Preaching Resources

The 20th Sunday after Pentecost (October 10, 2021)

The One Thing – Follow
by The Rt. Rev. Chris Giesler
Director of Mission Engagement

Assigned Texts:

  • Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
  • Hebrews 4:12-16
  • Mark 10: 17-31

Many of us Christians can become entirely preoccupied with yesterday. We love the history and heritage and the Moravian Church.  And I am not saying that this isn’t important.  Our forefathers and mothers have taught us a lot, and they have gifted us with where we are today.  But when traditions and history are the only things we focus on, we miss the point.

Many of us Christians are in the faith game simply pondering the future.  We have our eyes fixed on heaven and our first-class ticket to eternity. And yes, heaven is good news!  But if that is all that we focus on, then we have missed the point.  As a child, I enjoyed watching the Flip Wilson Variety Show on TV.  Flip Wilson was an African American comedian, and his shows featured his stand-up comedy, musical guests, and a series of recurring characters that took the leading role in skits.  One such character was Pastor Leroy, the pastor of “The Church of What’s Happening Now.” That church name has always stuck with me.

In our Gospel lesson from Mark chapter 10, the rich young man that comes running to Jesus is stuck in the church of what happened yesterday and the church of eternity.  He is most definitely not part of the “Church of What’s Happening Now!”

Let’s take a look at this young man.  It is odd that any person of his rich status would be seen running to someone else, much less Jesus.  If anything, they would pay somebody else to run for them and ask Jesus to meet them on their ground.  But this young man runs and kneels before Jesus, perhaps a sign of some humility.

So, he runs to Jesus and kneels before him in the middle of the road and askes a sincere question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life? “He was a man of devotion to his faith.  He followed the law as he understood it. Jesus asks him to remember what the Bible said: 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.'” I have kept all of these since my youth, the young man responds.  This is confirmation that he is a man of great devotion. We can, without a doubt, conclude that he did not come to Jesus to ask a trick question.  He came with an honest question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

What we know so far is that this was a man of great humility, he had many possessions, and he was devout in his faith.  By our standards, we would have to say that he had it all. I’d say he’s got it. But he knows that something is missing, doesn’t he?  He realizes that his wealth has not made him happy, his status has not brought meaning, and his adherence to the rules of religion has not brought him spiritual fulfillment.

“What must I DO to receive eternal life?” What must I DO? It is a pretty telling word, this DO. What rule must I keep for God to be pleased with me?

Jesus says, you lack one thing, sell your many possessions, give the money to the poor, and come and follow me.  To me, that sounds like three things: sell, give, and then follow.  The most important thing is to follow.  The first thing, “sell,” is the stumbling block.  The second thing, “give,” is the charity.  And the last thing, “follow,” is the one most important thing.

The sad part then is that the man walked away grieved because he loved his worldly goods more than the deeper things of life. He could not get beyond his own stumbling block.

What is your stumbling block?
What is your charity?
How can you best follow?

There is a song by a great Christian recording artist named Brian Syrchio titled “87 Times.” And it notes that in the four Gospels, Jesus says “Follow me” 87 times.  The words of the chorus go like this:

Am I following Jesus, or just believing in Christ? 
‘Cause I can believe and not change a thing,
But following will change my whole life. 
He never said, come, acknowledge my existence 
Or believe in me, I’m the 2nd person of the Trinity.
But 87 times he said… Follow me.

Those are powerful words. Challenging words, if we are among those who do “believe” but don’t follow the life and witness of Jesus to deeply care for those at the margins of our society.  To change the structures of oppression that keep those marginalized persons in those positions.

Let me challenge you to celebrate our remarkable Moravian history and heritage.  Let me encourage you to rejoice in the heavenly reward that is ours through the grace of Jesus Christ. But let me implore you to follow Jesus and become part of the “Church of What’s Happening Now!”

What is your stumbling block?
What is your charity?
How can you best follow?