Proper 23 (Yr B) 10/14/12

29 Sep

Job 23:1-9,16-17 or Track 2 Amos 5:6-7,10-15 Psalm 90:12-17

Hebrews 4:12-16

Mark 10:17-31

Psalm 22:1-15

Do not be far from me,

for trouble is near and there is no one to help.


Opening Questions

  • How are you defined by where you live and what you own?
  • How can wealth inhibit moral growth?

Appointed Passages

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15 (Track 2)

6 Seek the LORD and live, or
he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Beth’el, with no one to quench it.

7 Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood,
and bring righteousness to the ground!

10 They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.

11 Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
but you shall not live in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
but you shall not drink their wine.

12 For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins– you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate.

13 Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time.

14 Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said.

15 Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

  • Who would you classify as “the poor” (as used in this passage) in today’s world?
  • Versus 14 and 15 could be read in almost a mocking tone – “just as you have said”  and “it may be”.   The implication is mouthing the right answers but without the right motivations – nor “living” the reality of the concepts.  Is it possible to be in moral jeopardy for doing the right things for the wrong reasons?
  • Who are “the prudent” as described in verse 13 – and in a world that demands action, why should they remain silent?

Hebrews 4: 12-16 (verses 1-11optional)

1 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,

“As in my anger I swore, they shall not enter my rest”, though his works were finished at the foundation of the world. 4 For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this place it says, “They shall not enter my rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he sets a certain day-“today”-saying through David much later, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God {Gk [he] } would not speak later about another day. 9 So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; 10 for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.

12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

  • The phrase “all are naked” (v. 13) suggests motivations contribute to our moral standing.  How can we evaluate and upgrade them?
  • How does the thought that Jesus was tested (v. 15) in experiencing human sinfulness affect your perspective of who he was?
  • How can we engage the process of confessing sins and seeking forgiveness to change our motivations? 

Mark 10:17-31

17 As 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?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You 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.” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, 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.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

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

28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus 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, 30 who 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. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

  • What “one thing” (v. 21) did the man lack?
  • Why might it be harder for people of wealth to enter the kingdom of God?
  • How might someone of wealth give up their wealth figuratively versus literally?
  • How would one go about helping  people of wealth be free of the spiritual burden of having it? 


By any measure, the people of the United States are rich – relative to most of our neighbors in the world.  Our  ordinary lives experience advantages that others can only dream about.  The difficulty that this wealth creates is that it can – and typically does – become a cushion that shields us from the hardships of life that are normally required to shape our moral framework.  We have the luxury of deferring hard decisions or digesting painful deprivations that are more prevalent in the lives of our global neighbors.

In fact, wealth should probably be defined more carefully to include finding meaning in life versus the typical interpretation of dollars.  Who are the wealthy?  Those who have found meaning in their lives – regardless of how much money they have.

So how do you get to the mental place where you are truly not impacted by money such that your definition of self is not affected by it one way or the other?  A few things come to mind.

First, think about your faith.  At the end of the day, our relationship with God is really all that we have.  Our bodies and all earthly possessions are only temporary – we rent, but don’t own.  If you truly believe this, then ask yourself the following question.  Have (and are) you investing enough time in building a strong relationship with God?

Second, faith becomes reality by living it in a community.  We are shaped and tempered by our relationships with other people.  The degree of substance in a relationship does not depend on money – and perhaps money and relationships are negatively correlated.  (That is to say that when money is part of the relationship, chances are the relationship is more shallow).  If questioned about who you are, would those around you support the perception that you are committed to them with genuine concern and integrity?  Do you really listen to hear the words of people’s hearts when they talk to you?  Or is your mind so preoccupied that you find yourself not really listening?

Third, do you make contributions of money, time, or talent to help others?  A gift of yourself to someone who needs help is faith in action.  Doing so can teach you something about yourself. 

Fourth, establish a routine for self examination.  Either a regular attendance of church services, or reading of scriptures, or at least taking time each week for contemplation on what is important.  Asking yourself challenging questions has personally been helpful to me.

Fifth, recognize and learn to value the strength of humility.  The etymology of the word comes from Latin “humus”, the word for earth (“dust to dust” comes to mind).  While some see humility as a sign of weakness, I believe it to be the trait of those who realize the potential of power and wealth to corrupt.  People of strength and humility have learned to view themselves (i.e., personal values  and moral framework) without the potential corruption from power and wealth.

May God help us live the truth of who we are and continue to seek peace and comfort in His presence.

Quotes for Today:

Never work just for money or for power. They won’t save your soul or help you sleep at night.

Marian Wright Edelman

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. 

Winston Churchill 

With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.

Keshavan Nair


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