So, you want to be healed?

by susan on November 2, 2015

LabrynthAs he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”18Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21Jesus, looking at him, 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, follow me.” 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

28Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” -Mark 10:17-31, NRSV

What have you had to get rid of in order to experience life to the full?
What have you had to lose in order to be healed?

Seven years ago, Kevin and I fell in love with an adorable home in Lilburn, GA. It was the ideal home for what we imagined to be a lengthy time in Atlanta. We had no idea that only two years later, we would be moving back home to Jax to start a new faith community here.

Fortunately, we found great tenants who paid their rent on time and who seemed to take pretty good care of our home.

Then, things began falling apart. Literally.

Two roof leaks,
a driveway that was cracking,
a broken dishwasher,
electrical problems and
a poor property manager who did almost nothing to help us.

We knew we had to get rid of this house. It was draining us & draining our resources.

We listed the house for sale in April and have not gotten a single offer. A month ago, we completed the paperwork for what is called a “mortgage remodification program”. It’s a pleasant way of letting your lender know you just can’t afford your home anymore. It’s a process that could end in foreclosure.

Despite some fear and some shame, we both know this is an honest step in facing the reality of our financial situation. We can’t keep pretending we have the time or money to manage this home from a distance.

Letting go,
losing something we cherish &
admitting there is something we lack is not what any of us want to do.
In fact, it can feel more like death than life.

Maybe that’s what was going through the mind of the wealthy young man who tearfully left a disheartening conversation with Jesus.

He came to Jesus with one question: What must I do to inherit eternal life?

Our modern interpretation of that question has been “what must I do to get into heaven?” That’s because we have been taught that heaven is a place we go up to when we die. In Jesus’ first century Jewish world, though, heaven or eternal life meant something different.

It did not mean another place or another life. It meant a coming day when the world would be healed and a day when there would be peace on earth. People were anticipating that day. This man’s question was the question of the day.

Asking how to inherit eternal life was asking how to join this new thing God was doing. It was asking, “how can I be part of God’s healing work?”

Jesus initially responds by naming some of the laws this man must have kept. Yes, the man explains to Jesus, I have obeyed them all. He has kept the laws he was taught since childhood. He has avoided doing the the things he knows are wrong.

Desperate before Jesus, he begs to know what more he can do.

Jesus, we are told, loved him and so he 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, follow me.’

Maybe there’s a reason we don’t spend much time asking God what we should do!

This is a familiar storyline in the gospel of Mark. Again and again, people in need of healing approach Jesus. You may remember there was a demon-possessed man, the man born blind, a leper and many others who came to Jesus (or were brought to him).

Through Jesus, broken people were being made whole again. They were experiencing freedom, wellness & return to community life. And, their healing was not just for themselves, but for the healing of the good of the community. Jesus was God’s healing & restoring presence in the world.

So, if this is another in a long line of healing stories told in Mark, what sickness do you suppose kept this man from being part of God’s new thing?

We are told that after he heard Jesus’ response, he walked away grieving. He was either weeping because he knew what he had to go & do or because he could not do it.

So, Jesus as he often did, turns to his disciples for a teachable moment. He warns them about just how hard it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier, he claims, for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom.

Camels and needles don’t have a lot in common. So, why this comparison? Some historians believe there was a small gate into the city of Jerusalem known as the “eye of the needle.” It was hard to enter and if you were on a camel, you would need to unload everything to make it through.

There is another possible interpretation: Some Greek scholars believe the word for “camel” is poorly translated and should actually be translated “rope”. It is easier for a rope to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

Either way, the meaning is similar.

The kingdom of God, the place God rules,
the way of peace & love & healing
is something we enter and we can’t take much with us.

This week, I did something I love to do. I spent time at the St. John’s Lutheran prayer labyrinth. I often go to the labyrinth when I feel I am lacking something, like peace or clarity. To be honest, I was not acutely aware of my lack this morning – I just felt God urging me to go.

I read the instructions every time:
As you walk the maze toward the center you release,
When you come to the center you receive,
And then you walk back through the maze or return.

As I started walking, I began considering what needed to be released. At first, I had to think of things…that didn’t take long. All of a sudden the list seemed endless: bitterness, anxiety, fear, resentment. It’s a wonder I could walk at all. I stopped and started a bunch of times as I pondered all I was holding onto.

Finally, I got to the center – the place where I could enter & receive. And, I just stood there. It was like that moment when you finally get to the theme park ride after waiting in line forever and now you are having second thoughts. I was having second thoughts. I wondered what God might say. Would it be anti-climactic? Would I hear something I did not want to here?

After several minutes, I stepped in and at some point I sat down on the damp ground and at some point I raised my arms up to receive.

To enter God’s healing way, we must not only release some things. We must also, with God’s help, take some decisive steps forward. Then, can we be part of God’s healing way and the new thing God is doing in the world.

The young, wealthy man wanted to know what he could do to be a part. He was asked to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. Maybe his sickness was his disconnection from those who had less or maybe he was consumed with what he had. Either way, he could not enter and receive until he let go and took the necessary step to receive God’s abundance.

What about us?
What do we need to release for the sake of healing our lives and the lives of our neighbors?
What do we need to lose in order to be part of God’s healing work now and in the age to come?
And what might we receive from God as we do?

 

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