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Pentecost 21 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 17, 2021
Ecclesiastes 5:10-20, Hebrews 4:1-13, Mark 10:23-31

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                           pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                        bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:   bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            Picture for a moment that it is all over; the trumpet has sounded, Jesus has returned, the dead have been raised, the living have ascended and everyone has been brought before the judgement seat of God.  You are watching the Lord on His throne separating the sheep from the goats. The sheep are sent marching through the pearl gates of the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem, and the goats to spend eternity in the Lake of Fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  When you come to the throne of God to be judged, what will you do?  What will you offer God in exchange for your salvation?

            Will you pull out your blue U.S. passport to prove you are an American citizen and therefore worthy of eternal life with the Lord?  Will you produce your résumé or your C.V. showing how your skills and hard work were rewarded by a continuing upward climb in your career?  Will you bring out pictures of your children to show that you did a good job as a parent? What will you offer to God?

            Perhaps you can show him a picture of your house, or your car, or your investment portfolio.  Maybe you can tell him about all of the good things you have done over the years to help other people.  What will you offer to God on judgment day?

            The truth is that you have nothing to offer to God in exchange for your soul. On judgment day you will come before the throne of God with empty hands.  You will come before God as a helpless child with nothing to offer to save yourself.  This is radical helplessness.  God does not care about the things of this world.  All of the things that seem so important in this life will have no value on the Last Day.  The only thing that will matter is whether or not you are clothed in the robe of Jesus’ righteousness that covers all your sins.  Are you protected by the blood of Jesus?  Are you a baptized child of God born again in water and the spirit, marked by the cross, redeemed by Christ, the crucified?  All you will have on the judgement day is the forgiveness of sins earned by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus poured out on you in your baptism, in the Word of God, and in the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion. 

You come to God with open, empty hands and Jesus fills you and saves you.  Even though you are by nature blind, dead and an enemy of God, He gives you the gift of eternal life.  Each Sunday you come here to the altar with open, empty hands to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus given and shed for you.

            You come to God with open, empty hands and so also you live your life open-handed.  Into your open, empty hands God places things for your management.  You don’t own these things, but you are steward of these things. What God puts into your care is yours to care for during your time on earth.  Children, family, home, transportation, finances, belongings, employment, skills, time.  These things are important in this life and you are the manager of God’s gifts which you hold in your open hands. 

            There is great temptation in this life to try to get the most you can and close your fist and hold onto it tightly.  Far too many cling to money.  Sadly, it is quite normal for people to fear, love and trust money above all things.  This is a great danger because if you love money and cling to money you are not able to love God and cling to the cross of Christ. Also, if you love money you will never be content.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 (ESV) 10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.  

            You cannot cling to money because you will lose your salvation.  Matthew 6:24 (ESV) 24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”  Much less importantly, clinging to money will make it so that you will never be satisfied and won’t enjoy the gifts that God has given.  King Solomon gives sage advice about the satisfaction and joy of workers while the wealthy worry. Ecclesiastes 5:12 (ESV) 12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.”  And, Ecclesiastes 5:18 (ESV)  18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.” 

            Hold the gifts God gives you in open hands and enjoy the work you are given to do.  The work you are given to do is a gift from God.  Whether that is being a student, working a part time job, manufacturing, teaching, plumbing, running a business, caring for your children, or some other honest work.  Work is a gift from God.  In retirement you find new ways to serve others.  Retirement is an opportunity to serve others in ways you were unable to before.  God has created you to work. 

            This is baffling.  It makes no sense to the disciples.  They, like us, equate wealth with blessings from God.  God, of course, loves rich people.  Rich people have it all together.  Wealth is a sign of God’s favor.  Isn’t it?  The disciples would not let little children come up to Jesus, but ushered the rich young man up to Jesus right away because rich people are good.  Right?

            In our Gospel reading we see that 2,000 years ago folks’ view of money is very much like today and Jesus’ teachings turns this all upside down.  Mark 10:23 (ESV) 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”

            This is baffling.  It makes no sense to the disciples.  They, like us, equate wealth with blessings from God.  God, of course, loves rich people.  Rich people have it all together.  Wealth is a sign of God’s favor.  Isn’t it?  The disciples would not let little children come up to Jesus, but ushered the rich young man up to Jesus right away because rich people are good.  Right?

Jesus’ teaching is radical; then and now.  He repeats it to make sure they understand.  Mark 10:24–27 (ESV) 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult 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 person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”       27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”  Your riches won’t get you into the Kingdom of God — Jesus will. 

            This further illuminates what Jesus had taught earlier.  Mark 10:15 (ESV) 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 

            Little children have nothing to offer God and they know it.  Children simply receive the gift of forgiveness as a promise from their dear Lord Jesus.  Children know they are helpless and needy; they know they need a savior.  Rich people may want to believe they are powerful and independent, but they also are helpless and needy and they also need a savior. Rich people need Jesus. 

            And in case you are thinking that I am talking about those other rich people, all of you, by world standards, are rich.  To be rich in the world is to have more than one pair of shoes and get to choose what you eat.  You are rich and you need Jesus. 

You come to God with open, empty hands and He fills you with forgiveness. You receive the gift of forgiveness as a promise from your dear Lord Jesus and so you fear, love and trust in God above all things.  You come to God with open, empty hands and He fills them with His love.  He fills them with forgiveness.  You come to God with open, empty hands and He fills them with the things needed for life in this world. 

            Now, if you work hard, are careful with debt, and live within your means there is a good chance the amount of money and goods under your stewardship will grow.  Sometimes it can grow to large amounts.  Always hold it in open hands.  Beware of the temptation to fear, love and trust in money.

            Hold the gifts God gives you in open hands with your fingers spread.  Let the gifts flow into your hands from God, live within your means, save some for a rainy day, and let the gifts flow out to others.

            Be generous.  Use your money and goods to love God and love your neighbor.  Care for those given to you and also for those in your community and world. For those who own or manage businesses you have a great burden to manage the business well to provide for your employees and their families.

            Be deliberate in your giving.  Give a generous, regular, first-fruits offering to the Lord through His Church to fund the continued proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Give to groups doing the Lord’s work of caring for others.  Lend to others not expecting to be repaid.  Tip liberally.  With money and belongings, be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.  Know that whatever gifts you have in this life they can be used to help others in this life, but they have no value for eternity. 

            All the things of this world that seem to be so important will mean nothing on the Last Day.  On the Judgement Day you will stand before Jesus with the only thing that matters; the robe of Jesus’ righteousness that covers all your sins.  You need Jesus, and Jesus has given you all you need.  In the end, that is all that matters.  Amen. 

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