The Gospel assigned for this week is from Mark 10:17-31, and is one of those texts where each verse might be the topic of a complete sermon. I am going after a single portion of verse twenty-seven.
This text group is often called “The Rich Young Man”. It is a conversation with a wealthy person about the nature of the Kingdom of God and what our service to others might look like.
In verse 21 Jesus tells the man to sell all that he has and then follow him. The man, we are told, goes away sad. The following verses then turn to a conversation with the disciples which ends in verse 27 when Jesus says that all things are possible with God.
In his book titled, The Names of God, Andrew Jukes identifies the various Hebrew names for God. For this verse, 27, he assigns the Hebrew name as El Shaddai. He describes this name as “Him who pours himself out for his creation”. He goes on to say that God gives of self to his creation so that they may give themselves back to God and then be a blessing to others.
Most Bible translations do not identify these Hebrew names of God or the definitions and attributes which can offer context and help shape one’s thinking about a particular citation. This speaks to the nature of God at work in a specific citation.
I have a retired pastor friend who has challenged me over the last years to be less concerned about reciting of creedal statements and more intentional about discipleship. His precise words are “Orthopraxy verses Orthodoxy” which comes down to practices verses beliefs. He will be happy to know that I have heard him and perhaps have carried this to a ragged excess. There is however, a piece of me that might argue whether there can be excesses of service!
To understand that we are told to pour ourselves out, to serve, and then hold that up to God’s pouring out of self to us is truly humbling. This should not be taken to say that our efforts are insignificant. Matthew 25:40 comes to mind here, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”.
All people are important to God and what we do in that pursuit of service is significant. The Gospel of Luke offers a list of those things which are important: the blind, the lame, the widow, the imprisoned, you get the idea. These are often referred to as the Lukan Imperatives.
This pouring out of self is what the imperatives of service are really about. This is discipleship. We give up something of ourselves to serve another. This can be in the form of some direct service, a contribution (I’ve heard of money referred to as crystallized sweat) or advocating for another.
We have all had times where we were involved in some task of helping another and at the end of the day we were exhausted. But it was a good exhausted; a good sort of tired. Senator John Lewis spoke of service in the context of political activism and encouraged people go get into necessary trouble, he called it “Good Trouble”.
The challenge for us today is to be out there working out the imperatives of service and to end up with a “Good Tired”.
Let us pray...
Lord God, Help us to see the needs of our world and find ways to act on those things that will benefit all of your creation.