Before the father handed over the keys to the factory, so to speak, he walked with the son around the place, and showed him the inventory. He laid out the plans on the worktable, and gave him all the tools he needed to make the thing run as smoothly as possible. Then, with a quiet pause, he spoke clearly and plainly about a vision he had in mind. It was a good vision; a really good vision. The son listened with great intent.
With his father’s blessing, the son rolled up his sleeves and immediately got to work. The first thing he did was to take all the pieces, big and small, even the little tiny microscopic ones, and began to organize and categorize them by size, shape, and usefulness. It didn’t take the son long to discover that he was in way over his head. There was just too much to do. By his own calculations it would take years, if not a lifetime, just to find the purpose and reason for existing in the first place.
Exhausted from another hard day at work, the son called his father for help. The father listened to his plea and responded accordingly. The following morning, opportunity would knock. The father had sent a partner to help his son, and the two quickly went to work. As this idea slowly evolved and gained momentum, so too did they. Time passed and the Inheritance kept growing and morphing into something truly spectacular. Over time, the responsibility was handed over to the next generation of sons and daughters. And then to the next, and the next.
With each new generation, this thing grew and grew and grew. And you might think this was a good thing, but it wasn’t. You see, the bigger the families got, the less connected they became with each other. Pretty soon, they were less willing to work together, less willing to share their ideas and inventory. Competition between cousins and siblings grew fierce. The more they sought to streamline the Inheritance, the more they fought over whose way was better. It didn’t take long for the father’s original vision to be nothing more than a fading memory.
Then one day a child was born; a special child. He was a great distant grandson of the Father. Because the family had become so dysfunctional and bitterly divided, his birth was barely noticed. But as he grew older, many began to see how much this guy was like the one whose original idea started this big ball rolling.
Yes, he was different all right. Out of all the members in this family, he seemed to be the only who understood this idea’s original intent and purpose. He realized its power and potential. And often used it to do many good things.
It was like the Inheritance was his purpose, his reason for being. It was all he talked about. At school, around the kitchen table, in the fields and markets, or while he was sailing and fishing he’d shared the good news with anyone who would listen. And listen they did.
Many in the family thought this man was a great threat. But others put their faith in him, believing he was the one who could take this idea well into the future. With this guy at the helm, the father’s original vision began to shine brightly once again.
People from all over began to gather around him; wanting to be a part of the inheritance. And so the great, distant grandson did something completely radical. Something so outrageous it would cause a riff between his families of historic proportions. What did he do you might ask? He took the idea public. He gave it an IPO; offered a stake in its equity for anyone who wanted it.
The market reacted wildly. Stock in the inheritance began to surge. The people couldn’t get enough of it – even though there was plenty for everyone. With this one basic action the world was forever changed. He had made his mark on the history books. His name would never be forgotten.
But this guy who revolutionized the Inheritance had board members, elders in the family, who felt like they were losing their controlling stake. They had the votes to remove him, which they eventually did, but they quickly realized they could not undo what he had already done. Too many people had seen the light. Too many people were vested in its future. The inheritance was now too big to be controlled by any one family. Instead it moved freely everywhere and anywhere it wished to go.
Thank to this one man, the Inheritance lives, breathes, and moves today by the same Spirit in which it was first created. The father’s vision has been fully realized. Now it’s up to us to keep it going. That is our purpose and reason for being human. You see we are all vested owners of this crazy but brilliant thing called life. We’ve been entrusted to evolve it, to nurture it and to grow it, and to share it freely and abundantly wherever we go.
To ensure this idea would go as planned, God made us in his image so we might have all that we need to thrive in a relationship with him and flourish with one another. Through God’s beloved Son, Jesus Christ, we have become heirs of eternal life. But it’s in this life that our job is to pick-up where he left off, and to ensure that future generations have something to inherit.
