Sunday Lenten Conversations: Three
Tissot, James, 1836-1902. Bad Rich Man in Hell, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Reading: Matthew 19:16-22, The Voice
Then a young man came up to Jesus.
Young Man: Teacher, what good deed can I do to assure myself eternal life?
Jesus: Strange that you should ask Me what is good. There is only One who is good. If you want to participate in His divine life, obey the Commandments.
Young Man: Which Commandments in particular?
Jesus: Well, to begin with, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Young Man: I’ve kept those Commandments faithfully. What else do I need to do?
Jesus: If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give all your money to the poor; then you will have treasure in heaven. And then come, follow Me.
The young man went away sad because he was very wealthy indeed.
Excerpts from The Way, Unspoken Sermons II, by George MacDonald
(Questions for Conversation added)
Introduction: How do you respond to this phrase: “Obedience is the opener of eyes”?
(The young man) wanted eternal life: to love God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, is to know God, and to know him is eternal life; that is the end of the whole saving matter; it is no human beginning, it is the grand end and eternal beginning of all things; but the youth was not capable of it. To begin with that would be as sensible as to say to one asking how to reach the top of some mountain, 'Just set your foot on that shining snow-clad peak, high there in the blue, and you will at once be where you wish to go.'
What father is not pleased with the first tottering attempt of his little one to walk? What father would be satisfied with anything but the manly step of the full-grown son?
Questions: What does your heart long for most? How might what you wish for be both a help and a hindrance to following Jesus?
Much, much more would be necessary before perfection was reached, but certainly the next step, to sell and follow, would have been the step into life: had he taken it, in the very act would have been born in him that whose essence and vitality is eternal life, needing but process to develop it into the glorious consciousness of oneness with The Life.
From this false way of thinking, and all the folly and unreality that accompany it, the Lord would deliver the young man. As the thing was, he was a slave; for a man is in bondage to whatever he cannot part with that is less than himself.
Questions: What things, even good things, are in danger of enslaving us? How might we open our lives to deliverance in Jesus?
Many, alas! have looked upon his face, yet have never seen him, and have turned back; some have kept company with him for years, and denied him; but their weakness is not the measure of the patience or the resources of God.
It is God himself come to meet the climbing youth, to take him by the hand, and lead him up his own stair, the only stair by which ascent can be made. He shows him the first step of it through the mist. His feet are heavy; they have golden shoes. To go up that stair he must throw aside his shoes. He must walk bare-footed into life eternal.
Questions: What might be the next step in your life that God would lead you? What might you have to leave behind to take such a step?