31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
March 1, 2020
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Inside each one of us is this inclination to make things overly complicated. The Christian season of Lent is one of those things we have tended to make overly complicated. Give up this. Don’t eat that. Don’t eat at all.
Over the centuries, the Church has made the season of Lent a little complicated. Lent is actually quite simple. It’s a season of preparation for Easter so our hearts can fully hear the good news of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, so our hearts can fully receive God’s love.
Throughout Lent, we are going to be looking at Jesus, learning about Jesus, letting his amazing, unconditional love reach into every corner of our lives and transform us, heal us, free us.
We begin by looking at Jesus in this morning’s passage from the gospel of Mark.
Jesus is about to head out on a journey. You know how that feels. You are all packed up – physically, mentally, emotionally ready to go – whether on a vacation or to the grocery store. You are a body in motion.
However, just as Jesus is setting out, a man stops him. A man runs up to him and kneels before him. And Jesus stops being a body in motion. Jesus stops and gives this man his full attention. His Full Attention. Jesus stops and gives us his full attention.
And the man asks, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17) Jesus answers him, “Keep God’s commandments. Keep God’s covenant.”
“But Teacher, I do this already. I have kept every commandment since my youth.”
And here is where we get to the heart of this interaction. The Message translation of verse 21 says “Jesus looked him hard in the eye and loved him” (Mark 10:21) Jesus looked at him and really saw him. Jesus saw into the very heart of him. And Jesus loved him, really loved him and invited the man to take a step into healing, a step into wholeness.
The disciples were totally bewildered by Jesus’ words because they believed, as was the prevailing wisdom of their time and ours, that wealth was a sign of God’s blessing. Why would Jesus encourage this man to give away his things, his blessings?!
What the disciples did not understand, what Jesus was trying to teach them was that sometimes, and clearly in the case of this man, sometimes our wealth and possessions are a barrier to a life-giving relationship with God. Sometimes, they make it hard to enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus looked at this man and loved him. Jesus looked into the very heart of this man and loved him. And out of love, out of a desire to heal him, free him, make him whole, Jesus invited the man to sell everything he owned, give the money to the poor, and join Jesus’ inner circle of disciples.
Jesus did not say this to judge or condemn the man. Jesus made the invitation out of love. As Lisa Humerick’s study Bible says, Jesus “offered to extricate [the man] from the clutching tentacles of sin that were strangling his life. [Jesus] offered to rescue [the man] from the wasteland of self-righteousness that was impoverishing him and to make is possible for him to receive God’s love and return it.” (pg 1155)
Jesus looked at the man, looked straight into the heart of him, and invited the man to make room in his heart and life for a relationship with God.
And that’s what Jesus does with each and every one of us. Jesus looks at us. Jesus truly sees us – sees our brokenness, sees our fears, sees the attachments that strangle and impoverish us, and loving us, Jesus invites us to let go of them and make more room in our hearts and lives for a relationship with God.
The invitation is not going to look the same for all of us. Maybe you are not overly attached to possessions and things, maybe you are very attached though to the comfort of food or alcohol, TV or social media, very attached to being thought perfect and upstanding (otherwise known as self-righteous). Maybe you are overly attached to your brokenness, hugging your hurts and nursing your grudges.
Jesus knows us. Jesus sees us. He sees our brokenness, our fears, the attachments that strangle and impoverish us, and while he does not say the exact same thing to everyone, he does the same thing. He invites us to let them go, to lay them down, and to make room for God’s love – a love that heals, a love that frees, a love that transforms.
As we journey through Lent, I invite you to know that Jesus sees you, well and truly sees you, with all of your gifts and with all of our flaws, and Jesus reaches out his hand in love and invites us to make room, to free ourselves, and fully embrace God’s unconditional love.