What are you attached to? Do you have any ‘guilty’ attachments? Sea salt and caramel ice cream at midnight when nobody is watching? A cigarette now and again in secret? Facebook? Perhaps some on-line shopping?
What about healthy attachments? What are yours? Family? Although that is not always healthy… there is a saying, “Each family is dysfunctional in its own way.” Your home? Your church?
We all are attached to something… some idea… some vision of ourselves… someone… Whether that attachment is healthy or unhealthy is a matter of degree.
Love and care of a child can become restrictive if the child isn’t allowed to grow, evolve and become independent. The convenience of on-line shopping can become addictive if the shopping becomes and end in itself, rather than a practicality. And I bet you, if I were a gambling woman, that each one of us knows someone who struggles with alcohol.
So, part of my pondering this week is this: When does an attachment become unhealthy? Let’s listen to a story about an encounter that Jesus had with a young man with an unhealthy attachment. It’s written in Mark 10:
10:17 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?”
10:18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
10:19 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.'”
10:20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”
10:21 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.”
10:22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
10:23 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!”
10:24 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!
10:25 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.”
10:26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?”
10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
10:28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.”
10:29 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,
10:30 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.
10:31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
(Young man appears in the sanctuary and goes to the pulpit)
I went away grieving… grieving for my fearful heart… grieving for lost opportunities… grieving that I was so attached to my riches, I couldn’t bring myself to do what Jesus asked of me…
You see, I had heard such amazing things about this man Jesus… I was brought up in the traditions of my ancestors. I loved the rituals of being a Jew. The rules that governed all the tasks of daily life. The donations to the poor that the priests instructed us were to be our response to God. The sacrifice of animals on holy days. Listening to preaching and interpretation of God’s holy word.
All this I loved deeply; I found contentment and satisfaction in being able to fulfill my obligations as a Jewish man. And I was pleased with the way my life was going. In time my parents would find a wife for me, one who would be a fitting match for a man of my station. And we have children and we would raise them to love and respect the same things that we did. Each generation, the same as the next. Ah, the plans I had.
One day, in the marketplace, I heard this man called Jesus preaching, just as if he had the same rights as the priests! At first I was angry; after all, what right did he have to preach that way? He wasn’t anybody special, at least as far as I was concerned he wasn’t. He was the son of Mary and Joseph the Carpenter. Or at least they claimed that Joseph was his father.
But for some reason that day, something about Jesus caught my attention. I loved listening to what Jesus taught…Even though not much of his message applied to me.
After all, I wasn’t poor, diseased or a tax collector or anything like that. I was a well-respected person in my town. People looked up to me and listened when I spoke. In fact, I wondered sometimes why I even bothered listening to Jesus. After all, I kept the laws, as far as I was concerned I had everything that I needed. I had enough food, rich clothing and a home that was more than comfortable.
But even with all that, I sometimes felt empty inside. I never let my parents know this, after all I honoured them, just as I was supposed to, but there were times when I wondered, “Is that all there is?”
And so, one of these times happened to be just when I heard Jesus speaking about the kingdom of God. It sounded so wonderful, that after he finished speaking, I went up to him and asked him what I had to do to gain eternal life.
He looked at me with so much love 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.”
Follow him? A peasant from Galilee? Well, I couldn’t do that! I had responsibilities! I had a position! I gave to the poor already. Couldn’t I just continue to do that? Surely I could work for the kingdom of God just as I was! And so I went away grieving… grieving that what Jesus asked was too much for me. But Jesus words continued to echo in my ears… in my head… and in my heart… “sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
Your scriptures only tell part of the story. No, I didn’t have a sudden change of heart and leave everything behind to follow Jesus. And yes, I did marry and have children… and I continued to be a good Jew. But… my life changed… my encounter with Jesus stayed with me… his words about following him, followed me… No matter where I went or what I was doing, his words followed me… When I was meeting with other men in the village… they followed me… When I presented my offering in the temple, they followed me… When I ate and drank my fill, sometimes more than my fill, they followed me…
Like most of you, I still wasn’t in a position to sell everything I owned, give it to the poor and follow Jesus. In fact, by the time my heart was transformed by Jesus’ words, Jesus had been crucified and buried. His friends kept telling stories of his appearances after death. And they kept on retelling the stories he told and stories of Jesus life. So, even when it became dangerous to be known as a friend of Jesus, his words made a difference in my life.
I began slowly… but little changes over time soon made a difference. Soon, the lepers and the sick that lived on the outskirts of the villages were not to be rushed by… and perhaps a little money thrown at them… I began to stop and talk with them… and then I invited one into my house to be nursed back to health…
Soon, the beggars on the streets had names and stories… and as I began to know their stories, I realized that they weren’t being punished by God… and they weren’t beggars by choice… and that they, like me and my family, were children of God.
Soon I was giving more than my tithe to the temple… and then a little more… and a little more… and since we presented our offering publicly, this encouraged others to be more generous…
My eyes were opened… my heart was opened… and my purse was opened…I was no longer so attached to my riches or my former way of life. The more they were opened, the more I saw, the more I saw, the more I cared… the more I cared, the more I wanted everyone to follow Jesus’ way. You see, that’s what the early followers were called: People of the Way.
You too can be people of the way… it’s very simple… it’s wrapped up in a couple of your scripture passages.
Love God and love your neighbour as yourself. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned. Don’t let your unhealthy attachments prevent you from following Jesus. Don’t go away grieving like I did for so many years.
Follow him… follow him….
Mark 10: 17-31
October 14, 2018
© Rev. Catherine MacDonald 2018