[Given on the Sunday, October 11, 2015, by The Rev. Fr. Marcus Halley at Andrew’s Episcopal Church – Kansas City, Missouri]
When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Mark 10.22 (NRSV)
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and her Son, Jesus Christ our Risen Lord and Reigning Savior. Today I want to talk about grace, G-R-A-C-E, grace – God’s abundant love and favor toward us, unearned and undeserved.” Grace that forgives our sinfulness, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our resolve. I want to talk about grace this morning.
At its foundation, our Gospel reading this morning is an invitation to receive grace. When the young man finds Jesus and asks him “brother man, what must I do to inherit eternal life,” Jesus responds by reciting to him the ethical portion of the Ten Commandments – don’t murder, check. Don’t commit adultery, check. Don’t steal, check. Don’t lie, check. Don’t defraud, check. Honor your parents, check, check, check. “In fact, teacher, I’ve checked all the right boxes ever since I was a child. What more must I do?”
“One thing is missing,” Jesus says, “sell everything you have and give the money away.” Scripture tells that at this admonition the man was “shocked” and “went away grieving for he had many possessions.” Conventional wisdom may suggest that wealth and the Kingdom of God don’t mix, and that you may have to give up one to attain the other, that money in-and-of-itself is a spiritual evil.
It is not money that is the root of all evil, but the love of money that is the root of all evil. It is not a choice between wealth and God, but the choice between the god of wealth (Mammon) and the one-true-and-living God who dances on pharaohs, who is enthroned between the cherubim and who said “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, [the one who heard you, the one who delivered you, who watched over you, who paved a road through the Red Sea, and set a table of plenty in the wilderness] you shall have no other gods before me.” Just like the Children of Israel throughout the Hebrew Scriptures we too are given a choice – true worship or idol worship. And it all depends on where you heart is in the process. The young man went away grieving not because he was rich, but because participation in the Reign of God required a shift of his heart further than we was prepared to make. The Lord had offered him grace, but his hands were too full to carry it.
Beloved, grace may be God’s abundant love and “favor toward us, unearned and undeserved,” but carrying this grace is a two-handed endeavor. Like writer of Hebrews suggests, grabbing hold to grace necessitates that we “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” In order to hold the grace and run this race, we have to put aside everything else.
Because it is when we truly hold firmly to the gift of grace, our hearts will be moved towards generosity. When we hold in our hearts that God has given us an amazing gift in the person of Jesus Christ, then we can see that nothing else matters as much as Jesus Christ. When we extend our hands to pull grace into our lives, we can see that God has given us the ultimate example of the gift of gratitude – that God gives abundantly so we have no need to fear scarcity.
And it’s a process. And we work at it. And we stumble. And we try again.
I have found that whenever I am struggling with living into the generosity of God, it is because somewhere along the way I have laid down the gift of grace and picked up something else – anxiety, fear, anger, hurt, disappointment.
Can I be honest with you? I love my job. I absolutely love this church with every fiber of my being. I get to do great ministry with some of the most amazing people this side of Glory. I’ve been here for a little over two years and I have seen some lives changed drastically in that short period of time. I’ve witnessed a small glimmer of the Reign of God in this place. My love for this place is an example of God’s grace in my life, and yet when I’m sitting in a meeting at 9pm when I’ve been working since 8am, or when I’m looking at a long list of things that need to be done, or when I am confronted with a task or a relationship that seems far beyond my ability to manage, I must admit I am not always thankful. Can I talk plain? I grumble and complain sometimes. In moments like that, I have to ask myself a question – where have I laid down grace, and what have I picked up instead? Invariably, I find that somewhere I’ve put down grace and picked up anxiety or insecurity. In those moments the Master’s call to the rich young man to “give it all away” is a call I need to hear. Give away anxiety. Give away insecurity. I must ask again for grace, pick it up, and go!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a lot about grace. He drew a line in the sand between cheap grace and costly grace. Cheap grace, is grace that you could hold with one hand while holding onto other things, the ways and value systems of the world that run counter to the Reign of God. Costly grace is grace that necessitates that we lay down everything else and follow the Lord. Cheap grace is grace on our terms. Costly grace is giving our lives away. Cheap grace is expecting God to yield to our whims. Costly grace is giving our lives “as a living sacrifice” to God. “Costly grace,” Bonhoeffer says, “is the gospel [the Good News] which must be sought again and again, the gift that must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.”
I wonder what you are holding onto in your life that is preventing you from grabbing grace and running. I wonder what baggage you are carrying that is preventing you from running this race with all your Gospel strength?
This race – this race says that before we can see the fullness of God, we must cast our crowns before God’s throne.
This race – this race says that before we grab hold to the Cross of Jesus Christ, we must cast our burdens at His feet.
This race – this race that says “drops of tears can never repay the debt of love I owe; Here, Lord, I give myself away; ‘tis all that I can do.”
This race – this race runs alongside the bottomless fount of every blessing, it is beside these still waters and in these green pastures that our God of abundance and generosity promises to nourish and restore our very souls.
But we have to give it up to gain it all.
Look at your hands. Really look at them, front and back. Whatever it is that you are carrying, let it go. When you kneel down at this altar, ask for grace, and then pick it up with both hands, and go.
 “Catechism” from The Book of Common Prayer, 858.
 1 Timothy 6.10 (paraphrased)
 Matthew 6.24
 Hebrews 12.1b
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Cost of Discipleship, 47.