Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Could We? Would We?

October 21st:

Call:   Hebrews 5: 7-8
Text:   Mark 10: 17-27
Read:   W&S #158

                                Could We?  Would We?

On countless occasions you and I have sung about how
We love to tell the story
of Jesus and his glory          of Jesus and his love.

And too, you and I have frequently sung our request
        to be told the stories of Jesus
- the ones we love to hear -
        and things we would ask him to tell us if he were here.

Well, this morning's scripture
is indeed
one of those old, old stories that we have loved so long
a story I love to tell - but fortunately for you       not in song.

This story requires no introduction.
You will recognize it at once   [Mark 10: 17-22]

As we hear it,
we feel sorry for the young man
We wish that he had chosen to sell his possessions
We wish that he had followed Jesus.
For the guy seemed like a good young man
        A man who led a pretty decent life
        A man who gave the commandments priority in his life
        Just the type of person who could have been of assistance to Jesus

And a person who seems to lead a life a lot like we want to lead ours
        Obeying the commandments
        Recognizing the goodness in Jesus

It is probably the fact that we are a lot like him,
That makes you and me so badly want to advise him
                To sell those possessions.

Oh,     If he had only asked us
        Maybe we could have persuaded him to make that sacrifice.

Don't you wish that we had had that chance?

The point of the story is clear.
We understand it.

We understand that it calls for sacrifice - even suffering,
        suffering like that through which Christ (according to Hebrews) learned obedience.

We understand too that it is silly for the young man
To choose to hold on to possessions
Rather than to make the prescribed sacrifice
And enter the kingdom of the Lord.

We've known this story
We've liked this story
We've told this story
We've taught this story
        For years               [pause]

A few years ago - a couple of years before I began my ministry here
The significance of this story changed for me
It changed when I read a story in Time Magazine.

The story was about a visit to India
        By Bill and Melinda Gates

A Time reporter accompanied the two of them
to the home of a young mother and her children.

The story told of how Bill sat down
and visited with this woman for some time.

The visit showed a sincere compassion on the part of Microsoft's founder
It was unquestionably a very decent thing to do,

but that is not the reason the magazine story had an impact on
        the depth of my relationship with this morning's text
        and thereby on my faith and my perception of Christian discipleship.

For the Time reporter was not content to merely write of her observations of the visit.
So the next day, she returned to that woman's house
        To see what the woman had thought of the visit.

As she talked with the young mother, she asked,
"Did you know that the man who talked with you yesterday is the wealthiest man in the world?"

The woman smiled at the reporter and replied sweetly,
        "No, but to me, you are all wealthy.  It doesn't matter who is the wealthiest."

As I read that,         I began to grasp                that for that Indian woman
        Your wealth and my wealth are closer to that of Bill Gates
        Than they are to her.

Think about that.
        You,            me,      and Bill Gates
        What a threesome we make!
        After all we're pretty much the same    - in that woman's eyes.

If that Indian woman heard the story of Christ and the young man
        She could picture me    (well, except for the young part)
        Or she could picture you
        Or she could picture Bill Gates.
It would make no difference to her.

I have never been able to forget that woman in India
        Her words haunt me at times.

Therefore, in the years since I met her in the pages of that magazine,
        I have never been able to read this morning's text
in the same way that I used to read it.

Let's see whether her story has the same impact on you.
        This time as we read it we will substitute the words
"members of the Potsdam UMC congregation"
        For     the words "a man."

[Mark 10: 17-22, but with the alteration.]

That story reads very differently now - doesn't it?

We have never thought of ourselves as wealthy
        And so throughout the years,
we have been able to distance ourselves from identifying with the young man in the story.

That is harder to do
        After hearing the story of the woman in India
        Her story requires us - or at least inspires us -
To change the words of the scripture.

With our former comfortable distancing
        You and I were able to avoid the story's full impact
        We could see the story as applying to people who are much wealthier than we are.

Now we can't.

And the situation gets no more comfortable
        When we read the verses that follow:    [10: 23-27]

My household owns
        Four televisions (none of which are HD or wide screen),
three computers and a I Pad
as well as three cell phones

I have over 100 ties, four suits, several sport jackets, and five choices of footwear (shoes or sneakers).

In the last six months
I have traveled to Gettysburg PA, Salem MA, and Saratoga Springs, NY
I have taken three trips to Syracuse
and two trips to Rome   (Rome NY not Rome Italy)

These are evidence of a wealth
        That is fairly modest by the standards of many in this congregation
        And one that is remarkably puny by Bill Gates' standards.

But if that woman in India heard the list of my possessions
        And the number of trips I have taken
She would be convinced that I am a wealthy man.

That nameless woman in India opened my eyes.
        To the fact that
In actuality I am wealthier than many people
Perhaps wealthier even  than 80% of the world's population.

And so,
when I hear that it is easier
for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven

        It makes me uncomfortable - extremely uncomfortable.
                In fact, I squirm.

        My squirming is relieved only by the hope in Christ's closing words
                "For God all things are possible."
                        Even pulling this camel through that needle

Now     (pause)
this story relates to me        and me to it
in ways we didn't relate in the past.

Now     (pause)
I am no longer on the sidelines trying to advise the well off young man
I am no longer urging him sell his possessions
For the advice is for me
        Not just for someone else

Now     (pause)
I read the story and question myself
        And I hope that you are questioning yourselves as well

With apologies to Theodore Geisel
        The questions we must ask are
        "Would we?      Could We?
but when we ask the questions
we won't be talking about eating green eggs and ham.

We will be talking about
whether we would        and whether we could
make whatever sacrifice or sacrifices Jesus requires of us

We will be talking about
        Whether we would        and whether we could
sacrifice anything important to us in order to follow Christ

Is there any chance that it is possible
That we would and we could follow Jesus
        Only if the sacrifice required didn't hurt?

We, of course, get to answer these questions in a few weeks when
        On Stewardship Sunday we fill out the estimated giving cards

But the lesson in the scripture and in our questions is not just economic
        It is spiritual         and so we need to ask and answer the questions
                Whenever, we have a chance to sacrifice
time, energy, or pleasure to follow Jesus The Christ.

If we had been the man in the text  "Would we have?  Could we have?'    made the required sacrifice?
Or would we have and could we have
Looked at the man who was to hang on the cross and said,
        "I'm sorry, Jesus, it's just too big a price to pay"?
And sadly walked away?
And today?      Would we?  Could we?