THE FIRST AND THE LAST

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Opening Prayer

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service:  Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.  (BCP 235)

TEXT

Matthew 19:13-30 The Message

One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them.  The disciples shooed them off.  But Jesus intervened:  “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me.  God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.”  After laying hands on them, he left.

Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

Jesus said, “Why do you question me about what’s good?  God is the One who is good.  If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you.”

The man asked, “What in particular?”

Jesus said, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.”

The young man said, “I’ve done all that.  What’s left?”

“If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor.  All your wealth will then be in heaven.  Then come follow me.”

That was the last thing the young man expected to hear.  And so, crestfallen, he walked away.  He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.

As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom?  Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.”

The disciples were staggered.  “Then who has any chance at all?”

Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself.  Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”

Then Peter chimed in, “We left everything and followed you.  What do we get out of it?”

Jesus replied, “Yes, you have followed me.  In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule, starting with the twelve tribes of Israel.  And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, fields—whatever—because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life. This is the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.

READ

God’s kingdom is made up of the children, Jesus says.  But then comes the ruler, his heart corrupted by greed and avarice.  Love of God and others cannot exist in a heart bent on selfish gain and egocentric ambitions.  The worldly values of power-positioning and acquisition are not part of the kingdom; indeed, they corrupt and destroy the inner workings of love and friendship.

-Brian Rhea

Nature, from the beginning, impressed in the human heart a desire for friendship and charity, a desire which an inner sense of love soon increased with a taste of sweetness.  But after the Fall of the first humans, when charity cooled, selfish lusts made secret inroads and caused the common good to be subsumed by the private.  These lusts corrupted the splendors of friendship and charity through avarice and envy; and, with the corruption of human morals, they introduced contentions, strife, hates and suspicions.

-Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167)
Spiritual Friendship 1.58

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