Worship Helps for Pentecost 21

Artwork: The rich young man went away sorrowful
Artist: James Tissot

Worship Theme: Next to the attachment to hearth and home, a person’s chief attachment is to his purse. So it is not out of order to consider what God has to say about his gifts of wealth and to let him put those gifts in a proper context for us.

Old Testament: 2 Kings 5:14-27 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. 15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant." 16 The prophet answered, "As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing." And even though Naaman urged him, he refused. 17 "If you will not," said Naaman, "please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD. 18 But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also-- when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this." 19 "Go in peace," Elisha said. After Naaman had traveled some distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, "My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the LORD lives, I will run after him and get something from him." 21 So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. "Is everything all right?" he asked. 22 "Everything is all right," Gehazi answered. "My master sent me to say, 'Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.'" 23 "By all means, take two talents," said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi. 24 When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left. 25 Then he went in and stood before his master Elisha. "Where have you been, Gehazi?" Elisha asked. "Your servant didn't go anywhere," Gehazi answered. 26 But Elisha said to him, "Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money, or to accept clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants? 27 Naaman's leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever." Then Gehazi went from Elisha's presence and he was leprous, as white as snow.

1. How did Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, lie to Naaman?  What did Gehazi request?

2. How much did Elisha know about what Gehazi had done? (See 5:26)

Epistle: Hebrews 13:1-6 Keep on loving each other as brothers. 2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. 3 Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. 4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." 6 So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

3. As the writer to the Hebrews (Jewish Christians) wrapped up his letter with specific encouragements, which of them had to do with money?

4. In Deuteronomy 31:6, aged Moses told his successor, Joshua, something that the writer to the Hebrews says God promises all of us.  What was Joshua to trust, according to Hebrews 13:5?  And what are we to trust, as well?

Gospel: Mark 10:17-27 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 18 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good-- except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'" 20 "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." 22 At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?" 27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."

5. What is Jesus trying to accomplish with the request he makes of the rich young ruler?

6. What does Jesus want the disciples to realize when he contrasts the camel with the eye of a needle?


Answers:
1. Gehazi lied to Naaman by asking him for clothes and money for two young men from the company of the prophets (perhaps seminary students, in our terms \ future pastors).  Naaman gave Gehazi about 150 pounds of silver and two sets of clothes \ tens of thousands of dollars.

2. Elisha not only knew about Gehazi’s deceit.  He knew that Naaman had stepped down out of his chariot to speak with Gehazi.  He knew that Gehazi had started thinking about the olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds and servants he would soon acquire.  In other words, Elisha knew everything.  Today, too, God knows everything about our greedy thoughts, words and actions.  We must never try to conceal them, but confess them and find mercy in Christ.

3. Many of the writer’s encouragements had to do with money: a) being hospitable, b) keeping our lives free from the love of money, c) being content with what God has given us, and d) confidently trusting in the Lord instead of people.

4. God told Joshua, and God tells us, “Never will I leave you.  Never will I forsake you.”

5. The rich young ruler thought he was good enough to get eternal life on his own, so Jesus served the rich young ruler a big helping of law / telling him to go and sell everything he had, give to the poor, then follow his Lord.  Jesus wanted the man to see that his possessions had become his god.  In doing so, Jesus wanted the young man to despair of being good enough for God on his own, and trust in him.

6. Jewish people in Jesus’ day were familiar with the camel as the largest beast of burden they used. They were also aware of just how small the eye of a needle was. When Jesus compared the largest with the smallest, he quickly conveyed the idea that it was impossible by human means to save oneself from sin and enter God’s kingdom.


Putting your faith into action
Jesus is picking on the rich again! Why is it so hard for rich people to enter the kingdom of God? A clue is in verse 22: “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” The rich man couldn’t get past the time he had to spend on securing, investing, and spending his money to give it all up to follow Jesus. Money and possessions, Jesus tells us throughout the New Testament, are an all-consuming burden. Managing riches for self gets in the way of stewardship—managing everything for God’s purposes. I suspect the rich young man didn’t enjoy his wealth nearly as much as he enjoyed wielding the power it afforded him. As you examine your life in the light of this lesson of Jesus, get to the bottom of it: Is it wealth and possessions that you enjoy, or the managing of your resources? As God’s stewards, our managing is directed toward what God would have us do. This frees you from the burden of wealth.


A reading from the Book of Concord for the 21st Sunday after Pentecost
Those fussy spirits are to be rebuked who, after they have heard a sermon or two, find hearing more sermons to be tedious and dull.  They think that they know all well enough and need no more instruction.  For that is exactly the sin that was previously counted among mortal sins and is called apathy.  This is a malignant, dangerous plague with which the devil deceives the hearts of many so that he may surprise us and secretly take God’s Word from us.

Even though you know God’s Word perfectly: you are daily in the devil’s kingdom.  He ceases neither day nor night to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against the commandments.  You must always have God’s Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears.  But where the heart is idle and the Word does not make a sound, the devil breaks in and has done the damage before we are aware.  On the other hand, the Word is so effective that whenever it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used, it is bound never to be without fruit.  It always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devoutness and produces a pure heart and pure thoughts.  For these words are not dead, but are creative, living words [Hebrews 4:12].  This truth ought to urge everyone to the Word, because thereby the devil is driven away.  Besides, this commandment is fulfilled and this exercise in the Word is more pleasing to God than any work of, however brilliant. – Large Catechism, Ten Commandments, paragraphs 99-102

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