“GRIEF AND LETTING GO”
address delivered in Warragul Uniting Church, by the Rev Rosalind Terry
Sunday, 12 October 2003
has always been pain in being human, and in trying to live God’s way:
psalm was written hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth, yet he used
some of those words as his prayer from the cross!
know scripture by heart, particularly the psalms, is to have a source of comfort
hidden within you for times when it is difficult to find your own words in which
as we remember the tragedy of the Bahli bombing at Couta Beach exactly a year
ago, remember that Jesus has lived through such pain and bereavement before us.
started to work our way through parts of the Book of Hebrews last week.
This book, with it’s philosophical and religious images that do not
always speak clearly to us in 2003, has often been neglected.
Yet it contains some gems. It
contains two basic themes. In
chapters 7 to 10 the author draws on imagery from the traditional Jewish
sacrificial system and declares that Jesus is both priest and victim, fulfilling
the requirements of those ancient customs.
In the death of Christ, by faith, we are set free from our sins and our
relationship with God is restored. In
chapters 3, 4, 11-13, Christ is presented as the pioneer of God’s way into the
future, We are a pilgrim people, as
the basis of Union of the Uniting Church also delights in reminding us, and
Jesus, the new Moses, is leading us into the promised future with God.
Our passage today reminds us that pilgrims need to be prepared to travel
light, to leave much behind in order to make the journey:
Gospel reading today has a similar message:
week we listened to the passage immediately before this on, Mark 10: 2-16, where
the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus into a legal decision on divorce, and he
remained focused on people, and the fact that every one of us can live in
God’s sight by grace alone.
seems the rich man in our story had not heard that admonition.
He came boldly to Jesus, confident that his possessions were a blessing
from God, so certain that he was well on the way to INHERITING eternal life, but
aware that he needed just a little more.
you ever known a rich person who was completely content?
response to his question Jesus cites the “short list” of the Ten
Commandments, leaving out the four “theological” commandments in order to
focus on the six “ethical” laws. But
he replaces the last commandment – “Do not covet what belongs to your
neighbour” (Exodus 20: 17) – with “Do not defraud,”
This censure comes from Leviticus 19: 13, where the Sabbath community are
instructed “You shall not defraud your neighbour; you shall not steal; you
shall not keep for yourself the wages of a labourer.”
is interested in how the man became so affluent that he could claim to keep the
whole law. Such a claim meant that
he was rich enough to pay someone else to do any work that make him ritually
first-century Palestine land was the basis of wealth. The estates of the rich grew in several ways.
Assets were sometimes consolidated through the joining of households in
marital or political alliances. At
other times expropriated land was distributed through political patronage.
But the primary mechanism was acquiring land through the debt-default of
small agricultural land holders. The
rich got richer and the poor got poorer. This
is almost certainly how this man ended up with “many properties”.
today, as in the days of Jesus, the “propertied” often create and maintain
their surplus through “fraud” – the illegitimate expropriation of their
did not directly dispute the man’s improbable contention that he has “kept
the whole law”, even though it flies in the face of Jesus’ own assertion
that “there is no one good but God”. Instead,
Jesus “looked at the man and loved him”.
True love is tough love which can deliver hard truth, and Jesus was about
to deliver a very hard truth.
lack one thing.”
to the poor”.
and follow me”.
up!” In Mark’s Gospel these
words are generally associated with a miracle of healing. This man was sick. He
was sick with a wealth addiction that could only by cured by him changing his
all” and “give”, Jesus continued. And
the propertied gentleman couldn’t do it!
he could not “follow”.
hard is the way to eternal life, which can never be INHERITED, as this man
wanted to do. We can not live under
the sovereignty of God on the basis of the faithfulness and sacrifice of parents
or grandparents, as we can inherit property.
God has no grandchildren, only first generation children, individuals who
have made their own life-style decisions and came to follow empty handed,
“like little children”. (Remember
disciples were stunned. Jesus’
words about the difficulty of rich people entering eternal life flew in the face
of all religious teaching of us day. Some
of you may remember the musical “Fiddler on the Roof”, and the song “If I
were a rich man”. The singer
wanted riches not just to have an EASIER life, but also so he could properly
worship God. Still today, in some
CHRISTIAN denominations, it is taught that God blesses the faithful with riches.
Such teaching is only possible by a very selective reading of the Bible.
Our passage from Mark, particularly 10: 23-27, must be read in a very
by grace, it may be possible for the rich to enter! But Jesus is here teaching a generosity, an hospitality, a
liberality, that meets the needs of the poor amongst us not by grudging
government handouts, but by personal sharing.
Warragul it may be easy for most of us to see ourselves as far from affluent.
Our car is probably not the latest model.
Our home is not on mortgage hill. We
may not have central heating or air conditioning throughout the house. BUT, have we ever measured ourselves against the poorest of
the world’s poor?
I do so, I find myself feeling most uncomfortable. I have seen the families living beside the rubbish dumps near
Bangkok, in a shack made out of recycled refuse, living off the half eaten
scraps that the restaurants at which I had eaten had thrown out.
I have been in the homes of the tribal people in India, whose children
die because the water they drink is contaminated, and their parents either do
not know to boil it, or they more often cannot afford the cow dung required to
make the fire to heat the billy. I
have been on Mornington Island, where the kids live on worthless but easily
available junk food, because their parents were not themselves raised in
families, and so lack the parenting skills to properly care for their kids.
am SO rich.
frightens me that I will go to Hobart with about 110 packing cases of my
possessions. I comfort myself that
these are mostly books, and nick nacks I have inherited from my mother, and how
can I give them away?
words ring in my ear like the boom of a death knell.
hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the sovereignty of God!”
hard it is to enter the kingdom of God.”
I am thrown back on the grace of God yet again!
am I, an ordained minister, clearly in breach of Jesus’ teaching!
comfort myself as the disciples comforted themselves.
said fearfully, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.”
have WE left to follow Jesus.
again at our empty Lacuna Bowl.
we come to God empty handed?
we hold so loosely to our possessions that we would literally give away our best
coat to one who needed it more?
we dare to open our home to a stranger who needed a bed?
we encourage our Government to open the doors more generously to refugees and
asylum seekers, knowing that once our ancestors came to these shores uninvited
by the original inhabitants?
it comes down to it, I personally find this passage more difficult to live that
the one from last week, and someone then commented I was brave to preach it.
was not so difficult for me, because it did not touch on my particular short
coming. This one does.
is much easier to point the finger at someone else we see sinning in a way to
which we are not tempted.
here we are ALL guilty.
poor have no choices.
cannot choose where they will live, or how they will earn a living, or where or
even if their children will go to school, or what they will wear, or whether
they will eat today, or whether to buy medicine or see a doctor, or save money,
or have a telephone, or a television, or go on vacation, or own a car.
we CAN make most of these decisions and more, we are rich.
son of man had no place to lay his head, and he invited the rich man to get up,
sell, give and follow.
“luxuries” may Jesus be pointing to in our lives that need to be sold so we
security may Jesus be challenging Australia to give up, so others may find a
do not like these question.
the call of God for me to leave the security of my friendships here in Warragul
may in part be to help me to loosen my grip on such luxuries, and to rely more
fully on God’s grace.
the present discussions in the Uniting Church are actually God’s call to us to
loosen our grip on what WE think God wants from us, and depend more on
GOD’S GRACE to bind us all, different as we are, together in love.
every one of us still has a great plank in our eye, which we need to beg God to
remove, before we can dare to offer to help someone else remove the speck from
we get up, sell, give and follow?