Like I said last week, God is calling you and me to be his eyes, and ears, and heart, and hands, and voice in the world so that every life will flourish. And I can never say this enough, but if we are to call ourselves Christians, then we must answer the call to be like Christ, and to bear Christ’s likeness in all that we do. In our art, in our music, and in our words let us radiate true life in Christ. With every person we meet and every relationship we have, let us answer the call to show Christ’s love and mercy.
In the mundane day-to-day tasks of life we all have a purpose and a reason for being. We are image bearers of the highest calling. And there’s no escaping this responsibility. Life is no spectator sport; it’s a vocation. It’s a call from God, who dwells within each one of us, to live up to our purpose. And it’s a call we all must answer.
After all, what happens in God’s world is, and always has been, our business too.
Dear God, thank you for the opportunity to be a part of your creation and to bear you image upon our hearts. Send us now out into the world to truly live in peace and harmony with one another, in the blessed name of the One who showed us the Way. Amen.
This priestly description in Hebrews is about all of us as much as it is about Jesus. You might not like hearing that. After all, who would want to be in charge of the things pertaining to God…especially on behalf of people who are ignorant and wayward?
If you’re like me, you might be thinking, “Who am I to claim a call from God? I’m no holy-roller super-human-angel hybrid. I’m just me – a screw up with a story.” But yet here we are. In spite of our past, God uses our stories to testify to the greater story of Jesus Christ. I’ve come to discover we don’t choose to serve God. God chooses us. And God never let us go. My job might be to do the daily things “pertaining to God.” But as Christ bearers, we all share in the task of praying for one another, forgiving each others sins, and caring for the least of these our brothers and sisters. We are all priests, called for a purpose.
So where do we begin to be what we are called to be? How can we live up to not just our faith but up to our potential to change the world with it? Today’s scripture outlines three paths we must walk down as the priesthood of all believers. They are: call, humility, and obedience.
I was 13 when I first discovered my call to ministry. But being afraid and unsure, I didn’t fully accept it until I was well into my 40’s. Although I faithfully believed in God’s unconditional love, I didn’t always believe I was good enough to receive it…muchless be it. But if God chooses to work through us then I reckon that our imperfections are perfect.
I know my ministry is more than a job or a career, it’s something I have to do whether I’m getting paid or not. It’s a higher purpose in life that leads to do things beyond my own selfish needs. This call is vital part of my identity and values, and often demands great sacrifice to live up to it’s potential.
As Christ bearers, our call is to continue Jesus’ ministry – to proclaim the good news of God’s redemptive love for all people – even if it means making a sacrifice. And the way we do it is by living out God’s love in the world just as Jesus did– with humbleness and grace.
This week a man told me a story about how he was helping a Vietnam Vet deal with PTSD. He said all he really doesn’t do much but listen and offers a safe space to talk and cry. Do you think he knew he was living up to his call to be like Christ who said, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all, and servant of all.”
We who follow Christ and bear his name on our hearts are more than the people in the pews. We’re the pastors who listen and comfort, the priests who forgive, and the ministers who show grace upon grace, just as God has shown it to each one of us. We must humble ourselves so others can receive God’s love.
Jesus taught us how to exercise great humility when he came to us and endured our pain, experienced our weakness, and suffered us with us, not for us.
If you are familiar with the gospel stories, you might recall Jesus didn’t spend his time in the temple with the High Priest offering sacrifices on our behalf. Instead Jesus walked on our dirty streets and entered our messy homes. He came to where we were, and blessed our stains and smells. And comforted our wounds and pain. More than the fulfillment of God’s promise to the world, Jesus taught us how to love and be servants to all; how to be obedient to God’s will and not our own. Jesus is the literal meaning of the word “priest” – the “bridge” that links God’s desire and our needs.
Jesus challenges us to put on our clerical collar and open up our pastoral heart –whether we think we’re good enough or not. The good news is that we don’t need to be perfect for God to use us. At our baptism we too were ordained and appointed by the One who hovered over the muddy waters of the Jordan River and declared, “You are my beloved child, today I have begotten you.” By this same Spirit, we receive the same power, vision and grace as Jesus did. We have all that we need to be bridges for God’s shalom to move throughout all creation. But will we be obedient to this call? Will we humble ourselves or make the sacrifice?
