Tag Archives: Barbara Brown Taylor

Young and Rich

I am preparing to preach this Sunday on Jesus’ encounter with a rich man in Mark 10: 17-27. The man kneels at Jesus’ feet and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responds, “Keep the commandments.”

The man responds, “I have kept them all from my youth.”

Jesus responds with words of love, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.”

The man was shocked and went away grieving, because he had many possessions.

I think many of us are shocked by Jesus’ words as well. “You want me to do what? Sell everything?”

Barbara Taylor Brown in wrote in her book, The Preaching Life, about the two ways we mangle this story, “First by acting as if it were not about money, and second, by acting as if it were only about money.”

As far as Jesus is concerned, money is like nuclear power. It may be able to do a lot of good in the world, but only within strongly built and carefully regulated corridors. Most of us do not know how to handle it. We get contaminated by its power, and we contaminate others by wielding it carelessly ourselves – by wanting it too desperately or using it too manipulatively or believing in it too fiercely or defending it too cruelly.

But it is not a story that is only about money, because if it were we could all buy our way into heaven by cashing in our chips right now and you know that is not so. None of us earns eternal life, not matter what we do. We can keep the commandments until we are blue in the face; we can sign our paycheck over to Mother Teresa and rattle tin cups for our supper without earning a place at God’s banquet table. The kingdom of God is not for sale. The poor cannot buy it with their poverty any more than the rich can buy it with their riches. The kingdom of God is God’s consummate gift, to be given to whomever God pleases, for whatever reason please God. (The Preaching Life., p. 124)

Strong words for a great story. God’s grace is even greater than the world, and especially our love of riches.

Lord Jesus, set me free from the love of money and center my heart on you.

Baptism Fire

Teaching confirmation last week, I told our students that Jesus’ baptism by John was not a sign of repentance of sin, but an ordination into ministry. Baptism is a multifaceted experience for Christians that needs to be lifted up in various ways for us to see the beauty and wonder of this gift from God.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes this about baptism connecting all God’s people together, both ordained and laity.

What we have in common is our baptism, that turning point in each of our lives when we were received into the household of God and charged to confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share in his eternal priesthood. That last phrase is crucial. Our baptism are our ordinations, the moments at which we are set apart as God’s people to share Christ’s ministry, whether or not we wear clerical collars around our necks. The instant we rise dripping from the waters of baptism and the sign of the cross is made upon our foreheads, we are marked as Christ’s own forever. (The Preaching Life, p. 30)

Our baptism is our call into ministry. We all have a place to serve in God’s family and God’s world. Through baptism, the Holy Spirit is placed within us to be a burning ember of power and life.  To discover our place can be a challenge in the free-market society we have. There are so many options from which to choose. Yet God has given the Holy Spirit to guide, nudge, empower, coax and affirm our direction in life. The community of faith and our inner voices become crucial in the discovery process.

Luther Seminary has a process called the Dependable Strengths Articulation Process which helps congregations and individuals discover their calling for daily life.  Resurrection Lutheran will be using this process on Saturday morning to help people discover how they can use their baptism fire for God’s glory.

Holy Spirit, ignite us with a passion to serve Jesus and his people.

“Do I Have To Go?”

Barbara Brown Taylor wrote a helpful book on preaching that extends way beyond preaching. Here is a section that she wrote regarding where we go when we follow Jesus.

Affirming the ministry of every baptized Christians is not an idea that appeals to many lay people today. It sounds like more work, and most of them have all the work they can do. It sounds like more responsibility, while most of them are staggering under loads that are already too heavy. I will never forget the woman who listened to my speech on the ministry of the laity as God’s best hope for the world and said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be that important.”

Like many of those who sit beside her at church, she hears the invitation to ministry as an invitation to do more —to lead the every member canvas, or cook supper for the homeless, or teach vacation church school. Or she hears the invitation to ministry as an invitation to be more—to be more generous, more loving, more religious. No one has ever introduced to the idea that her ministry might involve being just who she already is and doing what she already does, with one difference: namely that she understands herself to be God’s person in and for the world. (The Preaching Life, p.27-28)

I totally agree with Barbara that our ministry is our daily activities and relationships, but lived with the identity of being a child of God. God has placed each of us in our unique settings to be God’s agent, God’s hands, feet, heart and voice in God’s world. We don’t need to travel to a distant land to do “mission” work, we do “mission” work in our homes, offices, schools, and community as we interact with others. A “mission” trip may help us to see the needs of God’s world and to discover our dependable strengths and gifts to meet those needs. It may strengthen our relationship with God and others, but mission can happen wherever we are.

Lord Jesus, let me rediscover my mission in you today.