Mark 10.17-31Mark 10.17-31
Amos 5. 6-7,
10-15; Hebrews 4.12-16
Kocher+ First Lutheran Church, Manhattan, KS
When I was back
in school, math was not my favorite subject. Reading books, literature,
history, those were my strengths. But math- not so much. Everything had to be
so precise, and solving problems had to follow a logical progression. The worst
was when I got to algebra, and calculus, and the book would give us those
multiple-line problems that looked like alphabet soup. Solving these equations
would take up a whole notebook page, where you’d have two columns of problem
solving and at the bottom of the page, you would be left with two sides. Number
thing- they wanted those numbers to be the same. You were supposed to solve the
equation in a way that both sides were balanced, that the values were equal,
because one number logically equals the same number. That was where my problem
was. See, even if I tried to use all the right formulas and methods, I could never
get the two sides to come out same. And next to my wrong answer, my loving
teacher, Ms. Kovaric would write in her big red pen, “This doesn’t make sense.
Something doesn’t add up.”
This doesn’t make
sense. Something doesn’t add up.
Today in our
gospel reading we get a lesson in God’s economics, and how in God’s economics,
things don’t always make sense, God’s math doesn’t always add up.
The gospel of Mark
sets up a story where Jesus gives us a lesson in that most taboo topic: money.
A rich man, comes up to Jesus, and asks, in my opinion, a relatively reasonable
question. A question the church has been asking its entire history. “Jesus,
what do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” I imagine the man’s face as it
falls in disappointment, hearing an answer from Jesus he was not ready for.
Jesus tells him all the laws he is supposed to follow, and when the man tells
him he has, in fact, adhered all these laws- a truly admirable feat, by the way-
Jesus drops the bombshell:
you own, give all that money to the poor, and come follow me. That’s how you inherit eternal life. For
it is easier for a camel to get through an eye of a needle than it is for a
wealthy person to get into heaven.
Perhaps our own
reaction mirrors the reaction of the disciples: Uh oh. This does not bode well
for us. Something doesn’t add up.
Now, at this point
it’s worth noting, that even with Stewardship Sunday coming up next week, I did
not choose this scripture reading today. In fact, this is one of those stories
I would rather just avoid. For starters, it’s really not a great picture of
stewardship; irresponsibly getting rid of all your livelihood is not going to
fix poverty in our community.
I also have to
name and claim that this story reminds me that I really like my stuff. Anyone
who has seen me in a bookstore or on a Target run for “just one quick thing” knows
that I really like my stuff. Jesus telling me to get rid of it all isn’t a
lesson I love to hear.
What’s more, when
this story brings up the wealthy we remember that we here live in one of the
wealthiest societies in the world, and that our wealth is often dependent on
other places that live with much, much less than we do. And just because we
live in a wealthy country does not mean that everyone here has enough. We know
there are folks in our town and perhaps even in our church who know how much
anxiety money can cause. Real anxiety, like when choosing between a heating
bill and an electric bill, or when food stamps can’t get you to the end of the
month, or when the illness continues to get worse because health insurance is an
Money itself is
certainly not evil, but the reality of economics in our world means that money
can cause deep anxiety and brokenness, and our dependence on material goods can
come at the expense of our relationships with others.
When we love our
stuff more than we love our people, we keep trying to push that camel through
the eye of the needle. And we don’t make any room for God.
So perhaps, that’s
Perhaps Jesus is
not giving us a literal tutorial for a discipleship garage sale, the end result
of which is a ticket into heaven. No, perhaps, Jesus is instead taking a moment
to give the disciples and us a difficult but much needed lesson in our relationships
with one another and our relationship with God. Perhaps Jesus is giving us a
lesson in God’s economics.
everything,” Jesus tells the disciples, “Change your life. Depend on me, not
your things, and right here, right now, you will see the world around you
A lesson was
learned in God’s economics about ten years ago in Omaha. That was when Simone
and Matt Weber put their dream into action to create a place in a “rough
neighborhood” of downtown Omaha where people could receive not only food, but a
meal. Communion and community. So they opened up Table Grace café.
The economics of
Table Grace Café did not make sense or add up. A beautiful, historical
storefront was renovated, a top notch chef was hired to create a craft menu, local
musicians were booked for entertainment, doors were opened wide, and a
delicious meal of some of the best pizza you can get in Omaha does not have to
cost you a penny.
Simone and Matt
believed in a business plan for Table Grace Café that should not make sense-
everyone can come and eat the same, delicious meal, paying only what they can-
some folks pay a little more, some folks don’t need to pay a thing. Some can
instead pay with their time and talents- serving, or cleaning, or playing
music. The economics of the world would say this business plan would never
work, but at Table Grace, God’s economics are at play.
And now, ten years
later, this ministry business is growing, and thriving. Along with a thriving
restaurant, they also have expanded to job training, neighborhood
revitalization, catering, and, most recently, a food truck that lets this
communion go mobile. Their mission statement and business model for Table Grace
Ministries is “nourishing hungry bodies and souls.” Because they know that our
souls are truly fed only when we know respect and empathy for one another, when
we love God through one another. Perhaps, it does make sense.
In our gospel
reading this morning, we do not know whatever ended up happening to the rich
man. He goes away shocked and grieving, but we do not know how his encounter
with Jesus transformed him. It’s possible he ignored Jesus, it’s also possible
he actually sold all his stuff and gave the money to the poor.
It’s also possible
that his life took a direction somewhere in the middle. It’s possible that he
took the first step towards a new way of living- not getting rid of his stuff,
but maybe giving what he would have spent on Starbucks to the local food pantry
instead. Maybe he closed up his laptop a little earlier and took an extra
minute to ask his kids about their day. Maybe he began to see how God had given
him grace beyond what he could ever deserve, and that to fully live into that
grace he must extend it to those around him.
And with small
steps at a time, I believe he probably saw God’s economics transform his life. In
the words of one of my favorite Relient K songs, “The beauty of grace is that
it makes life not fair.”
don’t always make sense.
bring sight to the blind, voice to the mute, bring healing to the sick.
feeds a multitude of thousands with five loves and seven fish.
fill a café in downtown Omaha with music and pizza and nourishment without
promise beyond a doubt that around a table of bread and wine we are fed,
nourished, and loved without condition.
make the impossible so very possible, giving life beyond all death, hope beyond
all sorrow, grace beyond all measure.
Thanks be to God.