwed up economic system that sucks up all the resources and world goods from poor places and fills the belly of rich places to the point that we are sick to our stomachs.

It’s John who’s more direct about this than Jesus. 1 John 3:17:
17How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
Is there good news?
He looks at the man, and loves him, and says come along…live a life you’ve never imagined living before. Don’t be dooped by empire!  Come and live into the kingdom of God now. Begin living your best life now…get rid of your stuff.

Can we see that there is any good news in this message?
[Solicit responses.]

I have to say a few theological things about this passage that I think are good news: 
First, the man wonders what he needs to do:  And that’s what we often wonder too. What do we need to do to inherit eternal life.  There is nothing we can do.  We are saved by grace and grace alone. It is what God does.  Second, Jesus reassures us, even after the camel and the needle thing: that nothing is impossible for God. 
It’s kind of like Jesus bringing us to the edge of our pews, and before we fall off, he gives us reassurance. But the invitation is still there, for the rich man—for us: Sell your stuff, give it to the poor, and follow me. 

And wouldn’t it be awesome if we as a community of faith, before we told any individual or any kid that they need to live a sacrificial lifestyle, that we modeled together that sacrificial lifestyle, for all the world to see.

Ok, back to the rummage sale:
I wonder what would happen if we had a huge rummage sale, as big as that one at the Baptist church.  I bet we could, especially with this passage in mind..I bet our small church, and some of our friends could really go through our homes and take out all the stuff that we don’t need, and bring it here to the church, and put it in the parking lot and set up tarps, and just start selling it, even on a  Sunday…we can just take a break at 11 for worship...And when people see how much money we’re making, when they ask us what we’re going to use the money for, we can say…
to build a second story educational wing to our church (so much for the new roof)..
TO buy the liquor store.  For new counter tops J, and a new stove.  (sorry ladies)

We can say, did you hear about the need to pay for a homeless shelter in town..we are doing it to help cover the cost so that no one freezes in this town this winter, and everyone who comes in gets to eat.

We can say, did you hear of all the kids who are starving in the world, I think there are like some 30000 who die about ever day from lack of food and malnutrition, and no good drinking water. We’re going to help to give them food. 
Hope you enjoy that dvd player!

What would the people think of us then.  That we were crazy?

Sure they would.  And we’d go home and say, what happened to all my stuff. How liberating! 
We would be assured of one thing: We would be well on our way of following.
We would be well on our way to entering the kingdom of God. Follow me!
The invitation is there. The invitation, that sweet liberating, challenging invitation.
I don’t care how young or old you are, there it is.  Rummage sale, here we come, and let’s see what the kingdom is all about. 

[1] Dumb and Dumber

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