Sunday Sermon 12/10/03 The Rich Young Man

Let us tell the story here.

Imagine the scene. There is a rich young man. He has made his fortune. Footballer. Every time he gets his hair cut, it makes the front page of the tabloids. You know his face. You know his wife?s face. She is a pop-star. They have a couple of beautiful children. They move here, to Bridge of Allan.
They come here and decide to settle in the village. They buy a big house. They move into the community. Henderson Street is full of talk of nothing less. People find paparazzi in hidden in their gardens. The rich young man and his family have moved to town.

Picture the scene. It has been a big service here in St Saviour?s. Something like the harvest last week. Plenty of people spilling out of the church and standing around talking outside. I?m standing in my vestments saying goodbye to people.

Someone nudges me and says ? look who is coming. Some people have such charisma. The whole of the street is watching who is coming down the road. It is him. The rich young man.

He comes along the pavement and stops in front of us. Starts to chat. He says, ?Wow, what a great place. What a nice church. Can I come and join it.?

You can imagine what is going through the minds of those standing around.

Young church getting all excited about who they might have as a young church leader. Vestry members thinking that we will never need a stewardship campaign ever again. People standing around with their mouths open in surprise.

?What a great place.? He says. ?What a nice church. Can I come and join it.?

And I reply. ?Yes. Of course you can. Just go off and sell everything you have and give it to the poor and then come round for a chat.?

I would not last long as the rector of this church, would I? No wonder Jesus got himself crucified in the end, if he went around making that kind of blunder.

Now think back to the gospel story. Think back to the way Mark tells it about Jesus. Was it really so different? Maybe. Maybe not.

As you think yourself back into Mark?s version of the story, who are you there?

Are you the young man, trying to do the right thing? The one who came with a serious question, who went away so very disappointed. The one who fulfilled every criterion for being blessed by God that his culture could give him. (For being prosperous was a sign of God?s blessing then).

Or can you picture yourself as the Saviour? Saying surprising things to the world around you. Treating a young person more seriously than expected. Looking with compassion written on your face and love, deep love in your heart.

Or are you one of the disciples. Horrified at the unfolding drama. Sorry for the man. Angry with the teacher. What are you thinking? If so much was asked of a stranger, how much more will be asked of me.

Or are you just a bystander ? watching the strange religious group, with its odd relationships ? the disciples at once intimate with the teacher and also so very far from him. What do you think about this story as an outsider. As someone who doesn?t quite belong? Do you want to join their circle. Or not. Or do you just want to watch and wait for now?

Or are you Mark, the storyteller. So full of faith in the risen Lord after his death that you have to pass on these breathless stories. Remember the time when Jesus met that young man. Remember the day he said this. Remember the look he had on his face. That was the Lord. He was tough, but he was kind.


Here is another story ? a story about gift giving with world-wide significance.

I heard this told as a true story, but I don?t know where it came from.

It is a cross-cultural story about gifts and giving.

Once there was a man who went exploring and visited a distinct tribe of people. He lived with them. Learned their language and their customs. They were a tribe which had little of value in the world, except that each family had ceremonial jewel encrusted garments. He learned, so far as he could, what it meant to be one of them. The months passed. A year passed. It was time to return to the west.

The village held a great feast and in the course of the feast, one of the older villagers came up, carrying one of the special garments. An old jewel encrusted jacket that had come down through the generations.

He offered it to the Westerner. The westerner knew its value. He shook his head and smiled. And said ?No, I would never take something so precious away?.

The villager shook his head and frowned and said, ?Well, you did not have to keep it ? you could have enjoyed giving it away too.?

At this time in the world?s history, much has been taken from native peoples. Land. Oil. Rainforest.

The wealth of Britain was build on slavery. The colonies, which people from this church ran, took the jewel encrusted resources from people and brought them back here.

We became young. We became rich. And we live in a village again.

Now we live in a global village. Now we have contact with peoples from all over the world. Instant communication can bring us face to face with people whom we might otherwise forget.

People. Individuals. Other members of the village. Perhaps we can find our way to the village where the westerner lived for months and years, learning the language, learning the customs, but never learning the real culture of generosity.

Perhaps if we go looking, we can meet the man who said. ?You didn?t have to keep it. You could enjoy giving it away yourself.?


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