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Evening sermon
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
October 14, 2012
 
"How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" Jesus says.

Notice what Jesus does not say. Jesus does not say those who have wealth will be able to buy their way into the kingdom of God. Nor does he say those who have wealth will have to buy their way into the kingdom of God. Jesus does not say those who have wealth will have their wealth in the Kingdom of God. Nor does he say those who have wealth will not enter the kingdom of God. No, Jesus says, “how hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.”

Hard. Because there is something about money. Something about a storehouse full of possessions. Something about wealth. That is thorny.

Some come by wealth in honest ways. Others in dishonest ways. Some come by wealth with a tremendous amount of work. Others, with very little work. It doesn’t matter how any of us comes by wealth, no matter the amount. It is hard for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.
Because in the kingdom of God, what we have and how we got it is not God’s ultimate concern. After all, every kingdom has treasure. In the kingdom of God, what we do with what we have is critical. In fact what we do with what we have is the foundation on which the kingdom of God is built.

Amos talks about the poor. Those in need. The vulnerable. Society’s outcasts. People with little, no wealth. Our society prefers percentages. The storied 99%. Or the 47%. 15% of the American population lives below the poverty line (2010 National Poverty Center study). That’s an alarming statistic for the world’s wealthiest nation, the American version of kingdom. Which is even more alarming when you consider that the US statistic is two percentage points higher than the global statistic: 13% of the world’s population lives in poverty (2012 World Hunger study).

If we’re honest about it, no matter our place on the socio-economic spectrum, we can all recognize that there exists a huge discrepancy, a great chasm between any earthly kingdom and the kingdom of God.
For in the kingdom of God, all are nourished. In the kingdom of God, no one is in need. In the kingdom of God, everyone has enough.

Amos is probably right. Most of the discrepancy comes knowingly. “How many are your transgressions,” he says, “and how great are your sins — you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate.” But the discrepancy also comes from systems far larger than us, powers greater than any human mind can hold, by ways outside any of our control. For wealth, no matter who holds it, is thorny. Generosity easily turns to greed. Concern for our neighbor can fast turn into concern for ourselves. Lures us. Turns us inward.

Which is precisely why it is “easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle, than it is for someone with wealth to enter the kingdom of God.”

Faced with that challenge, God acts. Faced with a world ordered by thorny things like wealth, God offers the live-giving ways grace. Which comes to all of us free of charge.
For all the cross, God redeems the poor and the wealthy. God redeems the oppressed and the oppressor. God redeems the powerless and the powerful. In God’s great love for us, for all of us, God turns the ways of plenty and want upside down, inside out. The God of abundant life dies the ways of suffering and death. So that the ways of suffering and death will be no more. To a world, to kingdoms near and far to people of all sorts, in bondage and free, God makes this promise: ”Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."
Everyone is part of the kingdom of God.

God makes the promise, and keeps it promise, too. Not in some far off and distant time. But right here, right now.

Each time we gather together, each time just two or three gather together in Jesus’ name, God gives us a vision of that kingdom where all receive measure enough of God’s grace.

Each time we gather together, each time just two or three gather together in Jesus’ name, God gives us a vision of that kingdom where all share the gifts God first shared with us.
Each time we gather together, each time just two or three gather together in Jesus’ name, God gives us a vision of that kingdom where we give ourselves away as bread for the hungry, as comfort for the neglected, as hope for the dejected, as light for those who sit in the shadow of death.

Two or three gathered together in Jesus’ name may seem like an awfully small number. A few hundred. Maybe that will do? A few thousand. Insignificant compared to the world’s billions. Whatever the number, God promises it is enough. For if the kingdom of God can come among two or three, if the kingdom of God can come among those of us gathered together in this place, than surely the kingdom of God can come among the many of us who together gather as the whole human family.

Not 13% Or 15% 47% 99% Or 1%

But the 100%, all God’s people. Enjoying the fruits of the kingdom of God. Relying on the fruits of the kingdom of God. God giving and all of us sharing until, as the much beloved children’s prayer puts it, “the whole world is clothed and fed.”