“Your choice! Take it or leave it”                                 14 October 2012

Don’t tell my wife this but I kind of like some of those shows on HGTV. Shows like House Hunters, Property Virgins, Peal Estate Brothers, etc. They are basically all the same idea: get people to say what kind of a place they want, then come up with three choices that force them to make some compromise, and they film them as they squirm to make a choice between the places, none of which have everything they want.

People love to watch other people squirm, especially from the safety of their own living room, when their own money and life is not on the line.

Life is about choices. Today’s lessons are all about choices: God’s choices and ours. House Hunters- they have to make a choice. Which will it be? Take it or leave it!

I am a terrible bargainer! Carolyn is much better. We think Miriam is the best in the family! I buckle under the pressure because I have no idea what something is worth. I should just decide what it is worth to me and be at peace with that- then I would be willing to pay it. But what if the person wanted less than I paid? I would be an idiot! I would have wasted all that money!

When I know what I will pay, I have no problem! I will never pay $100 for a hockey stick but if I see a $100 stick for $50 I will buy it.

A person needs to know the value of a thing before entering the world of negotiation. Today’s gospel story is about a young man who knew the value of some things but not of the most important thing.

Let’s put this into a modern day setting/scenario:

Imagine a child being baptised today 25 years from now. m(I won’t say its Hannah because that might get her parents sniffling and getting nostalgic)!

25 years from now Baby Jane Doe has become a very wealthy, successful, sought after woman of business. She is a lovely person- kind, generous and thoughtful. But in order to get where she is she has had to make a permanent move to Singapore.

She loves her parents but feels badly that she is so far away from them.

So she calls up Mom & Dad and says: What can I do to be a better daughter?

You are a wonderful daughter!

But I want to be a better daughter!

Well, you know the things we have taught you- to be kind and generous and think of others, believe in God and trust in Him. Be that person in Singapore.

Well I’ve always done those things but I still feel so far from you. It’s not enough to take away this feeling of distance from you.

Well honey, we are fine here but we can’t move to live with you. We know you are a wonderful daughter and we love you very much. We know you love us but you do live in Singapore and we live in St. John’s! So the only way you are going to overcome that feeling of distance is if you move back here- if that feeling is so strong in you.

But Jane Doe just feels worse because she loves living in Singapore with all of the good things that are there.

Jane doesn’t have to move from Singapore to be a loving daughter. But she does have to move from Singapore if living in Singapore is making her feel too far from her parents and her relationship with her parents is the most important one for her.

We don’t have to give everything up to follow Jesus but we have to hold everything loosely, so that if we are asked to give it up we can.

We don’t want anything to come between us and Jesus- not our possessions, our health, our family, our reputation- nothing. What purpose does it serve if we gain the whole world which will end for us at our death) and loose our own eternal soul? asks Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t say “all rich people have to sell everything they have and follow Me”. Many rich people may be able to follow Jesus without their money getting in the way, but some can’t. They like their money too much and depend too much on having money for their sense of identity.

Jesus says: You will find your identity in me. Not in anything else. If you need anything other than Me to know who you are, how much God loves you and how you can live close to God’s heart, then you will need to give that thing up.

Our identity is given to us in the person of our Saviour Jesus Christ. We can know who we are as the children of God, and what our relationship to our Father is, through our Big Brother, our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ.

When we have Jesus we have God. We do not know what happens to those who do not have Jesus but we do know He came and died for all people. Our job is to get the word out so that all can find their true identity inn Him as well- and know they are not estranged from God. They do not need to try to find a way to eternal life. That too is a gift from God in Jesus Christ.

In baptism our true identity as the sons and daughters of God is revealed to us- it is given to us as a gift. We do not want Hannah to ever live without being aware of that truth!

We don’t reward Hannah for good church attendance or fat church envelopes from her parents every week. We don’t pay her off with baptism. Baptism is a gift given to anyone who wants it. God gives us eternal life in Jesus Christ and, in return, as a sign that we have received it, we promise to walk with Jesus in life-long servant-hood- not in order to gain eternal life, but in order to use the eternal life and union with God that we have already been given.

Steve bell said on Friday night that a musician needs an audience to make a concert happen. We need to receive and use the gift God has given us, for eternal life to happen.

The letter to the Hebrews puts it another way: because we have a great High Priest we are free to live our lives as a free offering back to God, living our lives like a performance for an audience of One- for Jesus, the only one that matters.

We have a great high priest to represent us to God, a simple human being named Jesus, who lived in the same kind of power-hungry, money driven, achievement-oriented, complacently religious, me-first world. But this Jesus was sinless: he never turned away from God; he obeyed God’s will even though constantly tempted to win the world for himself. So with Christ as our high priest, let us approach God with confidence, that we may receive mercy and grace.

The rich young man that Jesus loved already had what he was looking for. He just couldn’t see it because he thought he needed his money to be lovable. But Jesus loved him despite his money.

He asked the wrong question: not “what must I do to inherit eternal life” but “what must I do to use the eternal life I have been given”.

What’s the price of ‘eternal life”? Total self-giving to obeying the will of God as exemplified by the suffering messiah, Jesus Christ. But isn’t that impossible for anyone to do? Right! You cannot save yourself, any more than you can create yourself, but with God all things are possible. Simply respond to Jesus’ call to follow him, along with the way of permanent servant-hood, and you may discover that eternal life is God’s gift in Christ.

We are all ordained into permanent servant-hood in our baptisms- “to follow Christ as his soldier and servant until our lives end”, as the old BCP baptismal service put it….BAS.

Baptism is all about eternal life invading time.

Shortly Peter is going to gather with Hannah and her family at the water fount of baptism. It is the sacrament symbol of the river we will all, one day, gather at. Not the river Jordan but the river of eternal life that flows from the heart of God and gives all creation life, and His children, eternal life, as a free, unmerited gift- just because God is who He is, the community of love that welcomes all who want to be members.

Shall we gather at the river, where bright angel feet have trod, with its crystal tide forever flowing by the throne of God?

Shall we gather at the fount of baptismal life and welcome Hannah, and re-affirm our promise to live out the baptismal life, giving up our false identities and following Christ in permanent servant-hood?

And then shall we gather at the table of grace, to be nourished with food that will maintain us on our journey in body and soul unto eternal life?

Sounds like a good idea to me!

So… let us gather at the river, the beautiful font and the beautiful table; gather with the saints at the river, and walk with them until we come home to the source of all grace and life that flows by the throne of God. 
UNTO him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.