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the FOURTH Sunday in ANGELS’ Tide

Sermon Starter

Today’s Gospel follows last week’s Gospel. Last week, we heard how a rich young ruler went away sorrowful because gold was his god. This week, Jesus used the difficulty that this young man had to teach us that none of us, rich or poor can enter the Kingdom of God on our own. Instead, the Kingdom of God comes to us because nothing is impossible with God. Whether we are rich or poor, the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith in the work of Jesus Christ puts the Kingdom of God in us and us in the Kingdom of God.

If we want to understand the Gospel properly, we need to take just a moment to understand the different attitudes that people have toward wealth. Our attitude toward wealth today is much different than the attitude people had toward wealth in first century Israel.

In today’s society, it has become very fashionable to characterize all wealthy people as villains and oppressors. People who remain in power by promoting class warfare want us to believe that all wealthy people must be crooks. Young people who inherited their wealth are all spoiled and lazy. Our society today, wants to take a broad brush to all rich people and expose them as scrooges who have yet to be reformed by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.

There is a special reverence that most westerners hold for people who take a voluntary vow of poverty in order to serve others. We admire the doctor who gives up the wealthy practice in the suburbs in order to minister to the poor in the inner city. We admire the person who leaves a good job in the United States in order to feed the poor in some third world country. Most of us admire the work Mother Teresa did among the poor in India. We in the church have heard the words of Jesus concerning wealth so often that we have gotten used to the idea that the poor have a special place in God’s heart. This was not so in first century Israel.

The culture of first century Israel had a much different view of rich people. While Biblical culture certainly frowned on people who amassed wealth illegally, those who achieved wealth through diligence and hard work were considered to be the favored of God. The honored places in heaven were reserved for people who obtained wealth in legal ways and used it to support the church and the community. The disciples would have thought that the honest rich are the most likely to enter heaven for they are the favored ones of God.

Sunday School Starter

Today, the Early Childhood Class will study “Enduring Exile.” Despite constant warnings, the Israelites continue in their idolatry. Because of this, God allows the king of Assyria to capture the Israelites and carry them into exile. The king resettles Samaria with other peoples, who bring with them their own false gods. When wild lions begin killing these immigrants, the king sends for an Israelite priest, hoping to appease God. But the people continued to sacrifice to idols—confusing the worship of the Lord with worshiping false gods. This is the beginning of the Samaritans. The students will begin memorizing the Third Commandment and Explanation.

The Lower Elementary Catechumens will study “The Born-Again Truth.” Nicodemus, a leader of the Jewish Council, comes to see Jesus under cover of darkness. Puzzled by Jesus’ instruction that one must be born again to enter the kingdom of God, Nicodemus asks how someone can be physically reborn. Jesus gently instructs Nicodemus as He explains the spiritual rebirth found only in Christ. Christ alone is the light come into the world to save us from the darkness of our sin. This class is memorizing the Fourth Commandment and Explanation.

Catechesis with Pastor will continue exploring the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed and the Divine Liturgy. The Ten Commandments with their explanations and the Close of the Commandments should be memorized by now.