To understand what happened during sermon time at Cassidy this Sunday, particularly in the 11 a.m. service, I’ll first refer you to our Scripture, Mark 10:17-31. Here we find the story of a rich man who came to Jesus. (When we incorporate additional details found in Matthew and Luke about the man, we sometimes call this the story of “The Rich Young Ruler.”)
I’ll not exegete the story in full as I did Sunday. Suffice it to say that Jesus peered into this righteous man’s heart, loved him, and invited him to become a disciple, asking him to join what would become the most powerful movement in history. After all, the rich man came seeking eternal life. Jesus said the man lacked just “one thing” to be ready for such a role: He needed to relinquish his wealth and possessions, which clearly had a hold on him.
Had the man said yes, we likely would know his name today. I suspect we would tell stories of a well-known saint who surrendered vast wealth to follow Jesus. Judging from the details about him in Matthew and Luke—we can guess he was educated, which in his day would mean he was theologically astute—he might even have filled the role to which Paul was later called in an untimely, post-resurrection manner.
Instead, we hear these words in verse 22, which some describe as the saddest verse in the Bible: “When [the man] heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”
He didn’t leave angry. He didn’t say he had been insulted. What makes this story so sad is that the rich man grieved, meaning he recognized the opportunity before him but was unable to let go of what bound him.
It is a story of choices, the kind of choices that change a person and even the world. I’m reminded of Paul Nixon’s book “I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church,” where he lays out the six critical choices vital churches make. They are communal choices, but they are also individual choices. In fact, I am convinced all these choices were before the rich man as he decided whether to follow Jesus.
I asked the worshipers present to help me imagine what our church would look like if we made these choices. Rather than detailing what was said Sunday, I invite you to consider these questions: What does it mean if I make these choices for myself? And what do we look like if my church makes these choices?
Nixon writes that vital churches choose:
- Life over death
- Community over isolation
- Fun over drudgery
- Bold over mild
- Frontier over fortress
- Now rather than later
Let me know what you think.