Thirteenth Sunday of Luke 2018 – Sermon
The Thirteenth Sunday of Luke
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
November 25, 2018
The encounter that Jesus had with the rich young man began with him addressing
the Lord as a “Good Teacher.” The implication from the man’s compliment, based upon
the teaching of the Law, is that the young man was patronizing the Lord as a good man
without any acknowledgement of Jesus as the Lord. The dialogue therefore begins with
the young man considering Jesus to be nothing more than a good person – like himself.
His purpose was to “compare notes;” to check with someone who was recognized as a
“teacher.” This was not an uncommon practice in the context of first century Judaism. In
fact, it is still very much a common practice among any serious minded inquirer today.
The fact that the young man was blessed with personal material wealth is not as
much the issue of today’s lesson as is the matter of his self righteousness. It was not a sin
that the young man happened to be rich. His greatest challenge was in knowing what
being rich toward God meant. His question: “…what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
in the context of the lesson could easily be reworded: “…what more must I do to inherit
eternal life?” His curiosity, tainted with a little sarcasm, seems to also indicate that he
doubted the notion of eternal life.
Moreover, the fact that this was a young rich man should not go unnoticed. His
experiences were limited. And while he may have been responsible it is very possible
that by being young and rich may have easily caused him to consider himself to be very
accomplished and successful.
Furthermore, from the perspective of a young person who sees and views unjust
suffering as unexplainable and without clear reason, it would not be uncommon for him
to doubt God as a righteous Judge. This rationale completely ignores what is at the heart
of the Christian Gospel: It fails to consider the true meaning of the Cross.
If we had all of the answers to the questions that puzzle us like, if God is a God of
love, why is there hunger, wars, disease, and great suffering in the world, then we
certainly would have no need for the Cross. God would not have sent His Son into the
world to also suffer a horrible death. We would surely be in heaven!
The way of the Cross, however, is the way of sacrificial love. Its focus is on “the
other.” It begins with humility, is prompted by mercy, and is fulfilled with joy. We have
begun the Nativity Fast that prepares us to anticipate the celebration of the Feast of
Christ’s coming: “Good news of great joy!” His coming to save us, to fully enter and
identify with our human experience and to demonstrate His sacrificial love is what brings
joy into the world.
How difficult is it to identify with the needy? Some of us would prefer to not
think about it. Today it has become a challenge to relate to a “beggar” at a street corner
or to respond to the many appeals for the needy: There is doubt and skepticism over who
is needy with a growing concern about those who have learned how to “use our system”
of “entitlements” or who may have psychological needs or be plagued by an addiction.
Does that “get us off the hook” from helping or reaching out to help? Some of us prefer
choosing who we help and want “the needy” to meet our personal definition.
The young man was not naive to think that selling all of his possessions and giving
it to the poor would accomplish or solve the problem of hunger in the world. If the
young man truly believed in eternal life, what do you think was the real reason for his
question and curiosity?
In predicting His own death on the Cross, Jesus said to His disciples: “For
whoever wants to save his soul will loose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet [looses] his [own]
soul” (Matthew 16:25-26).
You may recall last week’s lesson of the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21)
who spoke of his life as consisting of the things he possessed. Greed motivated him to
tear down his storage facilities and build new ones in order that he could store the greater
quantity of his abundance. The man’s folly was made clear when, in light of suddenly
facing death, he could no longer benefit from his possessions.
Christian stewardship goes far beyond knowing what to do with those material
things that we are so fond of or attached to. In fact, Christian stewardship helps us to
better understand what things are. A Christian steward knows that material things are not
ends in themselves. God’s eternal gifts to us are far greater and more valuable than the
things of this world that are passing away… We offer to God what was always His. Not
because He needs them, but because we cannot claim any rights to them. We offer Him
thanks and ask Him to bless what He provides… that which He always intended for us to
share with others as a blessing.
In writing Timothy, St. Paul the Apostle says this: “Command those who are rich
in this present world not to be haughty (which is also translated: arrogant), nor to put
their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly
provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
Notice here St. Paul’s careful choice of words. He is not saying that the material
benefits are not provided for our pleasure and enjoyment. He says the opposite.
However, his message leads up to a much more important point in the following verses:
“Let [the rich] do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share.
In this way they will store up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the coming
age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life (eternal life)” (verses 17-19).
O Lord our God, who is the giver of every good and perfect gift, save us from all
manner of greed and every form of idolatry. Trusting in you as our Source and the sole
Provider of all things, we ask you to bless the offerings of our time, talent, and
possessions that we may truly acquire the treasures of your Kingdom in the age to come,
where neither moth nor rust does corrupt and where thieves neither break through or
steal. May we know the meaning of contentment in doing your will. Fill our homes with
your presence, especially at this season when we gather together with our families to
offer our thanks for your bountiful goodness. Keep us all safe under the shadow of your
wings. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Thine is the
kingdom and the power and the glory: of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit; now and ever, and unto ages of ages. A-men.