In our Gospel reading today from Mark a man – a rich man – comes up to Jesus and asks him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus talks to him about the Ten Commandments. The rich dude affirms that he has kept the commandments all of his life. But Jesus is not impressed. So he tells rich dude “There is one thing you are still missing. Go and sell all that you have, give the money to the poor, and then you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me.”
Rich dude had everything he could have wanted or needed – at least in terms of what money can buy. BUT – he sensed deep in his soul that something was still missing. And that’s why he comes to Jesus and asks him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Something was missing.
Trouble is – he was not willing to make the one change that was needed to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
SO let me ask you. When it comes to whatever it is that is important to you in your life – what is the most important thing? What is it? I want to suggest to you today – no – I want to affirm for you today – that the most important thing for each one of us – is to learn what it means to be fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
But here’s the challenge. What is it – or what are the things – if there is anything at all – that is holding you back from wanting to be a fully devoted disciple of Jesus Christ? Now, it’s going to be different things for any one of us. For the man in our Gospel reading today – it was his wealth. His wealth was more important to him than being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Now listen! This is not an anti-wealth, anti-money story. But it is told to us so that we can think about whatever it is – if indeed there is something – and it just might be our own wealth, money, status, and position – but whatever it is – if there is something – what is it that is separating me and keeping me from being a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ?
In other words, what’s the most important thing? For rich dude it was his wealth. That was his barrier. And he wasn’t willing to make any changes. So what changes am I willing to make to become that Christ centered – Christ-like disciple – that Jesus is calling me to be?
Folks, this is so important. And again, this is why church matters. Where else are you going to hear someone challenge you to ask the right questions – to challenge you to examine your own life – and just think about where it is that you are when it comes to your faith in Christ Jesus?
Because I am of the opinion – it is one of my core beliefs – that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. As disciples of Jesus Christ – we never stop growing – never stop learning – never stop becoming all that God wants us to become.
Again – that’s why church matters. And because church matters, it is my firm belief that God’s vision for the church – for this congregation – is that we always keep our focus on just two things.
Number 1: Telling others the Good News message of Jesus Christ. And
Number 2: Making disciples – encouraging people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. And this last one is a process – a life-long process.
So the vision that God has for this church is that it will continue to be a growing church. And I’m not just talking about how many people show up every week. Well, yes, I am talking about that, but more importantly – I’m talking about what happens in the hearts and minds and lives of everyone who comes through our doors. A church can grow in numbers – and we are certainly doing that. Just look at the folks – the new disciples – who we are welcoming into membership today!
But if that’s all that’s happening – then the best we can say is that we are an inch deep and a mile wide. We grow as disciples when we take seriously those six marks of discipleship. They’re on the front page of your mission minutes. Take that out for a minute and let’s look at them again. And as you’re getting them out, let me say simply that these are not rules – this is not a new set of rules.
That’s good news. Because the last thing any of us needs is a new set of rules. Can I get an “Amen” on that?
So the marks of discipleship are not a new set of rules. These are simply what being a disciple looks like. 1. Read the Bible every day. 2. Worship every week. 3. Pray every day. 4. Serve others at Zion and beyond 5. Develop spiritual friendships. 6. Give of my time, talents, and financial resources.
If you are growing in these areas – then you are becoming the person God wants you to be. I don’t believe God wants us to be a mile wide and an inch deep. I believe God wants us to grow deeper in our understanding and in our practice of what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
So the vision for Zion Lutheran Church is to reach out to everyone who is willing to listen with the Good News message of Jesus Christ. And to make disciples of those who walk through our doors.
So how can you support that vision? Glad you asked. Next weekend is our Consecration Weekend. This is our once a year day or weekend when we consecrate ourselves to God and His church. And in a very specific way by declaring what our financial commitment to the work of the Lord at Zion Lutheran Church – what our support of God’s vision for this place will be in 2016.
Now if you are a guest with us today, I want you to know that this is something we ask only of those who are members at this church. And then just once a year.
For everyone else, this coming week, I want you to be thinking about how you and – if you are a part of a family – how you and your family are going to contribute to the work of the Lord here in this place. How is it that God is calling you to invest in what it is that God is doing here in this place?
I am simply offering you the opportunity. I’m not telling anyone how much I think they ought to give. I have never done that, and I will never do that. I am simply extending to you the invitation not only to benefit from what God is doing here in this place – but more than that – to take part in what God is doing here in this place with your financial tithes and offerings. And frankly? I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t invite you to do that.
And the wonderful thing is is that so many of you get this. You understand what giving is all about. You are generous – and because you are so generous – we don’t have money problems at this church. And that’s because so many of you get it. You understand what giving is all about.
So your church – this church – doesn’t need your money. That’s a strange thing for a preacher to say, I know. BUT here’s the thing. There IS a need. And that need is that you have a need. I have a need. We have a need – as disciples of Jesus Christ – we have a need to give. We have a need to invest in what it is that God is doing here in this place.
Just look around. Look at all the kids we have in worship – in Sunday School – in confirmation – in youth groups. We have a great staff to lead these ministries in Elaine and Kurt, and a great support staff in April and Karen. Great music ministries with great musicians. Look at the variety of worship opportunities we have each weekend.
Look at how the members of this church are cared for – and how all of you care for each other. Look at the outreach to the local community and internationally. These are the things that you do – that YOU do – when you invest in what God is doing here in this place.
So let me ask you how it is that you have benefited from being a part of God’s Kingdom here in this place. How have you grown? How have you changed? What does this place mean to you?
I just want you to know that your gifts do have an impact. Touching hearts. Changing lives. Making a difference. In the name of Jesus. So between now and next week I want you to think about – I want you to pray about – and I want you decide what your financial contribution to the work of the Lord will be in 2016. We’ll ask you to make that commitment next week on consecration weekend.
And remember to ask yourself, “What is the most important thing?” What is the most important thing in my life – and what am I willing to do in order to get there or to make that happen? What am I willing to do to invest in what God is doing in and through this place?
You think about that this week. Amen