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Speaking to the Soul: What We Lack

Speaking to the Soul: What We Lack

Week of Proper 14, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

 

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30 (morning) // 119:121-144 (evening)
2 Samuel 14:21-33
Acts 21:15-26
Mark 10:17-31

In today’s gospel, we meet a man who seems to lack nothing. Not only does he have many possessions, but he has a long track record of keeping every one of the ten commandments. He is a good and prosperous man, but Jesus tells him, “You lack one thing.”

Paradoxically, this man lacks something because he has too much! In one breath, Jesus tells this man that he lacks something . . . AND that he needs to give away whatever he has: “go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” The only way to find what we lack is to give up what we have.

It’s easy for us to lose touch with the very strong sense among early Christians that wealth and possessions obstruct our entrance into the kingdom and the fellowship of Jesus’s followers. I’ve been reading a second-century Christian text called “The Shepherd of Hermas,” and it has a powerful image of how wealth obstructs us. The text describes the church as a large tower that is under construction, and a team of angels keeps adding stones to this tower. Each stone represents a particular type of person, and not all stones are useful building material. For example, cracked stone represent people who hold grudges. Too many of these cracked stones make the tower structurally unsound!

Round stones, however, represent people with wealth. It’s impossible for round stones to fit together into a coherent structure. Only when we have our wealth cut and filed away from us can we join other squared stones and build a community of faith. If we hold onto our wealth, we remain isolated, useless, and unstable.

Jesus tells us today that 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.” This sense of wealth as an obstruction and a burden has always been felt by Christians. What might we let go of today that will help us to find what we lack, and free us to follow Christ?

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps  program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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