“Light is planted like seed for the righteous person;
joy too for those whose heart is right.” – Psalm 97:11
Happy February, friends! I thought I would begin this month by looking back at January 1, to remind myself of the lens through which I have chosen to view 2021. Or, maybe better expressed, the foundational value out of which I plan to engage this new year.
“For 2021,” I wrote, “I choose light and promise. We cannot see the way without light, and we need to believe in something both solid and hope-filled if we are to engage the adventure in front of us with any confidence and enthusiasm at all.”
The scripture I referenced was Psalm 97:11. Let’s look at it in the unique phrasing of The Message: “Light-seeds are planted in the souls of God’s people, Joy-seeds are planted in good heart-soil.“
So what does it mean to engage life – to be complete?
This dovetails with the on-line class I taught Sunday morning. Or rather, I should say, the class I facilitate. I do spout off occasionally in teacher-mode, but generally all I do is provide some handrails for the discussion and encourage as many people as possible to chime in.
Our text was from Matthew 19, the story of Jesus challenging the “Rich young Ruler” regarding his priorities, what he valued above all else, and his commitment to the Kingdom of God.
The class was made all the better because of the excellent sermon Pastor John had preached during worship just before we met (You can pick up John’s message at the 17:50 minute mark in this WFPC worship video for January 31).
First, we were reminded of the fact that Jesus did not live in a market economy. Wealth was not acquired via hard work, innovation, creativity, servicing a need in the community, or any of myriad ways people engage the freedom of opportunity in North America today. For the young man in the story to be wealthy, he first had to be a participant – and a willful participant at that – in the abuse of power, collaboration with Rome, some corrupt power structure, and/or manipulative and predatory lending.
This is why his assertion to Jesus that, “Yes I have kept all the commandments” is probably as much an ironic joke or a punchline as anything. “Right,” Jesus responds, “So let’s go with that; let’s say that you really did… if you actually do love God and your neighbor that completely, then give everything you own to the poor…”
I like the phrasing of the CEB:
“If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come follow me.”
“If you want to be complete”
If you want to be complete…
Our conversation wasn’t about how much money we needed to give to get right with God! The good news isn’t transactional, we can’t purchase peace with God! No, the class discussion moved naturally around the idea of what it means to continue on this journey as complete people? Or, as prompted by the Jesus narrative, what is getting in our way?
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I assure you that it will be very hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, it’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.” – Matthew 19:23-24
I put it like this in my class. I included a slide with a cartoon of a camel looking at the “eye of a needle” and saying, “You want me to do what?” The slide included the following words: “What is our great challenge? What sort of a tight place would it be hard for you to get your camel through?”
Not just something but some many things are likely more important to us in any given situation than following Jesus. These all make the eye of the needle that much smaller and it becomes increasingly difficult to get our camel through the gate.
Again, the phrase, “if you want to be complete…” If. – DEREK