Thursday, October 11, 2018

Reflections for Youth - Making Room and Doing Hard Things

A few years we rescued on older black Labrador Retriever from our local animal shelter. His name was Django and we were told he came in as a stray and wasn't quickly adopted because of his age. Django was, at best guess, 8 or 9 when we got him.  Django loved play with toys and fetch balls but his all-time favorite activity was collecting and carrying around sticks he found in our yard. It was hilarious to watch him. He would carry around two or three sticks at a time. We would often watch him, already carrying a mouthful of sticks, find another one that he wanted to pick up. Most times he would try to get all the sticks in his mouth at once. But every so often he would drop what he already had and pick up the new one and start over.  This week's scripture passage kinda of reminded me of Django and his adventures in the yard.

The passage might be pretty familiar. It's contains the famous words from Jesus: "it's easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven."  You've heard that one before - right?

So, Mark's version goes like this:
Jesus and his disciples are walking along when a rich man approaches Jesus and asks what he need to do to have "eternal life."  They converse, and Jesus basically tells him that he needs to sell all his stuff and follow Jesus, and his teachings.

Read Mark 10: 17-31

This story from Jesus is a hard one for all of us living in today's world to reconcile. We live in a culture that encourages the "American Dream" - that if we work hard enough and believe in ourselves than we can have anything we want and we can do all the hard things. And here comes Jesus saying that we can't enter the Kingdom of God unless we give it all up, sell all our stuff, and follow him.  He tells us that we can't really do anything with out God's help. 

Thanks a lot Jesus - for clearing it all up for us. (Of course I am being snarky, as usual)

So, what does this passage have to do with my dog picking up sticks in the yard - I'll get there I swear:)

Maybe this passage isn't really about being rich and how rich people get into heaven. Maybe this message from Jesus is about simply making more room for God in our lives.  Having a lot of things, taking care of those things, and worrying about keeping things  - and thinking about
getting more things can take our focus from loving God and loving our neighbor.  It allows us keep our focus squarely on ourselves.  I think perhaps one of the things that Jesus could be trying to teach us with this story is that when we are holding on so tightly to things - our status, our power, our achievements - or whatever is it is we are hoarding in our hearts - then our hands and our hearts are too full to hold or grab anything else.  And that something could be what God is trying to show us or teach us.  Maybe Jesus is telling the rich man that he has to give away the things that he thinks he needs so that he has room to receive the things from God that he really needs.

So here's the dog part: Maybe the scripture is about us being willing to let go of our mouthful of collected sticks so we can make room for a new, tastier one.

What things can you let go of this week to make more room for God?

I am also thinking this passage is about teaching us that we can do hard things. The scripture says that the man walks away from Jesus and is sad.  I wonder if the man was sad because he knew he couldn’t sell his stuff and wouldn't be "entering the Kingdom of Heaven" -  or if he was sad because he knew he had to sell all his things and knew how hard that would be. 

What do you think?

Jesus at the end of the passage tells the disciples that for God, all things are possible and God loves us no matter what. Sometimes we have to do things that are really hard, but with God's love and comfort we can do those hard things.  That's something that Jesus is pretty clear about. 

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