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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Focus: You Can Get There from Here

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?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 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.'"  He said to him, "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth." 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." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. 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!"  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! 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." They were greatly astounded and said to one another, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible." Peter began to say to him, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." 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, 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. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first." Mark 10:17-31

This gospel is a tough one. It’s a put-up or shut-up challenge from Jesus to get our priorities straight. And it’s also a prime example of the hazards of basing our faith solely on a literal reading of scripture.
The imagery of the camel and the eye of the needle is one of the Bible’s most familiar. It is recounted in Matthew, Mark and Luke. For the wealthy seeking heaven, the message seems clear: You can’t get there from here. This was a total reversal of the prevailing view of worldly prosperity. Riches were seen as a sign of God’s favor. Now Jesus is telling the people that wealth is not a blessing. In fact it is a tremendous obstacle to salvation.
And here’s where the fragility of literal interpretation comes in. While various translations agree on the concept of the eye of the needle, there is a likely alternative for the camel reference that might have been created by a 2nd Century typo. The Greek word kamilos for camel might really have been kamelos for rope. The concept of threading a needle with a rope seems to be more logical than threading it with a camel. And what is plainly impossible with a camel, is merely extremely unlikely, but still conceivable, with a rope. Another school of thought refers to the eye of the needle as the tiny secret entrance through the walls of an ancient city. Theoretically a camel could pass through such a hole in the wall, but it would require removing all its baggage and getting down on its knees to crawl or be dragged through. While this interpretation has been largely discredited, it colorfully illustrates the impediments of wealth and power.
But at the end of the day, these are all distinctions without a difference. Christ’s fundamental message is not subject to the minor vagaries of translation or literary allusion. Jesus states the case plainly: For people this is impossible, but for God all things are possible. We can’t buy our way into heaven. We can’t good-work our way into heaven. We can’t even pray our way into heaven. Our salvation is a gift from God. Rich or poor, we don’t earn it… but we must embrace it. We must accept Jesus as our risen Savior, not as a gauzy abstraction, but as a constant, palpable presence in our lives. Rich or poor, or somewhere in between, In Christ’s love we can, and we will, get there from here.

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