Theme: Humanity’s futile search for God is answered by God’s opening a way for human beings to come to God boldly in Jesus Christ to find mercy and grace.
Spiritual searching stands at the center of this week’s texts. Job wants to find God so he, Job, can lay out his case before God. But God cannot be found (Job 23:8,9) The psalm asks that God’s favor be seen in the lives of those singing this psalm. Obviously then God’s favor has left and is being sought anew. The rich young ruler – although Mark only indicates the man was well-off, saying nothing about the man’s age or political status – has an honest question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” What must I do to be in relationship with God? He had found neither wealth nor obedience able to answer his hunger to be assured of relationship with God (eternal life). The spiritual searching described exemplifies the human condition: looking for God and not finding God; or not knowing what is required to enter into relationship with God.
And then things seem to get worse. Job finds God and is terrified by the experience (Job 23:16, 17) wishing he could vanish from God’s sight into the darkness. Hebrews notes hiding is impossible as everything will be laid bare before the One who holds everyone to account. And after listening to the dialogue between the well-to-do man and Jesus the disciples are left asking “Then who can be saved?” (Mark 10:26) This is worse than searching, for the search ends with the searcher facing the reality of condemnation, of alienation from the One being sought, of just how hopeless the search for a relationship with God is. (This is Barth’s “divine “NO”.”)
In the face of this condemnation and hopelessness, God speaks a “YES”. We hear it in Jesus’ words “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27) The alienation can be reversed, the condemnation can become acceptance, the hopelessness can become confidence, not in oneself, but rather in God. And the author Hebrews adds their words, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) God has, in Jesus Christ, answered God’s own “NO” with a powerful “YES”. Those who have been laid bare – whose actions and thoughts have been fully revealed – can step forward with bold confidence for they need not worry about the shame and guilt for in their place they have received have received mercy and grace. The God who was sought by human stratagems, by human endeavor, and not found; reveals God’s self on God’s timetable and through God’s action.
This is a message our world needs to hear. A message that invites people to confront the truth about themselves. A message that proclaims salvation comes from God alone. A message that affirms in Jesus we can come boldly to the throne of grace and find ourselves in whole relationship with God. Preaching such a sermon, the preacher givers their hearers a message and language to use in conversation with friends, neighbors and co-workers. In the process the preacher may find some their own congregation hearing the “divine “YES”.”
“’To be saved’ is to enter the kingdom. And entrance always comes as a gift. Salvation is always by God’s grace. By implication here, only God makes discipleship possible.” — Bonnie Bowman Thurston
“The man is called, however, not to poverty for its own sake, but to discipleship to Jesus (Mark 10:21, “come and follow me”). That is, the story is not just a criticism of wealth; it is also intended to teach that not even obedience to the OT Law and great social and economic standing will substitute for answering the call of Jesus. The question put to the man is whether he will follow Jesus if it means that he must give up his possessions. His possessions are a snare and hindrance, making it hard to “enter the Kingdom of God” (Mark 10:23) precisely because they distract him from answering Jesus’ invitation to follow.” — Larry Hurtado
“For the glory of God, when we contemplate it alone, can produce no other effect than to fill us with despair; so awful [full of awe] is his throne. The Apostle, then, that he might remedy our diffidence, and free outr minds from all fear and trembling, adorns it with “grace,” and gives is a name which can allure us by its sweetness.” — John Calvin
“Just as I am without one plea”
“All to Jesus I surrender”
“Approach, my soul, the mercy-seat”
“O that I knew the secret place” (John Newton)
note: This is not a well-known hymn, but it is worth a look for the lyrics. The meter is common measure so could easily be switched for a better known tune.
Lord, we look for you in the wrong places.
We put our trust in material things.
We worry about things we cannot change.
We wonder if you are even there at all.
For all the times we have doubted you, Lord, forgive us.
For all the ways we have neglected your word
and ignored your people, forgive us.
Do not be far from us, Lord.
There is no one else we can turn to for help.
Renew our fickle hearts and help us put our trust in you.
note: From re:Worship website
Words of Assurance:
There is no wrong that God cannot make right.
There is no chasm that can separate us from God’s love.
The Lord is patient and kind, generous and good.
God will not forsake you or leave you.
Turn to the Lord with confidence and put your faith in God’s great mercy.
By the power of Jesus Christ, we are made whole. Amen.
note From re:Worship website
Lord Jesus, we know and admit that sometimes we think things in this life are
very important, more important than You. Thank You for showing mercy to us and
continuing to give us Your salvation. Please help us remember You are most important in
our lives, and help us to always follow only You. We pray in Your name, Amen.
note: From Word of God Lutheran Church for the Deaf website
Lord Jesus, I thank You that because of what You have done, I have constant access to the Father wherever I am.
note From Scripture Union USA website