Gospel: Mark 10:17-31
1st Reading: Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Psalm 90:12-17 2nd Reading: Hebrews 4:12-16
Okay, Fabian, today is your day. It was so fun to hear you ask your mom a couple of weeks ago, “When do I get to be baptized?” and when you heard her answer, you said, “I wish it could be today!” All that eagerness and excitement—I love it. It is fun to hear how you were progressing at reading through the little book the church gave you about baptism with your mom. If we didn’t have to make sure the family and friends got here to celebrate with you, I would have run for that font with you and splashed you good with that water of life several weeks ago. It reminds me of a story in the book of Acts, in the Bible, where the man on the road asks Paul to baptize him saying, “Here is some water. What is to prevent me from being baptized?” It is a beautiful thing to be eager to celebrate. No wonder you could barely wait, because you’re starting to understand that today is the day God says to you, “Fabian, you are in my family. You always have been and you always will be.”
Fabian, today you are celebrating that you are God’s child. Today in the Gospel reading, a man comes to Jesus and he wants to know what he has to do to become God’s child just like you are. Jesus says to follow him. The man can’t do it. But Jesus says, anything is possible with God. That man is already God’s child, just like all of us, baptized or not. Jesus is trying to show him how to have a better life and how to make life better for people around him. He has come to Jesus because something is missing in his life. Maybe someone close to him died and he doesn’t understand why. Maybe he got a good education and found a job, but he just didn’t find any joy in his life. Maybe he bought a big house and filled it up with all kinds of nice things. Something isn’t working right, so he comes to Jesus, hoping that he might have some answers.
Jesus says following the commandments might help. That is a good first assignment for any of us. That is a good place to start. The commandments are good because they are a set of rules to work toward. If we follow them, they make a better life for us and for those around us. This man knows the commandments already, and has done a pretty good job at following them. He’s checked that box already and it didn’t give him the good feeling that he hoped. It didn’t answer his deepest longing. Now, he wants more. He’s at the advanced level and wants Jesus to give him some prayer, some homework, some list of things to do so that he will find fulfillment or joy or so he won’t feel that emptiness in his life anymore.
Now, Fabian, I know you are pretty good at following the commandments already, but it will get more complicated as you get older. Some look pretty easy, like not stealing. But others are harder, like putting God at the center of your life, which is the first commandment: There is only one God and you shouldn’t have any other gods. It sounds easy because there aren’t any of us praying to Zeus or anything. But we do sometimes put other things before God, like money, and DES games, and impressing our friends. This goes with another commandment that is hard to follow which is about coveting. We’re not supposed to sit around wishing we had the cool stuff that other people have. So now you might want the DES game, and in Jesus’ time it was a cow, but later for you it will be the house, the car, the babe, the clothes that make you cool, the way of smooth talking. Jesus says we don’t need any of that stuff. In fact, all the cool stuff we have can get in the way of having a satisfying life. It can get in the way of us being happy. So if you’ve already kept most of the commandments and have been doing pretty well for your life, but feel something is still missing, Jesus would say to start getting rid of some of your stuff and give it to the poor and see if that helps.
Helping other people often does start to help. It doesn’t make Jesus love us more when we help others. Jesus already loves us as much as possible. It’s like the “Mama do you love me” book that Sterling has and maybe you had it, too, when you were a baby. The mama answers “More than the dog loves his tail, more than the whale loves his spout.” That’s a lot! The child asks, “Even if I put salmon in your parka?” Yes, Jesus loves you, Fabian, and loved this man in the Gospel story. Nothing you do or this guy could do would make him love you more or less. You are God’s precious child forever and for always. And like a good mother Jesus recommends some things to make life better for us and our brothers and sisters and sometimes we follow them and sometimes we don’t. Jesus’ love gives us a chance to try again when we don’t follow them and try to make a better life for us and for other people.
When the man in the Bible asks Jesus what else he can do besides follow the commandments, Jesus tells him to get more empty. Getting rid of the stuff in our life that gets in the way of our relationship with God is one of the ways to make a better life for yourself and other people. Sometimes you might look at someone who has a DS game that you want and wonder what they did right and what you did wrong that you don’t have something like that. But Jesus reminds us, when he walked the earth, he didn’t have anything at all—no house, no car, no horse, no pillow, no friends who would stick up for him, no girlfriend, nothing. Jesus reminds us that the stuff we have doesn’t make us who we are. Even if we have nothing, God loves us. Sometimes we gather stuff around us so that people will like us. We like to impress them with all the cool stuff we have. But God isn’t impressed by all that. God made all the beauty that we see around us. We can’t give him something that he doesn’t already have. He’s impossible to impress with things. What he wants is to see us taking good care of each other. He wants to see us playing well with others. He wants to see us stopping to help someone on the playground that all the other kids make fun of. He wants to see us putting aside all our things and putting him and his love first and showing that love to people we meet.
On your baptism day, Fabian, God is saying, “You are important to me, Fabian.” We get a lifetime to tell what is important to us. Sometimes it will be our things. Sometimes it will be impressing others. Sometimes we will hurt others around us trying to show off. Sometimes we will hurt ourselves showing off and showing that we are the most important person to ourselves. God says there is a better way that will make life better. God doesn’t put his own needs and concerns at the center. He doesn’t always want to be the center of attention. Instead he put the poor and needy at the center of his attention and he asks us to do that, too. In fact, he sent his son Jesus to be poor and needy, to know how we feel when we don’t have any stuff to make us look good, to give away everything, even his own life, to show us how much he loves us and how he puts us at the center. He knows that stuff we have won’t make life better even though we think it will. He knows that spending time with the people and showing God’s love to those who need it most will make this world better. By our lives, we can show what is important to us. If it is things, anybody can have that. But God is offering us something more, and that is love. He doesn’t promise that love is easy. When you love, you can get hurt, but God found it worth the risk to love us and says it is worth the risk to love each other. It is a good investment to put our time and our love into other people, because that’s what is going to make a better life.
A couple of images came to mind as I was reading the scriptures for today. When I read the bible passage from Hebrews, it talks about how we are all naked before God. He doesn’t judge us by our clothes. He sees what we’re like without our stuff. He knows what is in our hearts. I thought about what makes people feel most exposed and afraid, and it is often public speaking. That’s when they feel most naked, like people can see inside them. I thought of us all in a school play, playing our parts in life. God will love us even if we forget our lines, or don’t get our costume on straight. God is like a proud parent at our school play. We take a risk and go out on stage and try to make God proud. The thing God wouldn’t like to see, is if we were a bad sport and we started to try to get other people to mess up their lines or we tried to trip them. Even if everyone else was doing it, we shouldn’t do that. That is kind of like life. There are people out there trying to trip others up and make them mess up their lines, but that’s not how God’s people do things. We should try to help people that other people pick on.
When I read the Gospel story, I thought of a Christmas tree. Do you know what it is to “flock” a tree? It is when you put the white powder on the tree so it looks like your Christmas tree has snow on it. I thought of us as a tree. Sometimes we put so much stuff on it that you can’t see the tree under all those lights and ornaments and flocking. The tree is the beauty that God made. We have so much stuff, sometimes you can’t even see the beauty of what God made underneath all that. Jesus says let that beauty show. You don’t need any special ornaments or lights. All you need is to be the very special one that God made you and to remind others that God made them and loves them by treating them with love and the world will be better.