Let it Go!

[VIDEO CLIP: “LET IT GO!”]

Week 2 Logo“Let It Go!”
Sunday, October 11, 2015
20th Sunday after Pentecost

[Second in series: “Service Make a Difference”]

Mark 10:17-31, CEB

OK, so the video clip was kind of a stretch…
But I just had to use it!  Besides, it may not be as much of a stretch as you might think.  In the song Elsa, our heroine, sings:
Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore;
Let it go, let it go, turn away and slam the door;
I don’t care what they’re going to say.
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway.

There is some wisdom in these lyrics.

Let us pray…Lord, I pray that you are guiding us this morning as we encounter your Holy Word.  With your guidance and grace, I am confident that you will allow the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts to be pleasing unto you, our one almighty God.  Amen

It seems like we have heard this scripture text recently.  It’s true…Just two weeks ago I mentioned this story briefly when we asked the question, “Who’s Gonna?”  Today we are going to focus on this story and what it means for us as we seek to prepare ourselves to serve God.  Let’s take a look at who this rich young man is.  As far as we can tell, he’s not a bad guy.  He has taken the time to follow after Jesus for a while and listen to him teach.  He seems sincere when he asks the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  This may actually be where things start to fall apart for him.  He hasn’t really been paying attention.  The story we read last week ties directly to this story.  Remember then that Jesus told us “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”  The young man in today’s story was part of the group listening to last week’s teaching.  Apparently, he didn’t hear it very well.  

He approaches Jesus and asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Rather than receiving the kingdom in complete dependence on God – like a little child – this guy wants to know what he can do to get it.  That kind of misses the point, doesn’t it?  The whole point is that nothing we can ever do will earn us a place in heaven.  That’s why we must approach it like a child who depends completely on God.  And then there is simply his misunderstanding of the word “inheritance”.  By definition, an inheritance is something that is passed on to you from someone else.  It can only be given to you…It is not something you can take or earn or get for yourself.  So, to receive eternal life as an inheritance we only have to graciously accept the gift-given.  There is nothing we can or need DO.  If we are to serve this kingdom of God, we must first prepare ourselves by understanding these two basic points from today’s text:

  1. Like a child, we must depend completely on God;
  2. We only need to receive our inheritance; it’s free.

Another thing that seems to be at play here is the young man’s unwillingness to let go of the things in his life that are keeping him from following Jesus. This is where Elsa’s words begin to offer us a little wisdom through which to view this text.

Elsa sings:
Let it go, can’t hold it back anymore;
Let it go, turn away and slam the door;

The young man in our story is challenged as Jesus tells him to let go of the things in his life that are truly holding him back.  This is the young man’s weakness – he is being held captive by possessions that prevent him from living the full life of the kingdom.  Jesus loves this young man; he does not see him as a bad guy at all.  The problem is that he is not willing to let go and allow Jesus to be Lord of his life.

Elsa sings:
I don’t care what they’re going to say.
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway.

I can imagine that the young man in our story has a lot of friends who are also well-off and share a certain status in the community.  I can imagine that this man’s life is comfortable and that he gets invited to the best parties and he serves on the right committees, and that he hangs out with the movers and shakers.  Now Jesus challenges him to give all that up, drop everything, and follow him.  That’s a hard thing to do.  What will his friends and family say?  His reputation and standing in the community will be ruined.  He’ll lose his country club membership and his invitation to the annual Bacchus Ball.  Elsa says, “I don’t care;” the rich young man isn’t ready to go that far.

Today’s text is filled with tension.  First, the young man’s question forces us to look again at Jesus’ teaching on how we must approach the kingdom in total dependence on God, like a little child.  Then, the idea that our inheritance is free is set against the idea that maybe there is something  we need to do.  We need to give something up to follow Jesus;
we need to transform our lives.  The tension increases as we ponder the “free gift” versus this “to do” command.  The young man goes away sad.  But, don’t we also wonder how receiving the kingdom as a little child relates to selling all you own and giving it to the poor?  Then Jesus goes on to tell the disciples how hard it will be for a rich man to enter heaven.  They wonder, “How can anyone be saved then?”  And Jesus trumps all with the proclamation that none can be saved by themselves, but everything is possible with God.

This story hits us with extreme demands, extreme judgment, and extreme promises.  Understanding this is vital to our ability to serve.  Whenever we hear this story we seek to understand how it relates to us in our time.  Does Jesus really expect you to sell everything and give it away and go live in the desert?  No. What Jesus expects from us is that we lead our lives – every moment – totally dependent on Him; willing to follow His lead.  We must let go of the idea that our lives are defined by what we have, what we earn, what we do, where we live, or what we wear.  We must be able to say, “I don’t care what they’re going to say,” and do what Jesus asks of us no matter what happens to us as a result.  Did I say it was going to be easy? NO!  But, “let the storm rage on. The cold never bothered me anyway.”  Let it go!  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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