November 11, 2018 – Becoming a Lover

Text:  Mark 10:17-31

Today we celebrate Remembrance Sunday. We remember and say thank you to those who served and sacrificed in times of war and conflict. So many lives were lost, so many people were injured, and the intergenerational trauma of war has been real to many of us. We take time to remember, acknowledging the interconnectedness of life. We are who we are today because of who they were. We live because of what they have done for their homes, families, communities and the world. How they lived their lives, and how they suffered and died affect all of us. None of us is self-made. When we see each other, we acknowledge countless faces of those who have gone before us.

We celebrate their courage, resilience, struggles, suffering and pain. Their dreams and visions – although have not been fully realized in their time – have come true in our own time. Their lives – although interrupted relentlessly – continue to be fulfilled in and through our lives. Their stories – although unfinished or incomplete – are fully alive and complete today in our remembrance. We let the lost voices speak through us, and discover that our own deepest longings are woven together with theirs. To remember is to create space for the lost voices to speak, and for us to listen to the voices. They left everything behind, and gave their whole selves to something greater than themselves. Not only how they lived their lives, but also how they died teach us what it means to give.

Over the last four Sundays, we have explored the importance and challenge of giving. This seemingly repetitive annual congregational giving program has led me to discover a deeper meaning of life. The more seriously I think about Christ’s call to live the gospel, the more earnestly I have to think about my possessions. We cannot talk about gospel without talking about money, because how we spend it tells what our values are. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The following is what we have learned so far.

It all begins with our needs. Our neediness and dependency are the driving force of God’s new creation to turn things around. We cannot be a perfect giver until we first know how to be a perfect receiver. The truth is that we are all needy as long as we live. We humans are the neediest in the whole creation. This realization places us into the right relationship. God has come to us disguised as our neighbours, whether they are in human forms, animals, plants or the earth itself. Our neighbours love us first, healing, comforting and filling our needs. How can we not love our neighbours? So we begin to realize that we have it to give back. Giving what we don’t need is not really giving. The real giving involves our willingness to become vulnerable and needy: to become the food, the nourishment for others so we can truly live in the lives of those who can be nourished by the food. Jesus demonstrated such giving. ‘Eat your food, so you may have abundant life, sharing it with everyone and everything else.’

The passage we heard today sums everything up. Jesus, looking at the rich man, 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 and follow me.” This invitation is so much more than to give something to the poor; this is a radical invitation to become poor. In the gospels Jesus is not so much concerned with rich people giving to the poor, as with rich people becoming poor. There is a huge difference between the two. Giving something to the poor can remove the rich man’s selfishness, but it can never remove his pride. So the invitation to become poor is to remove his pride, because it is the ultimate enemy of love.
I am indebted to Arthur C. McGill for the following definition of love:

“What is love? To want the other’s good (love without selfishness). To affirm the other’s good (love without envy). To live by the other’s good (love without pride). This is the essence of the Christian life. A lover does not think about possession, does not want possession. That’s about himself, but as a lover his thoughts are filled with the other.”

The Bible says that the rich man, after hearing the invitation, was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. What is he afraid of? Of course, he is afraid of being poor. But what he is really afraid of is emptying himself and by doing so becoming needy, and becoming a true lover of God.

This invitation is also given to each of us. Becoming a true lover of God may not be as cool as it sounds, because we first have to face frustration, fear and shame in order to empty ourselves. It does require deep trust in God. Like a child and parent relationship, we do not receive from God so the things become ours. We remain as children of God forever. And what else do we need when we are filled with God and all that God provides?

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McGill, Arthur C.. Sermons of Arthur C. McGill (Theological Fascinations Book 1) (pp. 38-40). Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.