A Sermon by The Revd Ken Masters on 10 October 2021
for Trinity 19, year B, proper 23 at Pen Selwood
Readings: Hebrews 214-18; Luke 222-40
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
As we get older, reading more obituaries and attending more funerals, the question posed by the Gospel may enter our minds more often. ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ A question possibly sharpened by the Pandemic.
Jesus’ answer to the man in the Gospel was to remind him of the Commandments. “But I’ve kept all those,” he replied. We may say much the same or have sincerely repented. In my mind, though, there are still many memories of less major sins, plus innumerable moments of weakness, foolishness and embarrassing faux-pas. I wonder if we have such clear consciences as the man in the Gospel – if indeed he had?
Anyway, Jesus then – as the Gospel says – ‘looking at him, loved him’, but tells him to sell all he has, give to the poor, and follow him. Direct and radical – Jesus thoroughly shocked the man. What would Jesus say to us now? In our different time and different circumstances, what would he call us to do? Most of us have many possessions – I for one have accumulated a great clutter – and we also have dependents and responsibilities. To a greater or lesser extent, we are locked into our social and financial framework. I don’t think we’d get exactly the same call. So, we have to look again at
Jesus’ words to determine what his call may be to us today.
But before we get to that, let’s think of 4 aspects of a wider picture. As the Media reported: the Pope, Archbishop of Canterbury and other world faith leaders have called on the ‘richer nations to solve the climate crisis’ – and wealthier families and individuals to do more to cut emissions and provide more climate funding. With the Coronavirus Virus, the world will not be safe until people of all nations have been vaccinated – which means that the richer nations give more help to the poorer. Last Wednesday the Government withdrew the £20 uplift to Universal Credit. Then there’s the sudden surge in energy costs, along with shortages brought about by transport and logistic problems, and the likelihood of rising prices. So, the poorer people of Britain are going to be more and more hard pressed. Food Banks together with local and national charities are appealing for support to help those in increasing need. All this alongside the ever-present prompting not to forget the even more basic needs in other parts of the world. All aspects of the wider picture.
Looking at Jesus’ words: he acknowledged the needs of the poor – as he later highlighted in his Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, connecting help to the needy, with serving Him. But in talking with the man in the Gospel his main emphasis was on what the man needed to do to inherit eternal life. What, then, of Jesus’ call to us to enter eternal life? In essence it seems to be a call to simplicity of life, material generosity and loving commitment. And we each have to take this to heart – to read and listen to Jesus’ words in the Gospel – and think about them – and pray about them – and act on them.
There’s a modern hymn which came to my mind. It’s in the green hymn book , but I don’t know whether you sing it here. It starts, ‘Love is his word, love is his way’ and has the Refrain, ‘Richer than gold is the love of my Lord: better than splendour and wealth.’ This seems to sum up part of what Jesus said to the young man in the Gospel and to his disciples. Love is the way into the Kingdom of God – love of God and love of our neighbour – both of which have social, political, financial and lifestyle implications. And if Love is a way into the Kingdom of God, it is a way into eternal life.
One of the verses of that hymn goes:
Love is his mark, love is his sign,
bread for our strength, wine for our joy,
‘This is my body, this is my blood.’
Love, only love is his sign.
We are reminded each time we receive Holy Communion that, in traditional words, the bread which is the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ is to ‘preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life’ – in modern usage, to ‘keep you in eternal life’. This is not to suggest that Communion is a replacement for the challenge of Jesus’ words in the Gospel. His call to us is to a greater simplicity of life. To order our priorities to put His Kingdom first. Above all, to learn and re-learn what it is to be generous – and especially to those in need. And as we share in this Sacrament of His Love, this Sign of His Body and Blood, given for all – in this we receive His grace and His love, which are what we need to follow Him in eternal life – to the Glory of God. Amen.