|Rev. Dr. Thomas Clough, Interim Eastern Regional Minister|
This week's author is the Rev. Dr. Thomas Clough, Interim Eastern Regional Minister for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
Jesus, looking at the man, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
This Bible story is dangerously familiar. With stories like this we often conveniently forget the challenging parts and fill in the mysteries with story elements from elsewhere that help it to make "sense." In this election season, we seem to be surrounded with dangerously familiar Bible quotes, like "God helps those who help themselves" (from the book of the prophet Benjamin Franklin).
So, let us listen carefully this week to Mark's version of "The Rich Young Ruler" (which in Mark says nothing of his age or political status). In Mark's story the rich man asks Jesus, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus responds with six of the Ten Commandments, and later the commandment to sell what he owns and give the money to the poor.
At this point, I like to make sense of the story by making it into a story of refusal. The rich man refuses Jesus' outrageous demand, and slouches off into history as the first to reject Jesus' invitation to discipleship. But Mark actually told a different story, a more open-ended one: "He went away grieving, for he had many possessions." Mark left room for the possibility that he was going away so that he might sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and then come and follow Jesus.
I find this possibility fascinating, because it sounds so much like the churches I find here in Connecticut, especially the grieving part.
This rich man has been blessed with the experience of meeting God face to face, and has discovered, not the God he expected, the "God who helps those who help themselves," but instead the "God who helps those who help others," the God of the Hebrew Scriptures. This revelation brings him clarity of purpose, but it also brings the grief of tremendous loss. Not only does he grieve the loss of his pretty things, but even more the loss of his sure and certain understanding of what a truly religious life looked like.
This is what it is like to be the church today. Whether we are talking of rummage sales or a place of honor protected by blue laws, we find ourselves compelled to give up beloved but no longer appropriate ways of being religious. This giving up seems to be impossibly hard and grievous work, and many of us find ourselves in shock as we struggle to discern the way ahead.
This is why we need more than ever to be a church united. We need to work together to move through this time of loss and grief, as we share with one another the sure and certain hope that we find in Mark's conclusion to this story, that "with God all things are possible." The salad days of conspicuous consumption in the name of religion may have left us way too soon in the minds of many of us who enjoyed them immensely. But together let us be energized by the hope that these changes, painful though they may indeed be, are just part of a now more clearly understood redirection of our journey to a better place and a more eternal life.
God of the changing seasons, bless us with your Spirit that will enable us to let go of the past gratefully as we embrace the present hopefully. We ask this in the name of your Son, who calls us to follow the way to eternal life. Amen.
the Conference Minister Search Committee as they consider candidates.
the friends and family of Tyler Giuliano and the entire community of New Fairfield in shock and mourning his tragic death on September 27;
the Rev. Stephen Camp, senior pastor of Faith Congregational Church UCC in Hartford, who is recovering from severe injuries suffered in a fall;
the Rev. Carl F. Schultz, Jr., pastor emeritus of First Church of Christ Congregational UCC in Glastonbury, doing well recovering from a broken hip;
the Rev. Dr. Barry Cass, the staff, members, and friends of the Somers Congregational United Church of Christ, which lost its 170-year-old meetinghouse to a devastating fire the night of January 1-2;
the Rev. Alison Buttrick-Patton, the lay leadership, staff, members, friends, and community of the Saugatuck Congregational Church UCC, which suffered severe damage from a substantial fire on the night of November 20;
the Conference's partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery and their communities on the Korean peninsula;
the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism;
those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, seeking employment, or working to find just resolutions; and
those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
To be added to the prayer list, please send an email to Rev. Eric Anderson at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
La Nueva Cosecha de Dios
P The Rev. F. Jose Santiago
Warburton Community Cong. Church UCC
IN Pastor Robert L. Middleton, Jr.
First Church in Hartland, Cong'l
P The Rev. Kurt Satherlie
Harwinton Cong'l Church
P The Rev. John F. Wilmarth
Higganum Cong'l Church
P The Rev. Judith M. Cooke
To read previous editions of the Spirit Calendar, visit:
To learn more about or subscribe to the Spirit Calendar, visit:
Hear the Spirit Calendar! CTUCC ConferenceCast features a reading of the Spirit Calendar reflection (usually by the author) plus news and upcoming events each Thursday. Listen, download, view the video edition, and subscribe at:
The Spirit Calendar: October 08, 2012 by Rev. Dr. Thomas Clough, Interim Eastern Regional Minister