Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Seek the Lord and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it. Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground!
They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.
Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time.
Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
The Word of the Lord.
So teach us to number our days
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
Return, O Lord; how long will you tarry?
Be gracious to your servants.
Satisfy us by your steadfast love in the morning;
so shall we rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad as many days as you afflicted us
and as many years as we suffered adversity.
Show your servants your works,
and your splendor to their children.
May the graciousness of the Lord our God be upon us;
prosper the work of our hands; prosper our handiwork. Amen.
Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.
Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
The Word of the Lord.
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 10:17-31
As [Jesus] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’ ” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 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.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
The Gospel of our Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
When my brother was in high school he and his friends all loved the song “I Wanna Be Rich” by the R and B duo Calloway. It was so totally early 1990’s – and they absolutely loved it. I remember Matt and Perez and Todd and Derek all rocking out to “I Wanna Be Rich” while wearing their super cool M C Hammer pants!
Matt and his best buds all “wanted to be rich! They wanted lots and lots of money. They wanted the pie in the sky. Yes – they wanted to be rich!” And on and on and on. Over and over and over again.
As far as I know none of them have become multi-millionaires just yet – but there is still time.
What about you – are you rich?
I would guess that all of you gathered here today would answer that particular question with a great big old – “NO WAY!”
Or “an are you kidding me?!? Rich – I wish!”
According to one study I read this week – only 28% of people with assets of between 1 and 5 million dollars consider themselves to be rich. In fact only 60% of folks who have assets of more than 5 million dollars think that they are wealthy. Seriously . . . 5 million dollars and they still don’t feel wealthy?!?
So what does it take for someone living in the United States of America in 2021 to think of themselves as wealthy?
Well – another group of researchers learned it takes about 2.4 million dollars on average for someone in our country to feel really and truly wealthy. But that varies from city to city and region to region.
Another pretty consistent pattern about wealth is – we always think our money concerns will go away if our income would simply double what it is now. So if I make $30,000 then I believe all will be perfectly perfect in my world once I am making $60,000. The problem with this is – once we start making that $60,000 we find ourselves yearning for $120,000 and on and on and on.
We are never content for very long. We always want more and more and more!
In our Gospel reading for today Jesus tells us – “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Hearing Jesus say that – sort of makes you feel sorry for all of those poor rich people who are going to have such a hard time getting into heaven – doesn’t it?!?
After all – I doubt many of us would call ourselves rich. Honestly – most of us never feel like we have enough money. Like our resources are always being stretched thin . . .
Sure we might be comfortable – but rich just doesn’t describe us. . . Jesus couldn’t be talking about us – could he?
Well – Jesus would say – that he is absolutely – positively talking to us. Jesus would say – we are all rich! That we are all wildly and wonderfully and gloriously rich!
Me – rich? Yeah right – you are probably thinking to yourself – but I ask you to stop for a moment to think about all of the material blessings in your lives. Think about the clothes in your closets – the car you drive – the shoes on your feet – your home – the food in your refrigerator – the abundant clean water that flows from your faucets – the heat that blasts from your furnace – the electric lights that illuminate your lives – your access to health care and education – and all of those other things we have in our lives that we are all so quick to take for granted.
Now think about this – more than 600 million people currently live on less than $2 per day.
Imagine earning less than 700 dollars a year. Hearing that sort of makes you rethink the whole rich thing doesn’t it?
When was the last time you were really hungry for longer than the time it took to zap something in the microwave or to go through the nearest fast food drive through?
800 million people in the world are hungry right this very moment. 800 million people – might eat sometime today – but it won’t be enough to satisfy their hunger.
600 million people don’t have access to clean water. While each of us will use about – 150 gallons of water just today.
900 million people around the world have no access to electricity. And I complain about replacing a lightbulb!?!
Can you imagine life without enough food? Without clean water? Without electricity? What would your life be like without those things we think of as necessities but others must live without?
Frankly – we are all rich beyond most peoples’ wildest dreams. We are some of the richest people who have ever lived in human history! Ever!!!
And so – I think we can be pretty sure Jesus was talking to us in our Gospel reading for today when he said – “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
We are aren’t just rich. We are crazy rich! All of us.
But know this too – Jesus isn’t telling us all is lost. Nor is he condemning. Rather Jesus is warning us. Jesus wants us to know having so many material blessings can be dangerous. It can make us arrogant. We can get so comfortable and so self-confident that we forget we need God.
All of the wealth that surrounds us – all of our possessions – all of our successes – can make us feel powerful – invincible – even immortal.
Our wealth can cause us to think that we are god-like. We can start to depend on and rely on our material wealth more than we depend on our God. We can start to put the stuff of this world before God.
And this is what Jesus wants us to be aware of. Jesus wants us to know our wealth cannot save us.
Only God can save us.
The Gospel reading for this week is not a condemnation – rather it is a loving reminder. God can and will save us – but we do need to remember we need him! And we do need him and his grace – love – and mercy. AMEN.