Sunday 10 October 2021. Sermon byRevd Sabelo Mthimkulu

Greetings in Jesus’ name on Sunday 10 October September 2021.

Services are this Sunday at 7.30am and 9.15am. Mask wearing, sanitising and social distancing are essential. Temperatures and tracing details of those attending will be taken.

The full Service Slides, including the hymns, notices and prayers for this Sunday, may be found on our website.

Here is a  video regarding vaccination (and the text of it), received from the Archbishop’s COVID advisory team.

Sermon by Revd Sabelo Mthimkhulu

Mark 10: 17-31

This morning is one of the special for St Pauls, today, Ruth, Lisakhanya, Megan, Boimamelo, Lunele, Ayabonga, Emihle, Munachiso and Zanempilo we will be baptised and welcomed into the “Body of Christ” Church.

What joy.  What a celebration.

But if we were to be honest with ourselves, we need to ask ourselves:

What kind of world are they entering? And what kind of church?

The world they enter is a world of sickness, the world of looting, the world politically connected at the expense of the poor. It is in many ways a frightening world – especially for women and girls.

The church too often is also a hostile place where, for example, a dodgy kind of theology has been used to frighten people, a Theology that blames the victims

If you don’t do one, two and three you will burn in the fires of hell.

If you don’t do one, two and three God will not bless you.

You are going through all these things because you lack faith.

But all of these terrors pale into insignificance in the face of what seems to be an unstoppable environmental crisis.

Climatically speaking, things are worse than we’ve ever imagined. The earth is moving rapidly towards a point, beyond which irreversible changes will occur – flooding of coastal areas, ever greater wildfires, severe famine, hotter temperatures and all of this likely by 2040.

Only fast and profound changes in our lives will make any difference.

It can feel overwhelming. Who am I to think I can change the world?

What will picking up one paper do, while there is much litter somewhere else?

It is tempting to turn away and allow it to be someone else’s problem (especially those I think have more influence than me).

But it becomes slightly harder if we look into the faces of these young ones who will be baptised this morning and say: It’s your problem, not mine.

Let your generation deal with it. I don’t know about you, but for me, thinking about these young ones forces me to take a step back and reflect.

What can I do to change things?

We are afraid of change. But change, giving up the way we live now, is the ONLY way to the continued life of our planet and our children.

One writer says that change is essential to an authentic spiritual life.

I would like to suggest: Change in our environmental practices is a spiritual discipline. It is essential to an authentic spiritual life in our time.

Ohh okay we hear you Sabelo, but how does this have anything to do with today’s readings?

In Today’s gospel reading, Mark presents to us a man who comes to Jesus seeking to inherit eternal life. He is convinced of his righteousness, for him, he is in right standing with God.

So, he tells Jesus that he has kept all the commandments since his youth (ALL 10).

Good, says Jesus. Now get up, sell your goods, give the money to the poor, then come, follow me.

But for all his wealth and self-assurance, he leaves the encounter with Jesus shocked and grieving. He can’t bring himself to follow Jesus’ way.

He just can’t give up to all his wealth.

The disciples are astonished.

If a person who is so wealthy so influential, someone who can buy whatever they want, someone so virtuous, and has kept all the commandments, can’t get in, then who can be saved.

Jesus tells them: With people it is impossible. With God all things are possible.

Often verse 27 is translated like this: For God all things are possible.

Maybe let’s try another way of reading it

The Greek word used here is para which means besides, or next to, or nearby.

In other words, with God, or next to God, or beside God, all things are possible.

Jesus isn’t saying: God can do anything. His audience wouldn’t have doubted that for a moment. That was obvious to them.

But what I think Jesus is saying here is “With all the wealth in the world, all the influence and all the good behaviour we can imagine, it is impossible to enter God’s kingdom. But alongside God, with God, next to God, the impossible becomes possible.”

My sisters and brothers in Christ, we are all a bit like the man who comes to Jesus looking for eternal life.

We want our planet to live on. We want our children to have an earth that is habitable.

But when we are told, we have to give up the way we live, we grumble, morn and turn back.

We walk away. We walk away because we simply don’t want to, or are too afraid to change.

Can you just imagine that rich man muttering to himself as he walks away: Even if I gave all I have to the poor, that wouldn’t still change their lives.

There are too many, it’s a drop in ocean. And if I give away my money who will pay my instalments?

We often make the same excuses: What difference can one person make?

Anyway, it’s not the way we live that’s the problem. It’s the way those rich people live, burning up our planet.

We walk away. With human ways, valuing more and more stuff, it is impossible.

We think we can’t live without all the stuff we have and still want; it is impossible.

But, alongside God, with God, next to the ways of God, the impossible becomes possible.

So, we can’t wait for God to sort it all out, like some kind of Father Christmas in the sky.

But With God, following a different way of life, all things are possible.

Just like the parents and Godparents of those who will be baptised will be asked:

Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy what God has created?

Do you renounce the sinful desires that draw you away from the love of God?

Can I ask every one of us think of our children our own godchildren? And think about promising to live differently, more simply, more sustainably, so that by 2040 our children, our godchildren can inherit an earth as beautiful as the one we inhabit. It is difficult. It will mean changing. But with God all things are possible; the impossible is possible.

Amen

During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account:   Account Name: St Paul’s Church      Account Number: 50854628623     Bank: First National Bank (FNB)     Branch Code: 221426