Possessed by possessions?
Reflection Sunday 10 October 2021
Do we possess things, or could it be that the things actually possess us?
Please reflect on that for a while.
Pick up an object close to you, it can be the first thing you see. For example, it could be a pen or a book, or a purse or a fork, any object at all. As you look at it in your hand ask yourself, is this ‘a pen’ (for example) or when I see the pen do I say this is ‘my pen’? Now look around you, when you look at the room in which you are reading this does you mind say this is ‘a room’ or does your mind say this is ‘my room’ or ‘my house’ or ‘my garden’? Even though they are very small words the differences between ‘a’ and ‘my’ can be enormous. How much power do even these small things have over us?
In the Gospel reading today a man comes to Jesus and asks, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" After the man declares that he has kept all the commandments since his youth, Jesus says to him, "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." The man was shocked by Jesus’ answer and he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
The man comes seeking eternal life, but Jesus identifies something that will prevent him from entering into the fulness and wonder of the life Jesus offers in the kingdom of God. It his attachment to his many possessions.
What place do possessions have in our lives? How much possession do they have over us? In what ways might they be blocking our entering into the fulness of God’s salvation, of experiencing eternal life?
When Jesus goes on to say how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God, the disciples are astounded and they ask, “Then who can be saved?” What does the word ‘saved’ mean to us?
Certain sections of the church tend to see being saved and salvation in the narrower sense of who is and who is not saved from hell as punishment for sin. But in a wider sense salvation is a fuller deeper life that one enters into. It is something one participates in now and not just a life in heaven which we escape to when we die.
Salvation means deliverance. It can mean deliverance from illness, or from death, or from enemies, from trouble, from poverty, from almost anything.
Today, as we think about whether things are our possessions or whether things may actually possess us (even little things), do we need deliverance from the power possessions may have over us?
Advertising keeps inviting us to possess things: to buy to consume. Advertising tells us what we must have to have a fuller life. But 1 Peter 1:18,18 tells us that salvation cannot be bought - For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
Attachment to possessions distracts us from the path of following Jesus, from the path that leads to the cross. When we love our possessions more than people, we have stepped off the way of the cross. When we want something at any cost, that cost may be paid at the expense of the poorest people in the world and by plundering and destroying creation.
The hunger for more and more possessions is evidence of our lost consciousness as a human race. Claiming things as our possessions reveals our disconnectedness from God, from each other and from creation. All things belong to God, and we belong to God, and we belong to each other, and we belong to all creation. Attachment to possessions gets in the way of our attachment to God, to one another and to creation.
In 1 Peter chapter 1 verse 24 and 25 it says:
“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
This is a sobering thought but one that it is good to hold in mind when we consider what is most important in life and whether things have got a hold of us. It is also a good reminder that we all will face death one day. Now is the time to be freed from all that prevents us from living life to the full.
My dad didn’t quote the bible much but one thing I heard him say often was that we come into the world with nothing and leave it with nothing.
This means holding things loosely, being aware that things can possess us. Having this awareness may be enough to ‘save’ us.
Holy God, we praise you for Jesus Christ our great high priest, who has entered into the fullness of the kingdom of heaven and opened for us the gate of glory. May we approach the throne of grace with boldness, and in the time of need know your mercy and grace.
God, you promise never to leave us nor forsake us, but to bring us to life. Forgive us when we become possessed by our possessions and consumed by consumption; when we glory in our goodness and lose our compassion; when we settle for our religion, remain secure in our own salvation and cease to follow you.
God of all who are cast down, you call us to seek good and to meet oppression with justice. Teach us to find salvation in the emptying of ourselves for the sake of those in need, so that goodness may prevail and your kingdom come in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Photo: taken today 9 October 2021 of an Echidna across the road in Bulli
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Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation