(this is the chapel Erin and Lance will be married at in 7 weeks)
Mark 10:17-25 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" So Jesus said to him, "why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother." And he answered and said to Him, "Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth." Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "one thing you lack; Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross and follow Me." But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!"
This story is so NOT about riches. It is NOT about giving to the poor. And, fortunately for most of us, its not about keeping God's commandments. Jesus sums up what it is about in the last sentence which he delivers to his disciples: It is hard for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God. Truthfully, if you read the whole of the gospels, you will see that the sentence could actually read: It is hard for those who trust in ________ to enter the kingdom of God. We have access, freely and without cost, to an abundant life of living in God's kingdom in the here and now. We don't have to wait for death or perfection or selling all our possessions. But we do have to lay it all down. My touchstone is the story of Abram and Isaac found in Genesis 22. If I were to have another son I would name him Isaac because of this important story. In the story, God asks Abram, now Abraham, to sacrifice his only, long awaited son on an altar to the Lord. Pretty gruesome stuff, no way around it. For three days Abraham walked with his son toward the place God had asked him to make a sacrifice. For three days he was saying goodbye and letting go of the one he loved best in this life. I can't imagine the torture of those three days. Then it says, "So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together." Isaac asked his dad, "Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Imagine how Abraham was feeling at that point, his baby boy looking innocently up into his eyes. Of course we all know how the story ends. "The Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, Abraham, Abraham! So he said, Here I am. And the Angel said, "Do not lay a hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not wethheld your son, your only son, to me" And the Lord provided a ready sacrifice instead, a ram caught in a thicket of thorns.
Sometimes the thing getting in the way of putting God first in our lives is our riches, or in other words, our own perceived power to run our lives effectively. Sometimes it is something big and taboo like our relationships with our loved ones.
To fully enter into the life God has for us, we have to lay down ANYTHING or ANYONE that is getting in the way of putting God first. The quest God/Jesus laid out for the rich young ruler and Abraham was unique to each of them, and yet it teaches a valuable lesson. Bring before God your life and ask him to issue you a quest, which will tell you what you are putting first. You may be asked to sell everything or give up your control over your children, you may be asked to let go of a hurt or release the power of a long held secret. What separates us from a great life with God is not always something lofty like riches or our children, sometimes its something ugly like unforgiveness or a bad attitude about ourselves. Sometimes it is our need to be perfect, or our desire to make others see us in that light. Whatever it is, ask for a quest and then eagerly set out to do it, lay it down and move into the better life that can only be found by putting God first.
This is what I seek today. I want to lay it all down.