It’s not as hard as some might make it to be. The priesthood that Jesus models for us is not set on a throne, or at a pulpit. It’s here and there and everywhere we’re at. It’s here, in the midst and middle of life, where we are most present. Jesus tells us not dwell in the past or worry about the future, because there’s work to be done now.
We are called to be priest, to be bridges in the midst and middle of broken homes and relationships. We are called to be God’s love in the midst and middle of conflicts and crisis.
Wherever hunger or injustice is present, wherever there are sick and dying people, or captives and prisoners...there we are called to be…right in the middle of it all. A bridge between God and others so all lives might find true healing and peace. And thrive in all of life as God has always desired.
By God’s grace through Jesus Christ, we have been called and chosen and claimed to be one with Christ, and one with each other in his name.
We are the church, the people and her priests. We are God’s living sanctuary for all who are in need of refuge, forgiveness, mercy and grace. By the love that has been given to us by God through Christ Jesus, we possess all that we need to share that with everyone whom we share this sacred space called life.
If we are to call ourselves Christians, then we must answer the call to be like Christ, and to bear Christ’s likeness with our heads, our hearts, and hands as well.
To borrow from Marshall McLuhan who famously said, “The medium is the message” I am challenging you this week to be the medium by which God’s message moves throughout all of creation.
Let us now go and be just that…human billboards advertising God’s love in the world. See how God uses our past to bring about glory in the present!
Lord Christ, help us today to be more like you and less like ourselves. As we walk in your footsteps, may your peace guide us and follow us so others can share in your glory. Amen.
Bartlett, David L., Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word: Year B, Vol. 4. Westminster John Knox: 2009. pp. 182-186.
A man with many possessions comes and bows down at Jesus’s feet. He wants to know what it will take to inherit eternal life. He already does the all the usual religious stuff. So Jesus tells him, “Sell everything, give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven.” We can add this to the growing list of weird stuff Jesus says…because that’s exactly what it is…weird.
With all the stuff this man had acquired, he still believe he didn’t have the one thing his heart desires the most. Despite a lifetime of practicing his faith he is still left looking for more meaning. Can you relate?
We live in a culture of materialism where we measure nearly everything in monetary terms. We are inundated by ads tempting us to believe that if we buy this or that then our life will be better off. We constantly buy into this narrative. Yet we always seem to come up short. So when we hear Jesus tell us to liquidate our 401k’s and give the proceeds away, our first reaction is to high-tail outta there.
In the book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietirch Bonhoeffer wrote that “discipleship can only be maintained as long as nothing is allowed to come between Christ and ourselves – neither the law, personal piety, or even the world.”
So the moral of this young man’s story might be: careful what you wish for, because it might not be what you’re ready for.
We might be tempted to look down on this rich young man, and even snicker as he walks away. But let’s put on his shoes for a moment.
In the ancient world material prosperity was widely seen as a reward of a person’s spiritual virtue. This is similar to the prosperity gospel preached in many churches today. The man’s wealth would suggest he’s done all the right things to make God blessed him so handsomely. Eternal life was ‘a given’ to someone like him. Even the disciples believed it. “If a rich person can’t be saved, then who can?”
Here’s the plot twist of this little telanovela. This deeply religious man neglected to realize that he was a beloved child of God, made in the Divine image. He already inherited God’s eternal Spirit. What Jesus awoken in this man is a whole new level of understanding what eternal life in the Kingdom of God is about. It’s not about following laws until the end of the ages. Nor is it about the quantity of stuff, both good and bad, that we accumulate.
Instead, it’s quality of our giving that stuff away. It’s about connecting with the ageless values of God to care for the poor and needy. It’s the quality of our relationship with Jesus that unlocks this loving and giving spirit of God that we already possess.
