December 3, 2021

Who wants to be a Millionaire? 10-10-2021

WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? Gospel of Mark 10: 17-31 Homily by Geoff Serpell
Whether you like it or not most of us have reached that lofty pinnacle through the prices of real estate going through the roof. The home Jan and I live in is worthless for rate valuation, but the site has escalated from $1500 which I paid around 1958 to be valued at $1.1k today. The improvements, that is the house, workshop and doghouse will all be demolished on our demise, so they are valued at zero.
As a family during the second world war, we were quite poor. Whilst Dad was posted away in the RAAF, Mum, sister, and I lived behind a shop front in Surrey Hills where Mum taught violin to pupils to cover the cost of bread on our table each day.
Pocket money was scarce as a kid. On a few visits to grandma who lived in Sale, Gippsland, my sister and I would scout around the town paddocks collecting empty beer bottles, which recycled would earn us four pennies for every dozen. It was a thirsty town during and just after the War, so we earned enough to buy fishing tackle and ice blocks. Millionaires’ we kids were, well, for a few days anyway.
Gifted a beach house to live in at Sandringham by our grandparents, Mum and Dad got by, but the luxuries did not come easily and then only by inheritance when the Sale grandmother died.
So, at this stage I had better remind you just how privileged we then were and now are. As members of the first world, we have shelter and clothing and running water and medical care and superannuation and books and furniture and many other possessions, even an electric bike. You need no reminder that many people around the world have little or none of these things. I should urge you to think about how you could help other people share in this privilege. This would be a reasonable thing to do.
However, I am not a reasonable person, and we are not reasonable people. We are disciples of Jesus, a most unreasonable man, who views the world in topsy-turvy terms and tries to show us the world through his eyes. He did it again in today’s gospel reading, A man who owned many fields and other possessions came up to Jesus and asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus looked at him, & loved him, and said, “Go sell what you own, give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
When the man heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving. Maybe he went and sulked in his grand old house, called in the accountant, and checked through his rental books. Maybe he made himself a stiff coffee: the story does not say so. Instead, we are told that Jesus turned to his disciples and said:” How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God”.
Notice what Jesus did not say. He did not describe the wealthy landowner as privileged. He didn’t tell him to be grateful, and to find ways to share in this privilege. Instead, he told him to get rid of his wealth, because only then would he be free to follow Jesus. When Jesu said this, his disciples were perplexed. We all know how privileged the rich are, we are. We all know that we are blessed. How can it be difficult for us to enter the kingdom?
Maybe riches do prevent us from entering the kingdom, or the culture of God. We can forget just how interconnected and dependent we all are, Wealth insulates us from knowing our need of others and our need of God. Wealth gives us the illusion of control over our lives, and of our futures. It makes it hard to learn to trust in God’s provision. Wealth can make us blind to the needs of others and blunts our compassion.
As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, we realize that wearing a $3,000 or $30.00 watch, makes no difference as they both tell the same time. Whether we carry a $300 or $30.0 wallet or handbag, the amount of money inside is the same. Whether we drink a bottle of $300 or $10 wine, the hangover is the same. Whether the house we live in is 300 or 3000 sq metres, loneliness is the same. You will realize, your true inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world.
Whether you fly first, business or economy class, you all land at the same time. We need to educate our children to be happy, not rich. When they grow up, they will know the value of things, not the price. You are loved when you are born and loved when you die. In between, you must manage. The six best doctors in the world are: – Sunlight, rest, exercise, diet, self-confidence, and friends. So, maintain them in all stages of life and enjoy a healthy life.
We can be insulated from other’s needs, being complacent, comfortable, and secure. When approached it is easy to direct the needy to government or welfare or to lifelines. God demands that we feed the hungry, clothe the naked and love each other. This in real and material ways.
A friend from the Victorian Welsh choir sent me something I have treasured and now share with you. It is a story of a wealthy man and his son who loved to collect rare works of art. In the collection were included masters from all round the world.
Making a long story short, the son was called up for duty in Vietnam where he died saving the life of a fellow soldier. This soldier later knocked on the mate’s father’s door and handed him a picture he had painted of the wealthy man’s son. This picture of the deceased son was the pride and joy among the whole gallery of paintings, at the father’s home.
Later the father also died and later still a great auction of all the paintings was arranged. Influential people flocked to the auction and were firstly shown the portrait of the late son.
“Who will bid for the picture of the son?” the auctioneer asked. Deathly silence. “We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one”: said a voice from the back of the hall.
It was a long time before a voice came, being from the long-time gardener of the man and his son. $10 was the bid. No one else spoke. Sold for $10 called the auctioneer and then he closed down the auction.
Amid uproar, it was stated that whoever bought the painting of the son would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings.
“The gardener who took the son’s portrait gets everything!”
God gave His son over 2000 years ago to die on the cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is: ‘The Son, the Son, who’ll take the Son?” Because you see. Whoever takes the Son gets everything!
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, who so ever believeth, shall have eternal life. That is love.
I received a treasured email from a cousin now living in the USA who divorced her husband of some 40 years and is now married to a centenarian. This about the “Mayonnaise Jar”.
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee. A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. Class began in silence as he filled the mayonnaise jar with golf balls. The students agreed that the glass was full.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar and the pebbles rolled into the open spaces between the golf balls. Was the jar now full? Yes.
Now came a box of sand and it got poured into the jar. Was the jar now full? Yes. The professor then produced two cups of coffee and poured them into the jar. After the laughter died down the professor said: “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life”.
The golf balls are the important things including God, family, health, friends, and favourite passions. Things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car whilst the sand is everything else-the small stuff. If you put the sand in first, there is no room for the golf balls or the pebbles. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for things that matter most.
Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children, take time to get medical check-ups and take your partner out to dinner [when you are allowed]. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap.
Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set priorities because the rest is just sand.
One student asked what the coffee represented, and the professor replied: – “It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a cup of coffee with a friend”
In the words of Rev. J Barr from Blacktown, Sydney in “From Love to the World”, the rich rewards we are to inherit from God come in a commitment to faithful, sacrificial living in which the call to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and be the persons Jesus calls us to be, that is the number one priority.
May our prayer be: “Jesus, teacher, give me the humility, courage, and confidence to follow your teachings today and every day”.

Geoff Serpell, 10 October 2021.