Introduction & Welcome
Welcome to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good! all the time!
and all the time! God is good!
The rich man who comes to ask Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life is a good man, sincere in his asking. Mark’s gospel is alone in saying that Jesus looked on him and loved him. Out of love, not as judgment, Jesus offers him an open door to life: sell all you own and give it to the poor. Our culture bombards us with the message that we will find life by consuming. Our assemblies counter this message with the invitation to find life by divesting for the sake of the other.
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
whose teaching is life,
whose presence is sure,
and whose love is endless.
Let us confess our sins to the one who welcomes us with an open heart.
Silence is kept for reflection.
God our comforter:
like lost sheep, we have gone astray.
We gaze upon abundance and see scarcity.
We turn our faces away from injustice and oppression.
We exploit the earth with our apathy and greed.
Free us from our sin, gracious God.
Listen when we call out to you for help.
Lead us by your love to love our neighbors as ourselves.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
By the gift of grace in ☩ Christ Jesus, God makes you righteous.
Receive with glad hearts the forgiveness of all your sins.
Prayer of the Day
Almighty and ever-living God, increase in us your gift of faith, that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to what lies ahead, we may follow the way of your commandments and receive the crown of everlasting joy, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
First Reading: Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Amos was a herdsman by profession and a prophet by God’s call. During a time of great prosperity in the northern kingdom of Israel, the prophet speaks to the wealthy upper class. He warns his listeners that fulfilling God’s demand for justice brings blessing, while corruption and oppression incur God’s wrath.
6Seek 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.
7Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood,
and bring righteousness to the ground!
10They hate the one who reproves in the gate,
and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.
11Therefore 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.
12For 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.
13Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time;
for it is an evil time.
14Seek 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.
15Hate 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.
Psalm: Psalm 90:12-17
So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. (Ps. 90:12)
12So teach us to number our days
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
13Return, O Lord; how long will you tarry?
Be gracious to your servants.
14Satisfy us by your steadfast love in the morning;
so shall we rejoice and be glad all our days.
15Make us glad as many days as you afflicted us
and as many years as we suffered adversity.
16Show your servants your works,
and your splendor to their children.
17May the graciousness of the Lord our God be upon us;
prosper the work of our hands; prosper our handiwork.
Second Reading: Hebrews 4:12-16
We cannot hide our thoughts, desires, and actions from God, to whom we are completely accountable. Nevertheless, Jesus understands our human weakness and temptations, because he also experienced them. Therefore we can approach the throne of grace to receive divine mercy from Christ.
12Indeed, 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. 13And 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.
14Since, 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. 15For 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. 16Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Alleluia. Blessed are the poor in spirit,* for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Alleluia. (Matt. 5:3)
Gospel: Mark 10:17-31
Jesus has been teaching his disciples about what is most valued in God’s eyes. Now, a conversation with a rich man brings his message home to the disciples in a way that is surprising but unforgettable.
17As [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?” 18Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You 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.’ ” 20He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21Jesus, 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.” 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
23Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It 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.” 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
28Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29Jesus 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, 30who 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. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
Meditation by David O’Brien
“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” This is the question posed by a man who came to see Jesus. It’s a question we’ve all probably asked at one time or another. The answer that Jesus gives is a bit perplexing to me. First, He recites the Commandments and the man states that he has kept them since his youth. Then Jesus tells him to go and sell all of his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. This, Christ says, will give the man treasure in heaven and He invites the man to come and follow Him after he’s done this. The reason this perplexes me is that it seems that Christ is emphasizing works over grace. The man goes away saddened because he had amassed many possessions in his life and I’m guessing he didn’t want to give all of that up.
How does this part of the Gospel apply to us? As a community, we are doing pretty well. I don’t consider myself to be wealthy, but when compared to other folks, I have quite a bit. I have a roof over my head, a vehicle to drive when I need to go somewhere and plenty of food to eat when I am hungry. There are lots of folks who don’t have these things. In some countries, I’d be considered a wealthy man. Even here in the U. S., I’m better off than a sizable part of our population. On the other hand, there are also at least as many folks here that have much more than I do. Is Christ telling us that we should divest ourselves of all of our worldly possessions and give them to the poor? That’s not what I’m getting out of this reading though there are some who would say that’s exactly what Christ is telling us to do. I think it’s similar to the passage where Christ says that if our hand offends us, we should cut it off. He’s talking about the requirements of the law, rather than the good news of the Gospel.
I think the second part of this reading would have given some hope to the rich man. I know it gives me hope. Jesus states that “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”. When we hear those words with our 21st century frame of mind, we think of a sewing needle and a string or thread. Even for a talented seamstress it can be a challenge to get a tiny thread through the eye of the sewing needle and a camel would be impossible. However, that may not be what Jesus was referring to in His first century world. The eye of the needle might refer to one of several gates that provided passage through the city of Jerusalem’s massive walls. The Needle Gate was used when the city’s main gates were closed at night and used for people entering the city “after hours. “It was designed for security reasons so that enemies could not simply ride into the city on their camels and attack. The gate was so small that a man would have to unload his camel of all that it was carrying and then carefully lead his camel through this small gate. It was a slow and quite difficult task. You can see that it would be difficult for a camel to get through that door, but not impossible. But even this misses the point in my mind and it’s not entirely certain that these “needle gates” existed in Christ’s time on Earth.
Christ also says that it is impossible for a mortal, rich man to get into heaven, “but not for God; for God all things are possible”. The only way that any of us, rich, poor or otherwise, will get into the kingdom of God is by the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I think what Christ was saying to us in the first part of this gospel is that we need to be selfless, giving to those in need around us. The rich man was wealthy in the face of the poverty in his community. Compliance with Christ’s command to us that we love one another as He has loved us requires that when we see suffering around us, we attempt to do something about it, rather than just sit behind our walls and accumulate wealth. We should be as servants to those in need, for “many who are first will be last, and the last will be first” in God’s kingdom.
Prayers of Intercession
Made children and heirs of God’s promise, we pray for the church, the world, and all in need.
A brief silence.
Uniting God, you call forth different gifts in those who follow you. Encourage us to welcome the diverse benefits and blessings of the whole church in teaching, preaching, prophecy, healing, and more. Bless Elizabeth & Daniel, our bishops, and Howard, our pastor. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Nurturing God, you bring forth crops from the soil and bounty from the trees. Increase the produce of the land and bless all who toil in fields and orchards. Provide for good working conditions and keep them safe. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Empowering God, you offer compassion for those who are overlooked or forgotten. Open the hearts of local, national, and world leaders to show such compassion and love for their neighbors. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Sheltering God, in Jesus you traveled among us without a place to lay your head. Provide safe places to sleep and rest for those who have no place to live. Sustain ministries that offer food, clothing, and peace of mind, such as Cherry Street Mission and Sparrow’s Nest. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Renewing God, you bring life out of death. Help us part with those things that are no longer beneficial to us and open our hearts to see where new life is budding in this congregation. Guide our Church Counsel and our Call Committee, that they make decisions for our congregation that conform with Your will. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Eternal God, we thank you for the lives of those who have died. Make us confident in your promise of salvation and support us in our own journey of faith. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Receive these prayers, O God, and those in our hearts known only to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.*
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
People of God,
you are Christ’s body,
bringing new life to a suffering world.
The holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
bless you now and forever.
Go in peace. The living Word dwells in you.
Thanks be to God.