In other words, it’s not about making a deal, but making a difference so others might benefit and follow Jesus.
Discipleship is less about checking off a list of religious obligations, and more about following the Way of Jesus that leads to eternal life. The journey begins with letting go of the life you know and love. It’s about leaving behind your home and possessions to serve someone other than your self. So careful what you ask for, right?
I can identify more with this man more than any other person in the Bible. When we did our first move for my ministry, I had to get rid of my mid-century modern furniture and a whole slew of kitchy knick-knacks that I’d collected for years. It sucked watching my stuff drive off in someone else’s car. Letting go of the things we love hurts. But am I defined by what I own, or by who owns me: God.
The man walked away upset because he heard Jesus. And knew what he had to do. He had to let go of his old life to embrace a new and everlasting life. Sacrifice is not easy. But it’s also not impossible.
Keep yourself in this man’s story. Without his wealth he would be left vulnerable and powerless – completely naked in the eyes of the world – socially insignificant.
He knows that if he chooses to follow Jesus, his life will never be the same again. But isn’t that the point?
Jesus calls us to let go of our past, the things have caused us to stumble and fall away from God. He says, let them go and follow him. So the question we all must ask ourselves is, “Will we?”
Gauging by the dialog between Jesus and the disciples, we might assume this man ignored what Jesus asked of him. But does he?
A few chapters later, when Jesus is arrested in the garden, Mark writes, “A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.” Talk about bearing it all for Christ!
Scholars believe this naked man is Mark writing himself into the story. If that were true, then I would argue Mark’s real story began at Jesus’ feet where he questioned his inheritance.
Similar to all the other people who were transformed by their encounter with Jesus, I believe Mark is this wild nudist who literally gave up everything he owned to faithfully follow God’s Son – just as he had been following God's commandments his whole life.
This man’s story is recorded in the Bible three times. It’s safe to say his life is everlasting, a part of God’s living Word for all eternity.
What do you need to give up in order to gain the gift Jesus offers? Greed, prejudice, ignorance, power or pride? What about the need to control others? Perhaps it’s a lifetime of secret shame or guilt.
It’s easy to give away clothes and furniture to those in need, especially after a natural disaster like Hurricane Michael. But what about giving up your privilege or your rights? Could you walk away from the life you know and love to serve someone less fortunate?
I’m not suggesting you can buy or barter into God’s love and grace. It’s yours already if you want it. But this gift comes with a cost. You need to look no further than the cross of Jesus to understand just how much God is willing to give up for you.
Here’s the good news. Jesus said, “Anyone who has left their family or fields, for my sake will receive a hundredfold now in this age.”
The way I see it is that with each person you show Christlikeness to, to everyone you care for and love, there will be hundreds more to serve and care for you when you need it.
We are called to follow Jesus, to follow the way he loves and gives of himself to all people.
Only when we are able to truly love one another, and share all our peace and prosperity with everyone, we will not only gain the world, but all the treasures of heaven.
God’s love is what makes all of life eternal – it’s up to us to give it away today until the end of the ages.
Bartlett, David L., Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word: Year B, Vol. 4. . Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2009.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost Of Discipleship. New York: McMillian, 1949.
Haverkamp, Heidi. "Reflections on the Lectionary." Christian Century, 09 26, 2018: 20.
Kesselus, Ken. Possessions. 09 21, 2018. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2018/09/21/possessions-pentecost-21-b-october-14-2018/ (accessed 10 12, 2018).
Salt is essential to human life. It is the only trace mineral that’s found in every cell in the human body. Without it, this organism would cease to function. If you don’t get enough salt, your body’s electrolytes may become unbalanced; increasing your risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. But too much can be toxic, or give you high blood pressure. Salt is good as long as it does what it’s supposed to do.
Salt was once a form of wealth. Wars were fought over it. During Roman times, a portion of a soldier’s salary was paid in… salt. It’s where we got the expression “He’s worth his salt.” And today salt is still used fight infections, as well as to preserve food. Thus, it is kind of important – to us and to the Kingdom of God.
