A certain ruler 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 commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honour your father and mother.”’ He replied, ‘I have kept all these since my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, 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.’ Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ He replied, ‘What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.’ Then Peter said, ‘Look, we have left our homes and followed you.’ And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.’
Maybe I’m not the only clergyperson who has people tell you when they last went to church after hearing what you do for a living! I get the impression it’s more of an apology than a genuine dialogue. When was this kind of conversation ever amusing? These days, I tell people I’m a jazz singer.
Jesus must have been annoyed by this aristocrat’s righteousness. Not even Jesus could claim that he kept ALL the commandments. He was constantly getting into trouble for healing and liberating people on the Sabbath. Jesus knew that Torah keeping was not as transformative as Torah living.
Anything worse than a life squandered on excessive consumption is a life squandered on doing nothing at all. People who do everything “properly”… which means you’re probably under a lot of pressure to please those who can’t be pleased!
The aristocrat walks away “sad”, not because Jesus asks for the bare minimum – charity – but because Jesus asks for a complete systemic shift.
Give up your power to free the powerless!
To quote theologian Marvin McMickle, If our definition of liberation is only one group’s liberation rather than all oppressed, then we seek privilege, not liberation. He agrees with St. Oscar Romero – murdered on this day in 1980 – that ending violence requires getting to the root of structural violence. It’s long distance work.
I’ve found Bethlehem to be one of my most powerful images in the midst of my country’s ongoing racial injustice. In the ruins of bombed-out buildings, Palestinian youth decorate the walls with George Floyd murals.
Colonization has brought them to the brink of their own personal catastrophe. However, they saw themselves in an ex-incarcerated person of colour thousands of miles away, suffocated by the indifference of a dysfunctional system.
Perhaps the plot was all too familiar. And yet, privilege still doesn’t get it.
Nurture us, Mothering God, away from the security of our privilege and toward Your Kingdom’s liberative potential. Give us the courage to stand up for victims of Human Rights abuses at home and abroad. Ase and Amen.
The Rev’d William Young, Pastor, Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, Washington, D.C., USA