Monday, October 12, 2009

This week's sermon: Are You Willing?

Isaiah 6; Mark 10:17-31.
Second Week of Missions Month: Whom shall we send? And who will go for us?

The question is really, “Who is willing?” It is the same question posed by the story of the Rich man. The question was whether he was willing to go the next step and leave his source of comfort—his wealth—and put his trust in God to provide as he followed Christ. Was he willing to go? He walked away sad and we don’t know if he ever came back to follow Christ or if he lived out his life in empty pursuit of wealth.

Jesus explains to his disciples that it is hard for those with wealth to enter the kingdom--easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. We all have wealth and possessions. Even the poorest among us in the United States of America has the opportunity of a roof over their head and at least one meal a day. By the world's standards that is security. And security is hard to give up. Jesus reassures the questioners "Who then can be saved?!" by reminding them that nothing is impossible with God.

Peter pipes up on behalf of the disciples saying. “We have already left everything to follow you.” Peter was looking for the gold star. He in effect is saying that the disciples are willing. They have left everything. They are following Jesus. And Jesus gives him an answer in his seeking for a reward. Jesus says that no one who has given up all of this list of things will receive them back a hundred times—along with persecution. The earthly reward for following Jesus, it seems, is to suffer. We don’t like to think about that. We want to stop where it says we will receive everything back, we don’t want to think about the persecutions that come with it. But on the other side of all the sacrifice, all the restoration, all the persecution is eternal life in the age to come. So the reward is bitter sweet, but the final destination is worth it.

Jesus closes his conversation here with the statement that “Many who are first will be last and the last first.” In making that declaration, Jesus refocuses our attention on the fact that those who think they are ahead—like the rich man—may end up last if we do not stop to consider our attachment to worldly things. Are we willing to leave it all and follow him? Are we willing to go? Are we willing to give up whatever God asks, holding loosely to what we have to be available for his purpose?

Could we give up some comfort for the sake of the kingdom? It is nice to have a roof over our heads, it is nice to have running water, it is nice to have electricity. It is really nice to have a little box on the wall to set the exact temperature we want our homes to remain. Are we willing to set our thermostats a little lower, be a little uncomfortable, and give the difference to missions? Are we willing to walk instead of drive and give the difference to those who are really in need? Are we willing to lay down our desire for absolute comfort to be obedient to build the kingdom of God?

God is asking, “Whom shall we send, and who will go for us?” Are we ready to lay down our plans, our goals, our possessions to follow him and be his message-bearers to a world that is in darkness? Who will go? Examine your heart and ask the Lord to reveal to you the things you are holding onto that may keep you from responding “Here am I, send me.” Start to surrender those things to him today. The goal is eternity, and nothing is worth keeping if it keeps us from serving our King and building his kingdom.

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