Mark 10:17-31            February 14, 2016      Lent 1

The question is this:  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And so I pose this same question to you, River of Hope. What must you do to inherit eternal life? What would your to-do list look like? Maybe a few of these…


  • you gotta be baptized
  • take communion, but only when you understand it properly
  • ya gotta attend church regularly
  • you have to pray the right way
  • you have to read scripture
  • you have to believe the right things and say them the right way

And above everything else:

  • ya gotta be good

The man that approaches Jesus today was well versed in scripture. He knew the commandments. And Jesus looked at him with love and told him what he lacked. And here’s the rub: his lack was having too much — of the wrong thing. It’s as if Jesus said to him, “you love God, but you love your stuff more.” The rich man knew what those scriptures were calling him to do. And he walked away, grieving.

This is the first Sunday in Lent after the season kicked off on Ash Wednesday. Wednesday was a day our foreheads were marked with ashes, a visible sign of grief. Because despite our best efforts, despite that everything’s fine and we’re all good: we are fleshy, imperfect, broken, dying, mortal bodies. In the midst of life, we are in death.

And that’s the Good News. Do you believe me? Because this is how Jesus works: in our death. And we are not left there.

Today, we gather around the baptismal fount with Camdyn Elizabeth Thode and we witness her death in Christ. That’s what that water is all about folks: God’s promise of new life through Christ.  And in order for there to be new life, there first has to be death. And then, in just the spot where the ashes go on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday, I mark the sign of the cross on her forehead and anoint her as claimed by Christ. Ashes and water and oil. Death and new life, all mixed up together. All dependent upon each other.

So what do you have to do? In the wise words of Betsy Hanson, a 4-year old who was on the floor at her parent’s feet a few weeks back during the children’s sermon. And although she did not come up here to participate in the children’s sermon, as Sara Shorter asked the kids, “What do you have to do to make God love you?” it was Betsy’s “nuthin’” that rang out through our worship space. A clarion call of the Good News. A one-word sermon. Nothin’.

Or, as Jesus said to his disciples after his encounter with the rich man, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”  You flesh and bone that Jesus loves? You can’t save yourselves. Only God can do it. Only God is good. It’s where the rubber meets the road and grace happens.

The question? “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

This time as I pose that question to you, River of Hope – it is not a rhetorical question. Let’s borrow Betsy’s word and answer.

What must you do…? Nothin’.

Nothin’ indeed. “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”