I preached at Trinity again on Sunday, a long sermon that didn't go where I thought it would. But there were two points from the reading that struck me. I probably needed to think more about them before preaching on them; they are still in raw form.
Here's the verse:
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.
Here are the thoughts:
1) When Jesus tells the man to sell all he has, he does not tell him to then make out a check to Son of God Ministries, a non-profit, tax-deductible organization. In fact, he tells the man to give it to the poor, to no one related to him at all. Jesus manages to not get himself entangled in the very possessions that he sees bogging this wealthy man down.
2) Jesus was unsuccessful in his efforts to gain a new member. Nowadays, so many of us in the church get the message that “You must grow,” and that adding new numbers is the key; it’s somewhat cheering to see that Jesus didn’t get that memo. So often in the church it’s tempting for us to make sure that new people with resources of time or money who come through our doors are made to feel comfortable and welcomed so that they will stay and help us—and, it’s true, we need to be welcoming, we need to be hospitable. At the same time, Jesus seems more interested in staying true to the message he has been given than in drawing a crowd. And there’s comfort in that, that just because someone leaves doesn’t mean we have failed, that people have their own reasons for coming and going and it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re doing something wrong.
The point for me (at this time) that this one little verse is antithetical to so many messages I hear about church: that churches are desperate for money and desperate for members. I'm not even sure what to do with this, except sit with it for a while and, perhaps, take some hope.