Jesus frequently talks about salt to teach his followers what it means to be a true disciple. I can’t help but think about the 12 vials of salt that sit in our salt rack on our kitchen wall when I read today’s text. “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?”
It never dawned on me that all our salts could stop being salty. It makes me wonder what if all their distinct flavors became indistinct? Or what if they just somehow ceased to be salt? What good would they be? What worthy would they have?
Jesus is always concerned with faithful discipleship. He wants to know if we are “worth our salt.” In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his disciples to be the salt of the earth – a figure of speech that indicates that someone is dependable, decent, and trustworthy.
And in Mark’s gospel today he says “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Jesus wants us to follow him. But more importantly he wants disciples that he can depend on. People who can be kind and gentle, and be trusted to share the good news of God’s redeeming grace and love.
If you were watching last week, you might recall the disciples tried to score points with Jesus for stopping someone who was healing and casting out demons in Jesus’ name. But instead of a pat on the back, Jesus warns his disciples to worry more about themselves, and to look at what they are doing for the Kingdom of God. Are they being the kind of people who seeks reconciliation rather than division?
Good salt has the distinct flavor of Christ that enhances our relationships and builds up communities, not diminishes or divides them. Salt is good as long as it does what it’s supposed to do.
A couple of years ago I ate at a restaurant called, Salt. As the name suggests, each item on the menu was pared with a particular kind of salt that they had gathered from all over the world. There were at least a hundred varieties to choose from. Each one had a distinct purpose – to enhance the flavor of whatever you were eating.
In the same way, there are all different kinds of Christians – from fine to flakey – yet we all have a distinct, common purpose. That is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ – to shake out the message of redemption and salvation over al of life so people can get a taste of what Jesus can do to transform them and their communities.
How do we get the salt of Jesus in our lives? By welcoming Jesus into our lives, and following his ways to God’s righteousness. One way to do this is by being in a community like ours, a gathered group of believers who make up the body of Christ, or the Church. We are inheritors of Jesus’ salt.
This body stays salty by feasting on the Word of God. Because a daily dose of God’s word can keep you balanced in an imbalanced world.
Why is this important? Because in Luke’s gospel Jesus said unsalty salt is not fit for a manure pile; it is thrown out. If we say we follow Jesus but don’t really do what we’re supposed to do, then what good are we for the Kingdom of God?
Again, Jesus says some weird things. And this only makes sense if you knew that back then they cooked over open fires fueled by dried manure. By adding salt to the pile, there would be a chemical reaction that made the fire to burn longer, hotter and brighter. Perhaps Jesus is saying that when we mix with the world, we too need to let God’s word to burn longer, hotter, and brighter through us.
We need to be salty because the world needs to hear God’s words, so they too can feast hope and peace. We are the body of Christ. We are His salt. We are not meant to sit on a shelf where we lose our flavor and become useless.
So here’s the point I think Jesus is trying to make. It doesn’t matter if you’re a regular old table salt, or some exotic smoky sea salt, or even salt of a different color. You are salt. I am salt. And it’s up to us to season the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
He is the life-giving element that keeps us spiritually and physically healthy so we can heal and enhance our relationships and communities, right here in the Kingdom of God. Good salt does what it’s supposed to do.
Our saltiness depends on following Jesus faithfully – to mirror him in the way we love and forgive. This involves being humble with one another, giving of ourselves to others, and reaching out and accepting all the people around us; just as Jesus did.
A daily dose of Jesus, the very Word of God, is our assurance that our salt will always be fresh, and that we will always be at peace with one another.
And so I leave you with this question today: How will you be the salt of the world in your work, your classroom, your family, or in your neighborhood?
How will you be the seasoning of Jesus Christ that enhances the flavor of hope and love to an undernourished world that hungers for true peace?
Jesus says, “Have salt in yourself, and be at peace with one another.” Amen
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
Worship with us live on Facebook
Sunday at 11:00 a.m.