Giving Up Stewardship (a sermon for Proper 23B)
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church (Keller, Texas)
The Rev. Alan D. Bentrup
October 10, 2021
This week my family went to the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame induction ceremony. We’re big football fans, and my folks went to Kansas State University. If you know about college football, you know about Coach Bill Snyer.
I won’t rehash the whole story, but K State had lost 30 games in a row when Coach Snyder was hired in 1989. The school had bad facilities, very little money, and basically no fan support.
And they hired Coach Snyder to fix it.
I recently watched a documentary about Coach Snyder’s first years at K State. Several of those first players were interviewed, and they talked about the recruiting process. They would come on campus, see the miserable conditions, and get disappointed.
In many cases, going to K State would mean practicing in worse facilities and playing in front of a smaller crowd.
To play at K State, they would have to give up everything and trust the guy asking for their commitment.
St. Mark writes in today’s Gospel reading, “Jesus, looking at him, 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.’”
This rich young ruler came to Jesus, and asked him what he had to do to inherit eternal life.
Jesus looked at this young man and saw a human of infinite worth and value, not based on the size of his pocketbook, but based on his being human…being made in the image of God.
And Jesus loved him…Jesus loved this young man from the top of his head to the bottom of his toes…Jesus loved him so entirely that he had to tell him the truth.
Jesus tells him the truth that his life, and the wealth and privilege it affords him, has him all tied up and is holding him back from experiencing the actual good, self-giving, abundant life that his heart desires.
And the only real solution is to cut himself free from all of it.
Free from a life determined by his earning power.
Free from defining success based on the world’s calculations.
Free from seeing other people as a means to an end.
Free from the isolation caused by not knowing and loving and learning from those living without privilege.
Free from the fear of scarcity that devours the soul.
You see, Jesus was not condemning the rich young man to a life of poverty or destitution. He was not asking the young man to become some sort of “beggar for Jesus.”
But, Jesus’ request is so radically contrary to how we have been formed by the world that it is easy to forget the very last thing that Jesus says to him.
After Jesus tells the rich young man to sell all of his possessions and give the money to the poor, he says “come follow me.” Come and be with me. Come and share bread with me.
Come and join me in telling everyone who will listen that God’s ways are greater than the world’s ways.
Now I’m not saying Coach Snyder is like Jesus…although my mom and dad may disagree. But it’s close…
Coach Snyder once gave an interview where he talked about how he recruited early on. It started with him telling recruits that he didn’t have fancy things to offer, but that he could offer himself. He would love these young men, and do everything he could to make these young men believe in themselves and hopefully win some football games along the way.
And the crazy thing is, it started to work.
At first a couple of folks bought in and went to Manhattan, Kansas. Success was slow at first, but folks saw that Coach Snyder was delivering on his promise. So more and more recruits started lining up for the chance to play for him.
One of my high school classmates was a terrific linebacker, and was recruited by all the big time college football powers. He was all district, all state, all everything.
Then one day he met Coach Snyder.
Instead of telling him how great and amazing he was, Coach Snyder told my classmate that he could become something even greater. He could be part of something even greater.
“I want you to give up being an all state football player,” Coach Snyder told him. “And I want you to become a K State football player.”
In our Gospel reading today Jesus is inviting this young man to give up those things that seem to control him. To give up those things that seem to give him worth.
Jesus is inviting the young man to give up relying on himself and instead become a disciple. To become part of something greater than he can imagine. To become part of something that will change the world.
And Jesus is asking us to do the same thing.
Jesus is asking us to rethink our relationship with money.
Jesus is asking us to reconsider how we spend our time and with whom we spend our time.
Jesus is asking us to reevaluate how we determine the value of our own and other’s lives.
Jesus is asking us to give up relying on ourselves and follow him.
So I lay that invitation before you today.
What sort of radical notion is Jesus whispering in your ear?
What sort of radical transformation is Jesus Christ after that might shape who we are, how we love, and, yes, how we give, in and through St. Martin’s.